10 Ways to Manage Engagement and Productivity in the Hybrid Workplace
With the transition to a hybrid working model, employers may be wondering how they can ensure employees are staying engaged and productive, no matter where they work. The good news is that reports show productivity has not dropped off over the course of the pandemic; in fact, in many organizations it has shown to increase.
A research report from Accenture found that 37 percent of Canadian workers feel they can be healthy and productive primarily working remotely and 41 percent feel that they can be healthy and productive anywhere (Forbes, 2021). These numbers support the findings of a new McKinsey survey of 100 executives: 58 percent of those surveyed reported an increase in individual productivity during the pandemic and a third said that productivity had not changed (McKinsey, 2021).
Despite high rates of productivity across organizations, managing both remote and in-house workers will continue to have challenges. Managers will have to support two sets of employees with different types of experiences and needs depending on their workspace. They will also have to find ways to bridge the divide between these workers to maintain team connection and collaboration.
Here are ten strategies for employers to increase engagement and help employees maintain productivity, whether they are working from home or in the office.
1. Give employees the technology to succeed
Invest in reliable tools that will allow your remote employees to effectively collaborate with in-house staff and develop clear processes on how this technology will be used. In addition to a laptop, remote employees may require cameras, headsets, and video-conferencing software to attend meetings. If remote employees cannot download files, receive emails, or hear video calls, their time will be spent on troubleshooting rather than being productive.
Also consider the drawbacks of technology and how you can best incorporate it to maximize productivity. For example, “Zoom fatigue” can actually damper productivity. Determine when video calls are necessary and when another communication method will do. Be prepared to coach employees or switch platforms to find the most effective strategy.
2. Create a communication strategy
While good communication is key to ensuring productivity levels stay high, be careful not to micro-manage your employees. It can be frustrating for managers to lose their constant visibility of employees but hovering too close can imply a lack of trust in employees.
Instead, let employees know that your metaphorical door is always open even though you may be physically distanced. You can also ensure that there is two-way communication between you and your team through the following strategies:
- Weekly team huddles. Meet with the entire team once a week to discuss goals, accomplishments, and news, both personal and business-wise.
- Coaching calls. Meet with employees individually every month to discuss projects, deadlines, updates, and to check in on their well-being.
- Maintain visibility. Have managers and employees share their weekly schedules so people know who is working from home and who is working in the office certain days of the week.
- Keep all employees in sync. Utilize technological tools and create processes that ensure that remote employees are up to date on all information that is shared in the physical office.
3. Facilitate collaboration and inclusion
- Make everyone feel included. Use technology to ensure remote team members are not excluded from meetings or left out of important communications.
- Offer equal opportunities to both in-house and remote employees and ensure that both are easily able to access resources.
4. Set clear expectations
With roles shifting and new processes being implemented, employees may need to be reminded of expectations or informed of new policies. Try these strategies to help employees maintain focus:
- Focus on objectives over processes. Create clarity for your employees by focusing on what needs to be accomplished rather than the processes to get there. Allow for flexibility to let employees complete work and meet goals in their own way.
- Come to three agreements:
- What are the expected hours of work?
- What are the expectations for communication (i.e., the method, the expectation for receiving a response, etc.)?
- How do team members notify each other of availability (for breaks, for appointments, etc.)?
5. Recognize your team’s accomplishments and successes
Recognizing your employees for the work they have done both motivates the employee and encourages other employees to follow suit. Look for room to share successes and encourage innovative ideas to increase their engagement and investment in the stake of the company. You can thank your employees through public acknowledgment, tokens of appreciation, and low-cost perks. Where possible, you can also provide employees opportunities for development and growth within the company.
6. Plan for the workspace
- Organize tasks and priorities. Help employees determine which responsibilities are better handled in office and which ones are more suitable for remote work so that they can come to work prepared.
- Determine what tools are needed at home and in the office. Do employees need duplicate items or will they need to bring supplies back and forth? Will they be sharing a desk in the office? Are both the home workspace and office workspace set up ergonomically for the employee?
7. Reinforce company culture
- Remind your employees of your company’s mission and core values.
- Learn how employee’s personal and professional goals align with the business’s goals and give them opportunities to advance both goals.
- Help employees understand their impact and purpose within the organization.
- Highlight and correct misconduct to create psychological safety amongst the team.
8. Invest in personal connections
Build a network to help develop an engaged remote workforce. Relationships can build trust and reduce unproductive conflict, so try these strategies to get personal and inspire connection:
- Ask employees how they are doing and learn about their families, hobbies, and values. In the absence of watercooler chats, try to create “watercooler moments” at the beginning of each virtual meeting.
- Use technology to create shared spaces. Make online areas, like a Slack channel or a group email, where your team can chat, celebrate special days, and share achievements and milestones.
- Create opportunities for group socialization, such as coffee chats, trivia nights, and team challenges.
9. Promote well being and healthy lifestyles
- Watch your employees for signs of mental distress. Employees working from home and in the office may feel stressed, overwhelmed, or isolated due to the pandemic and new working model.
- Encourage employees to participate in wellness activities, such as meditation exercises or walking challenges, to help increase resiliency.
- Ensure that all employees are provided with ergonomic equipment to help them stay safe, healthy, and productive, no matter where they work.
10. Set managers up for success
Managers who will be leading teams of both remote workers and in-house employees may require training and support to learn new skills and manage employees effectively. Training on skills such as providing and receiving feedback, empathy, and communication can help managers learn to recognize their employees’ different experiences and needs. Managers who receive training on mental health and resiliency will also be better prepared to support employees in distress and practice their own self-care.
How Can Gowan Consulting Help?
We expect that there will be challenges in supporting employees in the decision to return to the workplace, remain remote, or create a hybrid working model. Gowan Consulting will be working with organizations to support their decision making as well as providing assistance to employers who require accommodations for employees. We also anticipate that employers and employees will continue to face mental health concerns as the “echo pandemic” creates a tsunami of long-lasting mental health effects in the coming months and years. Contact us to see how we can help or make a referral today.
Are you feeling overwhelmed in this new working world? We have a variety of solutions and strategies to help. You may be interested in some of our upcoming training opportunities:
- FREE Hybrid Workplaces and Accommodations webinar – On September 16th, learn how to accommodate employees in this new hybrid working world with this one-hour training session with Nancy Gowan.
- Mastering Health and Productivity Membership – We’ve been working hard to create even more value for our customers. Learn more about our membership launch coming this fall.
- Working from Home Series – Purchase a bundle of online learning webinars to support you in working safely from home! Includes home ergonomics, making remote feel normal, stress management, and more.
Remote Work Evolves Into Hybrid Work and Productivity Rises, The Data Shows, Joe McKendrick, Forbes, May 30, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/joemckendrick/2021/05/30/remote-work-evolves-into-hybrid-work-and-productivity-rises-the-data-shows/?sh=2bb76934825e
What executives are saying about the future of hybrid work, McKinsey & Company, May 17, 2021, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/what-executives-are-saying-about-the-future-of-hybrid-work