The pandemic, remote work, and digital technology have changed the paradigm of how to think about work, where we work, and the employee experience. Accelerated vaccination rates have employers making plans to reopen their offices, but the role of the office has changed. The nostalgia for normal does not mean the old normal. Ask yourself whether your planning will lead to a more productive and happy workforce and saved business costs?
After a year of remote work, half of office workers want to continue to work from home two to four days a week, creating a hybrid workforce of team members in the office and at home. Today’s new paradigm is to provide the technology, space, and time required for employees to be effective and productive and for employees to have great experiences.
In 2019 the employee experience became the buzzword phrase for pundits. Buying technology and streamlining workflows were recommended over the sanctity of HR or IT processes and their regiments. In recruiting, companies were encouraged to simplify the job application process and invest in the latest application tracking systems to allow employees to complete applications in five minutes, not the previous standard of an hour. In the work of teams — the heartbeat of any entity — companies invested in digital technology for chatrooms, chatbots, video conferencing, cyber security, and shared digital spaces.
The shock of the pandemic pole-vaulted remote work and digital technology by at least five years. Our one-year of remote work has proven that digital technology provides employees the information and face-to-face casual experience they needed to stay emotionally connected to the company.
According to Pew Research, after nearly a year of the pandemic sacrifices and working from home, employees became more productive, had the technology they needed to do their jobs, had an adequate workspace at home, worked with fewer interruptions, and were motivated to work. See chart at right.
Before the pandemic, the empirical research showed that the best performing teams were predicated on one emotion: trust. Trust is both an emotion we feel and a logic we act upon. To be sure, effective teams need clarity on goals and milestones, shared operating norms, and smart and dedicated people. But trust is the number one factor. When people trust those with whom they work (and the manager), they will expose their vulnerabilities. At work, this means trusting employees feel emboldened to ask questions, develop their skills, and suggest improvements.
Can trust be replicated through ZOOM or Microsoft Teams calls? Research by Tsedal Neeley at Harvard on the traits of highly effective global teams, before the pandemic, provided a resounding yes. If global teams can be highly effective before the pandemic, domestic virtual teams can be effective after the pandemic. After all, they have fewer nationality, language, and time-zone barriers to overcome.
Some of Neeley’s recommendations include establishing clarity on goals and operating norms, using empathy to build trust, preventing dominance by a few team members, and being there for people. She also strongly recommends using digital technology such as videoconferencing and chats.
Contrary to what some pundits would have you believe, the Pew Research report shows that remote workers are happy using video conferencing, instant messaging, and chatbot platforms to keep in touch with their managers and coworkers. Two-thirds report that they are not fatigued by ZOOM conference calls.
The new paradigm of hybrid work and the office calls for providing the space, time and technology teams need to be effective. Having clear operating norms, building trust, and utilizing digital technology hold the key. Organizations that have had hybrid workforces long before the pandemic have experienced significant improvements in productivity, employee morale, and reduced costs.
These companies came to realize the that the open office bay design was detrimental to workforce productivity. After converting to the new paradigm of hybrid work and the office, they experienced healthy increases in productivity and saved an average of $10,000 a year per remote worker. Their employees were happier and more loyal. They also experienced an increase with workforce diversity and significantly reduced the costs of office real estate.
Are you ready to take the next step in improving your employees’ experiences and productivity? Are you ready to redefine the office? Contact me today at VA@VictorHRConsultant.com to discuss a safe and productive path to reopen the office using the new hybrid work paradigm.
Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting, managing partner of InnovationOne, and Sales Advisor to MeBeBot. He works with companies to transform HR, implement remote work, recruit executives, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and innovation cultures. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at www.VictorHRConsultant.com.