When company leaders think about returning to the office, our old habits kick in and we may start planning headcount, budget, infrastructure, and technology requirements. However, with many companies and their employees now embracing hybrid work, it will require whole new habits and a new mindset when it comes to managing teams that are moving between working from home, the office, or the road on any given day or time. In this new world of work, the needs of your people have to come first, or you will risk losing them to other companies savvier and more adaptable to the changing needs of their employees.
“55% of employees say that whether or not they can work flexibly will impact whether they will stay.” – Gartner
Imagine how it would feel if you were the only person working remote calling into a meeting where everyone else is in-person at the office? Or having English as your second language and everyone else in a virtual meeting is rapidly speaking English? Or you’re on call and you’re trying to hear what your manager is saying, but his dog is barking at the mailman in the background, and you miss half of what they said?
This has been the reality for employees who are working remotely. Many of us probably have experienced one or all these situations during the pandemic, but now through the power of new collaboration technology, we can ensure more inclusive and fair experiences for everyone: no matter their geography, location, or language. New technologies offer real-time transcriptions, background voice removal and room systems that represent each meeting participant individually in meeting grid — Making sure people can participate equally wherever they are.
Many employees have been working remotely for over a year, and remote work fatigue has become a real concern. In a recent study, the Gartner analyst firm said 93% of HR leaders report being increasingly concerned about employee burnout. The study calls out three stressors that are causing burnout – digital distractions, virtual overload, and difficulty disconnecting.
To alleviate employees’ feelings of burnout will first require leaders to role model new behaviors that give employees permission to go offline, take breaks between meetings and step away from their computers and their work for an hour or a few days. Second, embracing new collaboration technology that can help employees and teams avoid burnout with detailed, private insights that support better work-life balance, and empower personal well-being. For instance, the insights allow employees to see how many meetings they are attending outside their preferred working hours, assess who they are meeting with the most across the team and whether they are carving out enough focused time for themselves.
Another option to consider is incorporating a wellness app for your teams to use. For instance, here at Cisco, we’ve partnered with Thrive Global to integrate its Reset App with Webex. The app helps employees build new habits that improve well-being and mental resilience. People using Webex can download pre-loaded Resets on a range of topics — to help them focus on breathing, reflect on what they’re grateful for, reframe problems, or simply stand up and stretch.
As employees return to the office, COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the world and remain a major concern for many countries. This will require leaders to develop new protocols, policies, technologies, and even office design changes to ensure employees remain safe when they enter and work in their offices. Many companies are using room occupancy sensors, signage, and notifications help enforce room capacity limits and cleaning schedules. Leaders can augment this with frequent communications that ensure employees coming into the office understand their well-being is a top priority and reminding staff of the measures in place to safeguard their health.
Employees’ well-being must be the top priority as we venture forth into this new era of hybrid work. The pandemic turned all leaders and companies into pioneers leading the way into the unknown. And the best way forward is leading with empathy and continuing that pioneering spirit to redefine the way we work and live. As leaders, we have the momentous opportunity to create a new experience of work that is more inclusive, empathetic, and compassionate – no matter where we work.