How to protect the well-being of your hybrid workforce

As workplaces adopt a hybrid model, in which they combine remote and onsite working, employers again need to face the challenge of how to care for the mental health and wellbeing of their workforce – this time in a hybrid model.

This shift to a hybrid workforce puts people at greater risk of experiencing mental health issues, being less engaged, and generally affecting overall employee wellbeing.  Also, a sudden shift to social interactions, and periods of isolated remote work for hybrid staff members could lead to a shift in the general atmosphere of the modern workforce. Companies that fail to measure and improve wellbeing could risk team turnover, low engagement, and poor results.  

So, how do we monitor and protect hybrid team wellbeing? 

People need to hear that their wellbeing is important. That they can and should say “no.” And that they should protect the boundaries between work and the rest of their lives. These common-sense principles set a tone that is not only more constructive for everyone on the team but will ultimately lead to greater success. Because data shows that happier, healthier people also have greater impact!

That’s why we have pulled together some advice on how you can manage this new hybrid working and create an environment that supports and manages your employees’ wellbeing:

Place ownership on your wellbeing strategy

For clear strategies to be a success, someone must take control and responsibility. A recent report shows that 45% of HR and benefits leaders say lack of ownership is one of the three biggest barriers to improving wellbeing in their organisation. So whether it’s your HR team or you bringing in a specialist, make sure it is clear who owns your wellbeing strategy.

Here are two ways you can do this: 

  • Put an effective data collection system in place for effective and consistent wellbeing measurement to maintain a healthy hybrid culture.
  • Have organisational structures that make it clear who is accountable for new wellbeing initiatives and strategies, and be sure to reflect this in senior leadership meetings.

Have senior leaders play a critical role

Alyx Gilham, People and Culture Partner at Hibob, says “The involvement of managers can help streamline processes and foster a positive company culture in order to drive employee engagement.”

With day-to-day responsibility for their team members’ welfare, senior leaders have a crucial role to play in identifying signs that people are struggling. You should empower them to step up and make sure they are on top of their teams. 

Here are two ways you can do this: 

  • Ensure senior leaders practice, reinforce and normalise hybrid behaviours to show they are taken seriously at the top. 
  • Create healthy hybrid feedback loops between employees and senior leaders with clear communication channels for questions to be raised or concerns to be addressed.

Take a holistic approach to workplace wellness

It is easy with a hybrid workforce to forget that everyone has things going on both at work and at home. 81% of HR leaders recognise that it is vital to consider all aspects of employees’ lives, inside and outside work, for their emotional wellbeing. You need to make sure your employees still feel supported even if they aren’t always in the office.

Here is how you can do this: 

  • Make sure you encourage everyone to be compassionate to others and to take interest in each other’s lives. 
  • Use language that conveys your understanding of how they feel and the challenges that people are facing on a daily basis, especially with hybrid working. 
  • Ask your employees if they have everything they need to be happy and productive.

Create a transparent and open culture 

Paying attention to your internal communication and ensuring you are totally transparent with your employees is key to fostering a strong wellbeing culture. People not only want transparency around moving to a hybrid workforce but also want to be kept up-to-date with the latest company developments. In fact, 80% of people want their employers to keep them updated about company news. 

Lukas Roth, VP of Growth at Ben, says, “We found daily touch-points via team stand-ups and weekly team meetings to be highly effective to ensure everyone is aligned and aware of what’s going on in each function.”

Here are two ways you can do this:

  • Not only set up communication through channels such as Slack, Zoom, and Notion but also encourage in-person meetings. 
  • Constantly share good news stories and your business goals and objectives with everyone so they know they are contributing and don’t feel isolated. 

Encourage people to switch off 

Will Allen-Marsh, Partner at Spill, says, “When it comes to wellbeing in a hybrid workplace, it’s easy for work communication to run over into the evenings, affecting our ability to switch off and increasing chances of stress and anxiety.”  

