How to prepare for the new human workplace
While reports are still divided over exactly what the future of work looks like – whether remote, in office, or hybrid – organisations can ensure they succeed whatever the outcome by aiming for a more ‘human’ workplace. But what does this actually mean in practice? And how can leaders best prepare? Here are my top tips.
1. It all starts with culture
Anh Phillips, Tech Insights Researcher at Deloitte, describes the ideal workplace as one that “values both strong relationships and individual well-being”, and involves “diverse types of people working together without forcing conformity and genuinely caring about each other.”
The first step towards achieving a human workplace then is to create a supportive and caring company culture – and it starts from the top down.
If leaders set clear expectations for the sort of culture they want, the rest of the organisation will follow suit. Leaders should be particularly mindful of the importance of employee wellbeing. Research shows that wellbeing has a direct positive correlation to productivity – so supporting employee wellbeing by encouraging a culture of caring not only creates a more human workplace, but is good for business results too.
With remote working still a factor – 85% of working UK adults say they want a hybrid model of working in the future – ensuring a caring and supportive culture is even more vital. In addition, more work will need to be done to build positive relationships between employees that may still be physically apart. The strongest foundation for any relationship, is trust.
2. Focus on building trust
The benefits of trust in the workplace are unquestionable. When employees trust their leaders and management, they are more highly engaged, which in turn leads to higher productivity and results. Moreover, employees who trust their organisation report experiencing 74% less stress and 40% lower levels of burnout – meaning trust is key to wellbeing too.
Unfortunately, the UK is lacking in this area, something that has only been made worse by the pandemic. For example, according to Gallup, only 28% of U.K. employees have confidence in the leadership of their company to successfully manage emerging challenges, and only 27% strongly agree that their company cares about their overall wellbeing.
In order to turn the tides on this, and create a workplace environment founded on trust, there are two things leaders should encourage: self-disclosure and empathy.
The former involves encouraging employees to share their interests and experiences from outside work, leading to a more authentic connection between colleagues and therefore greater trust. The latter means putting oneself in another’s shoes. Leaders need to be aware that many employees may be feeling anxious due to the uncertainty surrounding the future of work, and the continuing challenges of the pandemic. Organisations can help alleviate some of this stress and build trust at the same time by listening to their employees and giving them the flexibility to work where and how they want.
3. Champion transparency
The last thing workers need in their lives nowadays is more uncertainty. Organisations can mitigate this issue by championing transparency in the workplace.
One way to improve transparency is by providing more direct access to executive leadership. Open and regular dialogue between management and employees will ensure clear expectations are set, so people know exactly what their goals are. Workhuman research also shows that regular check-ins with a manager lead to higher employee engagement, and also promote a sense of trust and transparency.
It is also important to ensure the clarity and quality of communications at all levels of an organisation. One way to do this is by using a Social Recognition strategy, which encourages employees to regularly talk with, thank, and celebrate each other. This approach leads to more honest and open relationships both vertically and horizontally throughout a company, as anyone can recognise anyone else. Using an online platform for this furthermore ensures that those who continue working remotely also feel included and valued.
4. Establish ground rules around digital tools
One area in which clear and consistent communications is particularly important is regarding the appropriate use of digital tools.
Many remote workers may currently be feeling burnt out from endless Zoom meetings. When communicating digitally, it is important to consider which tool is most appropriate – if it can be sent in an email, and does not require an urgent response, then written communication should suffice. ‘Rich’ media, such as video calls, can be used to convey a sense of closeness – for example, to make a new employee feel welcome – or immediacy, for issues that require urgent attention.
Organisations should also be on the lookout for new opportunities. Facebook, for example, recently announced a new workplace technology which centres around Virtual Reality, which enables remote work to mirror an in-person experience. VR could be a valuable tool for companies looking to unite employees in a hybrid work environment.
Finally, organisations must remember that with everything discussed above, whether that’s digital tools, workplace culture, or trust in a company, different people have different perspectives. This is especially important for global organisations to keep in mind, so that they can successfully maintain a supportive and caring human workplace for all of their employees.