Why employee well-being must remain a priority as we move into hybrid work

© Sawitri Khromkrathok

Erin Eatough, Behavioral Science Manager, BetterUp, Explores Why Hybrid Work Has Raised The Importance Of Employee Well-Being

Covid-19 meant public sector workers had to adapt – and quickly.

Mass homework became a reality overnight in March 2020. 80% of municipal staff worked from home last year, according to a SOCITM survey.

It brought some benefits including increased productivity and more time spent with loved ones, but it also had a negative impact on mental health. Many people found themselves working longer, with less social contact, which led to exhaustion, frustration and loneliness.

Now, with the lockdown restrictions lifted, many public sector organizations are embracing hybrid work models, where employees work from different locations, including the office.

But the return of commuting, face-to-face meetings with colleagues and the pressure of being seen in the office could pose psychological safety risks. Public sector organizations must therefore continue to prioritize mental health.

Here are the practical steps employers can take to ensure staff are motivated, energetic, and focused, even when working in different locations.

Strengthen relationships

It is a time of great uncertainty for employees.

After showing great tenacity and adaptability during successive blockages, they are once again confronted with a new world of work – whether it is about returning themselves to the premises of the company or talking to colleagues in the office on Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

This hybrid model presents new challenges for public sector organizations. For example, people have developed new styles of work over the past 18 months, forming opinions about the desirability and effectiveness of different work practices.

And that could lead to a division in the workplace, with silos forming between office workers and people working remotely.

What can public sector leaders do to help? Establishing clear lines of communication with employees and demonstrating that they are listening is essential.

A more nuanced and personalized approach, based on ongoing conversations with individuals – rather than company-wide decrees that could demoralize employees with complex views and preferences about work practices – is the right one. way.

It means more than a concern survey or just a town hall. It means ongoing dialogue, such as surveys or feedback reports, for employees to voice the range of what works and doesn’t work for them, and for leaders to do the same.

It needs to be part of a larger leadership approach that advocates for inclusiveness.

Defend inclusiveness

In the age of hybrid work, creating a culture of inclusion has become even more complex.

The Royal Society for Public Health found that two-thirds of workers who moved from work to home during the pandemic felt less connected to their colleagues.

If this is prolonged, it could lead to a feeling of exclusion of people from their teams and organizations, which could be particularly felt by employees from disadvantaged or disabled socio-economic groups, as well as newcomers and workers. youth. Workers with disabilities, for example, are 80% more likely to feel excluded at work. Employers need to ensure that a hybrid work model does not make the situation worse.

This has important implications for the work environment, affecting the productivity and well-being of employees. Perhaps more urgently, data from BetterUp shows that membership is already at its lowest level since the start of the pandemic. We know that connection – both the connection of employees to others and the connection of employees to the work itself – is the primary driver of intention to stay. Exclusion leads to staff turnover and will accelerate the departure of employees in a tight talent market.

It is therefore essential that leaders take the time to foster connection within their teams and between their employees and that they are deliberate to encourage participation, regardless of where an employee is seated. Leaders must show the way by genuinely caring about others, showing care and concern for the challenges they face. To do this, management teams become more visible, engage regularly with workers at all levels and recognize the personal challenges they may face.

Physical distance is no longer an excuse for emotional distance. It is more important than ever to reflect and put in the effort to build and nurture relationships.

By helping individuals develop the skills to better interact with others, their teams, and themselves, organizations can help each individual chart a personal path to belonging.

And in a new “post-COVID” normal, it will be reassuring and energizing.

Recognize everyone’s contribution

Hybrid work also forces managers to change the way they see and act on employee work.

As the model becomes mainstream, an increasing number of employees might have concerns about the voice, visibility or perceptions of the contribution. A survey conducted by Blind found that 53% of workers felt that remote work had a negative impact on their careers and progress for this reason.

These concerns are understandable. With remote working, managers don’t have in-person cues like seeing someone at their desk or seeing them working late in the office. While these indices have never been reliable indicators of productivity or hard work, organizational cultures that value ‘face time’ will need to be more deliberate to challenge the prejudice that people physically in office are more committed, more hardworking or more deserving. attention, feedback and opportunities.

In a hybrid world, organizations cannot afford to prioritize one particular form of work. Talent that isn’t in person isn’t expected to be treated as secondary or to follow slowly, and organizations need that talent.

Public sector organizations need to develop a culture where those who operate remotely are valued, recognized and developed in the same way as those who work locally.

The future of hybrid working will depend on managers who encourage employees to work where they perform best and who can create the best environment for their employees to come together in teams to collaborate, innovate and grow. together, no matter where they work, continue to deliver exceptional business results.

To look forward

The past year has taught us that change is continuous and that teams and organizations must constantly adapt.

Public sector leaders have a responsibility to ensure that the new era of hybrid work is built on strong communication, inclusiveness and trust, with everyone’s experiences carefully considered. Managers would do well to be open to adopting new ways of working based on these learnings rather than defaulting to old working practices as the “right” or preferred method.

It is important to remember that the situation is fluid. Plans will change, models must adapt, and organizations, like people, will sometimes stumble.

But investing in the well-being of employees is paramount and will shape the future of every individual for the better.

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