With COVID-19 having shown many Australian businesses that a WFH model is indeed workable, many are now trying to create the workplace of the future. In this piece Workplace by Facebook head of Asia Pacific and Japan Vicky Skipp gives some tips to support a hybrid workforce.
Never before have our workforces been more dispersed as millions of Australians continue to work from home. Enabling people to collaborate while working remotely, temporarily discouraging people in affected areas from meeting in person, and coordinating timely information and responses to employees have all been seismic shifts we’ve had to adjust to. Many companies across the country are now having to pivot once more.
As social distancing measures ease in many parts of the country, companies are now devising new strategies around what their future workforce will look like, where their employees will work and how to best keep everyone connected. Some companies are asking employees to work remotely for the foreseeable future but many are adopting a hybrid structure, asking employees to blend their place of work between home and the office.
Ensuring your employees remain connected with each other and the company needs to be paramount. Here are some tips to support your hybrid workforce and and manage a gradual return to the office:
1. CLEAR AND CONCISE COMMUNICATION
The return will have its challenges, so constant communication will be key. Any updates need to be given with prior warning. Be clear on why the business has taken the decisions it has. It is important to outline the considerations you took when landing on decisions and clear timelines on when the measures will be put in place. Managers should be ready to answer questions, encourage feedback and be transparent on the decision-making processes.
2. STRIVE FOR FLEXIBILITY
COVID-19 has touched all of our lives and impacted us in different ways. Amongst the workforce will be carers, parents, people who are high-risk and people with mental health issues. Providing flexibility for those employees will be key to building a future that works for all.
3. CONTINUE TO PRIORITISE REMOTE PRESENCE WHEN APART
In many ways lockdown levelled the playing field for those that don’t work in HQ, who can’t always be in the office or are based in different countries. During lockdown, we could all be apart together. Make inclusion for those that can’t be there in-person a priority as you transition back to the office (especially as some workplaces operate at reduced capacity).
4. EVALUATE WHAT WORKED
Lockdown was difficult, many of us were growing new muscles and trying new things. But amongst the challenges we learnt a lot and many organisations fast forwarded their digital transformation by several years. Evaluate what your digital capabilities have helped you achieve as a company and continue to use them.
5. DON’T FORGET THE FRONTLINE
Last year, in our Deskless not Voiceless study just 13 per cent of Australian frontline workers said they felt connected to company headquarters. This year a whole new raft of challenges to keep staff feeling supported and connected have presented themselves. Whether staff are returning to the frontline or returning to head office, companies must find innovative ways to connect and listen to everyone in their business as they transition into a new normal. Many organisations are using video messages during COVID-19 to show visibility and communicate important C-suite messaging, and some are even using bots to gather feedback, monitor morale and flag staff who may be in need of help. Using collaboration platforms such as Workplace from Facebook to communicate important messages has helped reassure concerned staff and increase transparency across the organisation to make sure no one is being left behind.
6. LEADERSHIP STYLE
COVID-19 has brought unprecedented change for business leaders. Uncertainty has made employees fearful of their futures and tested leaders like never before. For many managers this period has made them improve their communication. As we move to the future, leaders must continue to show care for their employees and be more proactive in their outreach and communication. They need to share to their staff how they are feeling, that sense of belonging and empathy amongst the group has never been more important.
What we learned from lockdown is that with the right policies and collaboration tools remote working can work. As companies begin the transition back to the office, or employ a hybrid model, the key ingredient will be to ensure a well-thought through internal communications strategy that is flexible and agile enough to accommodate the unique circumstances of all employees.