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How to provide a positive employee experience in a Hybrid World

One of the key advantages of a hybrid workplace is that people have greater freedom to manage their work timings in a way that allows them to better balance work and life outside of work.

As we accept a hybrid workplace as the future in the ‘new normal,’ it is also important to bring in some systemic shifts in employee behaviour to help them cope with the changed environment.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a significant shift in how organisations engage with their workforce. Not only has there been a greater acceptance of remote or hybrid work, but it has emerged as the preferred alternative for both businesses and employees in many cases.

According to a Gartner survey, almost 50% of hybrid workers in India consider themselves more productive when working remotely. The survey also found that employees consider flexible working hours and the freedom to choose their location to be the top enablers in a hybrid work landscape.

While a hybrid workplace presents several advantages, it also throws up a set of challenges. One important area of impact is employee experience. This is because the physical office was always at the heart of designing a favourable employee experience, whether it was through providing a conducive work environment, offering perks such as subsidized/free food or recreational facilities. However, as workers become digital nomads, how can an organisation still positively impact employee experience?

Here are a few approaches that could help:

1) Employee Experience

Digital technologies have proven to be a lifeline for many organisations. To grow and thrive in a post-pandemic world, a cohesive digital transformation strategy is needed that considers the needs of end customers and employees vital. Technology in the workplace often presents users with disjointed and frustrating experiences. In our personal lives, for example, with just a few clicks or taps on a screen, we can book a multi-city vacation or buy groceries online or order food from our favourite restaurant.

However, in organizations, things are often very different. The experience we have as a worker is not at all the same as the one we have as a customer. Instead of intuitive digital experiences with clear SLAs that we experience as customers in the outside world, being an employee requires us to manoeuvre through complex internal organizational structures, processes, and systems to get even simple tasks fulfilled. The key is to design an exceptional service experience for employees. According to industry experts, 70 percent of workers report having to enter the same data in multiple systems to get their jobs done.

Why do organizations need to have multiple service portals – HR, Finance, Facilities, Legal, etc.? According to a recent study, organisations with the most compelling workforce experiences generated 22 per cent higher engagement among their workers than organizations with a less compelling workforce experience. These workers were also four times more likely to stay in their jobs than those at organizations with a less compelling workforce experience.

The bottom line: When employees experience intuitive technology that works for them at work, they are on the path to a positive workforce experience overall—one that can increase organizational loyalty, engagement, and productivity. The sophisticated digital experiences that today’s employees enjoy in their personal lives have set a high bar for enterprises to address the same consumer zed experience at work.

2) Offer flexibility

One of the key advantages of a hybrid workplace is that people have greater freedom to manage their work timings in a way that allows them to better balance work and life outside of work. From an organisation’s point of view, it is important to design policies that do not tie down the employees by demanding that they log in at a certain time etc. Instead, offer flexibility where possible while ensuring that employees are available to attend any time-sensitive events. The key here is freedom and autonomy without micromanaging employees’ work days. This requires a certain degree of trust in the employee as well as confidence in their ability to execute the tasks assigned to them in a timely manner.

3) Enable collaboration through the right tools

While collaboration often happens quite seamlessly when the entire team is present in the same physical location, it requires a more deliberate effort in a remote or hybrid environment. This is especially true if teammates are working in different time zones. Since communications gaps can greatly hinder productivity as well as the team spirit, investing in the right collaboration tools that facilitate seamless communication across remote and hybrid environments is paramount.

4) Take feedback

Collecting regular feedback is important even in a physical office, but it becomes even more critical in a remote environment since there are no physical cues available for managers and colleagues to discern an employee’s state of mind. Given that communication can often be missed via electronic communication, it sometimes becomes important to over-communicate or reiterate messages to ensure that they are not lost. Feedback can be gathered both through formal means such as surveys etc., but also through informal chats and catch-up sessions.

5) Tighten performance review cycles

Most organisations still follow the model of annual performance reviews but this is not suitable in the current dynamic work environment. The pandemic is a great example of the fact that it is impossible to predict what might happen in a matter of months. As the environment evolves rapidly, putting in place a continuously evolving feedback process can prove to be far more beneficial for employees and give them much-needed direction to grow and develop the right skills.

As we accept a hybrid workplace as the future in the ‘new normal,’ it is also important to bring in some systemic shifts in employee behaviour to help them cope with the changed environment. For instance, several studies show that remote working can lead to an increase in working hours among employees which can contribute to early burnout and poor health. Therefore, emphasizing employee wellness and work-life balance is important for leaders. Putting in place the right policies that offer the freedom and flexibility for employees to deliver their best without creating a culture of overworking is extremely important. It could be as simple as putting in place policies with respect to responding to emails after office hours or setting off-limit time slots for meetings.

Despite the dramatic changes, it is important to keep in mind that employees are human beings with their own aspirations, capabilities and constraints. Basic human behaviour remains the same irrespective of physical location. Policies that respect that will help ensure a positive employee experience.

Commenting on the same, Satyen Vyas, President and CEO, Symphony SummitAI, says, “While the physical office has traditionally been at the heart of designing a favourable employee experience, remote and hybrid work cultures have made it more challenging. While designing a superior experience in the hybrid, it is important to focus on offering flexibility and reimagining performance metrics. A cohesive digital transformation strategy that considers the needs of end customers and employees is vital. At the same time, employees must be equipped with the right collaboration tools as well as the avenues to communicate seamlessly with colleagues and leaders. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that employees are human beings with their own aspirations, capabilities and constraints.”

Ankur Jalpota, Global Practice Head, BSM and AIOps, Wipro, also has similar views. “The pandemic has deepened the trust between our workforces and enabled us to give our best during testing times without worrying about the location. Apart from productivity, we have seen a substantial increase in ownership by our team members which was limited to managers earlier. We are seeing an increasing focus on Employee Experience, as now the network is not limited to office but extending to Home WiFi, VPN and ISP provider. Right control and visibility are the key to have a secure and productive workforce. Enterprise Observability needs to include end user visibility now more than ever,” he says.

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