If you were to go back to early 2020, you’d recognize that many businesses viewed remote work with skepticism– Unclear about the impact on productivity vis-à-vis the office. This skepticism was part of the reason why ‘work from home’ had a slow acceptance rate.
Then the pandemic hit.
With no other option, remote work became the only viable solution for most companies. While the advent of hybrid work has been quick, it has also opened up many fault lines that companies are now navigating. Line managers require specialized skills and support to enable them to make the hybrid model successful.
In a post-pandemic world, flexibility remains the key. How successful companies are will depend on how well managers are able to deliver on employee engagement and experience. Here are a few ways managers can bridge the experience gap.
Facilitate ‘personal’ communication
Remote meeting technology (28%) and internal communication tools (27%) were among the topmost critical technologies adopted by organizations over the past nine months, according to one survey. Still, employees report feeling disconnected. Real-time communication tools can be built intuitively so that employees can feel psychologically safe and free to express their concerns.
In addition to regular communication, managers need to proactively leverage digital platforms to track employee feedback and establish a personal connection with the employee. A study by Zimyo showed that one to one conversations can help build trust as well as accountability. In order to make these conversations fruitful, companies need to support managers with the right technology tools to share personalized feedback and to take on a proactive role in aligning employee needs and workplace expectations.
Address the wellness quotient
A recent study on future work noted that there is growing anxiety on the long term uncertainty of the emerging hybrid model of work. As uncertainty persists, managers need to be trained to tackle burnout and stress. They also need the tools to support their team members to navigate mental and physical health related issues.
Wellness initiatives and knowledge sharing drives on topics including physical, mental, and financial health are critical differentiators. And managers play a critical role in enabling the last mile engagement with the employee.
Equip managers with insights
With the advent of digital technology, a manager's ability to work closely with their teams has become far more efficient, but the shift hasn’t been without repercussions. According to a study, even with remote meeting and communication tools deployed, leaders are still facing challenges with engagement (56%), and productivity (52%). This gap needs to be addressed in a hybrid world. While technology tools will be critical for managers to get pointed information on challenge areas, they also need to be equipped with soft skills to help tackle issues that need to be addressed.
Strive for work-life integration
While the shift to remote work enabled companies to remain productive, its effect on employees is still being understood. Many of the challenges that employees face stem from the blurred lines between the workplace and their personal lives. Left unaddressed, these challenges could lead to difficulties retaining talent long term. While there has been a lot of focus on achieving work-life balance over the years, the concept may no longer be relevant in the remote working world. With the presence of children, pets and/or a partner at home, managers need to be increasingly conscious and sensitive. New norms of work will emerge – including giving the option to the employee to turn off the video if they want to do so, being ok with children in the background, etc.,
All through the remote working process, managers have played a crucial role in enabling employees to make the transition possible. And they would do so as we move into a hybrid world. It’s important to note that rather than attempting to fully replicate the workplace in a remote environment, companies should first assess the digital tools and capabilities that best fit the company. Moving ahead as hybrid work models begin to mature, managers will play a key role in aligning digital tools with the right approach and skills to support employees navigate an uncertain future.
This article is part of a series on preparing for a flexible future of work in partnership with Zimyo.