Journalist Rich McEachran, whose particular area of interest includes start ups, technology and innovation, wrote recently about issues businesses must be mindful of, after embracing hybrid working for their teams. Many managers have expressed concerns about cohesion between two geographically separate groups and the desire to ensure the workplace is equitable for all, with McEachran emphasising the subtle- but vital -difference between equality and equity.
McEachran quoted Fujitsu Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing Kelly Metcalf who highlighted, “Equity in the hybrid workplace isn’t about treating every single person the same. Instead, it’s about ensuring that everyone has the tools, support and environment – be that physical, virtual, or a combination of both – to enable them to thrive at work.”
Maria Campbell Vice President of Griffin, a Fintech start up, also spoke to McEachran and offered that all important conversations should take place online by default, thus allowing all members of the team to feel included, valued and heard, wherever they work.
Indeed Sam Roberts, fu3e. Product Manager concurs, “Working remotely doesn't have to be isolating if you find dynamic ways to connect through tech to interact with each other”. Roberts lists a number of ways her team communicate including Slack, Googlemeets and Jamboard.
Roberts details, “for example, our morning often starts with an influx of coffee emojis and good morning messages to the whole hybrid team. Daily stand-ups on Googlemeets allows us to give quick status updates and solution any blockers or challenges together. At the end of our two-weekly sprint, the entire team join for a planned retrospective where we add sticky notes, comments, and emoticons on the interactive whiteboard Jamboard.”
Hybrid work place sharing time between an office and working from home remotely.
For further cohesion between teams, McEachran states parity in career progression between remote and in-office staff must exist. Again he uses Fujitsu as an example of the steps they’ve taken to prevent the subconscious favouring of employees more visible in person on a daily basis. This includes the tracking of rates of progression, transparently demonstrating this in company policy and ensuring it’s on managements radar will all improve workplace morale and ultimately, staff turnover.
“Companies who embrace equity successfully will thrive, and those who don’t will end up losing valuable people to a fiercely competitive talent market,” Griffin’s Campbell reiterated.
BTR developer Strawberry Star Group, recently expressed the effect remote working has had in their sphere. Quoting latest RICS data they have witnessed a greater office demand shifting towards facilities closer to amenities which enhance the in-office workplace experience. JLL research indicates that hybrid working patterns increasingly include third working spaces such as hotel lounges, cafes and co-working spaces which has also increased demand for such business workspace. They quoted the ‘JLL Workplace Preferences Barometer’ which revealed that employees working once a week from this ‘third space’ has jumped from 8% to 36% in 2022.
Wherever one works, mental health support for the hybrid workforce should be a priority to business. In McReachran’s article he spoke with the social media management company Hootsuite, who expanded their employee mental health benefits six-fold in 2021, providing 100% coverage for mental health support in the US and ensuring the best possible support for the employee’s specific needs. Their chief people and diversity officer, Tara Ataya maintained, “Prioritising mental health in the hybrid workplace is critical to ensuring your employees can achieve their best and feel that sense of belonging.”
McReachran states a sense of belonging has long-since been a driver for workplace happiness, but which he feels the pandemic crystallised. He quotes research by employee engagement platform Glint, which found the sense of belonging increased employee happiness by 12% on average in the first few months of pandemic working. He states it is important businesses preserve this sense of camaraderie.
One way to improve cohesion and belonging in the workplace is for leadership teams to manage their hybrid workforces, with individuals having different work-life preferences and very different personal circumstances, ‘with empathy’. Fujitsu, for example, do not ask their employees to come into the office set days per week, rather it is agreed on an individual basis between worker and line manager based on ‘circumstance, preference, and the scope of their role’.
Similarly, Legal technology firm Juro has created two benefits packages for its employees based on where they predominantly work. One for in-office employees which focuses on commuting help and access to social events. Whilst the remote based package includes Wi-Fi costs and purchase of office equipment.
The new challenges faced by companies and the push for an equitable experience for all teams wherever they work and with no one at a disadvantage, can only be steps in the right direction. With many companies ensuring the correct tools and support are in place for their workers to thrive, can only be good for business.