It’s important to encourage employees to set boundaries and give themselves enough time to rest on evenings and weekends. Just because hybrid working offers more flexible working hours, it doesn’t mean your employees should be working more hours. A recent NBER study found that the average working day increased by 48 minutes over the last year. 

Here is how you can do this: 

  • Launch a right to disconnect policy that makes it easier for people to switch off outside of work. Check out the employee wellbeing platform, Spill’s, right to disconnect policy. 
  • Have days where employees take time off to relax and recharge to make sure everyone is properly rested for their own personal wellbeing. 

Empower staff with the right tools 

For employees to remain happy and engaged in any environment, they should have the same access to valuable tools regardless of where they are. The cloud offers a simple environment where business leaders can support employees with access to the same UCaaS tools, contact centre equipment, and other valuable technology.  

Aside from delivering the right software, business leaders will also need to ensure that their teams are equipped in other ways. VPNs that ensure secure connections to digital environments could be a must-have for some organisations. Access to cameras and microphones for video conferencing may be necessary for employees working from home.

Use video for consistent engagement 

Human beings need social interaction. For employees who spend days in the office, it’s easy to connect with other people. For staff working remotely, it’s not so simple. Video is one of the most powerful tools for replicating the face-to-face interactions that we need. It’s also a valuable way to recognise signs of distress in employees.  

Ensuring your employees have access to video conferencing software and they know how to use it is essential. However, it’s also important to set boundaries on how to use video. Teams should know which discussions demand video presence, and which are one-on-one or group conversations. Employees should also know how to schedule video meetings regularly and consistently. 

Promote proper balance 

Before COVID-19 arrived, one of the biggest worries that business leaders had about remote work is that it would lead to procrastination. What were really discovered was that people working remotely tend to work longer and harder than their counterparts. While this is great for productivity purposes, it also means that your employees are more likely to burnout.  

Today’s business leaders should be giving employees more control over how they manage their schedule, to reduce feelings of overwhelm.

Create clarity 

The shift to a hybrid work environment will be more difficult for some employees than others. For many companies, this move into the new age of work will come with a learning curve. With that in mind, it’s important to offer clarity and information whenever possible. Gartner research shows that an employee’s understanding of decisions made by an organisation about change is crucial to their continued engagement. Your hybrid staff should always remain in the loop.  

Quick face-to-face conversations with employees to provide information about their roles, what they need to do next, and which changes are coming are far more immersive than email updates. Video conversations that keep staff members engaged and informed help to create a stronger sense of company culture.  

Provide your employees with regular updates and insights into what’s happening in your business and set expectations on how you expect them to behave, and which values you consider important. Studies show that during periods of uncertainty, employee misconduct increases by 33%. Make sure your employees know exactly what’s expected of them.

Increase recognition 

It’s easy to remember to give a pat on the back to people you see in the office. However, in a hybrid work environment, this could easily lead to an imbalance between the rewards given to different team members. With that in mind, it’s important to set up a recognition system that supports both groups equally. Effective recognition motivates the person in question while simultaneously reminding other employees of the behaviour they need to emulate.

Create a “support” program 

Around 79% of British employees say they have stress related to work these days. Despite this, most staff members suffer in silence, and refuse to reach out for help. It’s even easier for struggling team members to slip under the radar in a hybrid working environment. A support program can follow any format that you believe is helpful to your employees.  

Some companies might offer articles, guidance, and support on how to deal with common issues of stress and overwhelm. Others will invest in apps for employees to use to handle their stress experiences, like Headspace, or create a policy for employees to use when they need to reach out for support or a one-on-one with a business manager.

Conclusion

The new hybrid workforce is a challenge for everyone. No one knows the perfect way of managing it and most companies are learning as they go along. But whilst you find your footing it is important to always bear your employees’ wellbeing in mind, appreciating that it is just as difficult for them as it is for you in finding the right way to work. But with the right mindset and dedication to your team and following the above advice as you go along, you will be giving yourself the best shot at maintaining strong employee wellbeing in your business.

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