Supporting and engaging our people in a diverse, hybrid workplace

By Katie Bannon
Account Director

Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work. 

Now, with widespread vaccinations in sight, we’re on the brink of a disruption as great as last year’s sudden shift to remote work: the move to hybrid — a blended model where some employees return to the workplace and others continue to work from home.  

Employee expectations and the way they interact within businesses have changed forever, and because of this we need to redefine both what businesses expect from their employees regarding productivity, but also what employees should expect from their employers in terms of support and employee communication.

Caburn Hope’s Co-Founder and MD, Elizabeth Spencer-Phillips and Account Director, Katie Bannon were joined by Alicia McCollam, the Global Diversity Inclusion & Wellbeing Manager at AVEVA, for a webinar exploring this new hybrid working world.

A FTSE 100, industrial software company headquartered out of Cambridge, UK, AVEVA is a multinational team of 6,500 people in 47 countries, so well-being, inclusion and wellness was at the top of the 2020/2021 HR priority list, to ensure their multidisciplinary team stay connected, communicating, empowered and performing. 

What has been the impact of hybrid working on the employee experience in 2021?

More than 40% of the global workforce are considering leaving their employer this year - a shocking employee retention statistic for business leaders, but testimony to the sheer scale of the changes faced in business over the previous 24 months.  

Whilst remote working has created new job opportunities for some, offered more family time and provided options for commuters, there have also been enormous challenges to our working cultures, with many employees experiencing tribalism, digital silos and loneliness.

The discussion first turned to the biggest learnings each had taken from the experience of the last 18 months.

Elizabeth Spencer-Phillips, said: “We work with some of the biggest global companies and our experience of their solutions has been that one size doesn't fit all. Some are really keen to get their teams back into the office, some who are already back in and working a successful hybrid model and some who have found that working from home fits their business brilliantly.”  

“Whatever solution companies find for their business, though - the most important thing is identifying how their employees feel and how they can best support them. There are some employees very happy working from home, some finding it lonely and isolating, those employees who would rather be in the office, but can’t be yet and some feeling pressure to get back behind their original desk, but really aren’t comfortable doing so yet.”

“It’s a really complicated issue and one that is already affecting productivity and therefore business performance. The only way companies are going to be able to work their way through it, is with effective and sustained employee communication.”   

Connectivity is the key

Alicia McCollam, added: “Absolutely - connectivity is the key to ensuring employee wellbeing, happiness and productivity; not just between leader and team members - but across the business - between employees. At AVEVA, some of our greatest cultural successes have come from the informal connections we’ve empowered - such as encouraging our cross company crafting, fitness and book clubs.”

The AVEVA experience was that employee happiness wasn’t just reliant on having an understanding and flexible line management during these stressful times, but that encouraging, facilitating and empowering employees to create their own ‘cultural glue’ to connect with each other, was key to wellbeing and happiness in the workplace.  This doesn't come together by chance, but by a successfully communicated and executed people strategy, where HR and IC work together in order to see the bigger picture.

Orange puzzle pieces wit people in each one bought together as engaged employees

What role can leaders and managers play in supporting connectivity and ultimately, wellbeing?

As teams become more siloed and digital exhaustion becomes a real threat to productivity, a line manager’s behaviour and the culture they create in their team is the biggest influence on an employee’s work experience. By improving their management capabilities, managers can improve their own wellbeing as well as that of their team.

Katie Bannon, said: “A good place for a business to start is by asking themselves if their managers feel comfortable having conversations with their teams about mental health.”

Alicia continued: “Back in April 2021, AVEVA launched our global “It’s OK not to be OK” initiative. Our senior leaders got involved sharing their own experiences of challenges during these unprecedented times. It landed really well across the business team and led to company-wide inclusive, compassionate and empowering storytelling.”

Having leaders confidently sharing their own experiences is only the start of an authentic and honest company wellbeing journey. Google spent years figuring this out. Leaders also need to ask and listen. 

Katie added: “Regularly asking and listening to what and how your employees are feeling is a vital part of understanding exactly what is affecting their wellbeing and what they need from you to address it.”  

“Polls and research don’t have to be time consuming and arduous, quick temperature checks - for example an email survey asking employees to give themselves a rating of between 1 - 7 on how they’re feeling - can help you gauge mood, sentiment and motivation throughout a business.”

“Think beyond just implementing the tools (such as collaborative communications tools like slack, teams or workplace) create content and support based on what your employees really want – whether that’s 10 minute mindfulness ideas, an employee radio station/ podcast or a more social space to have more genuine personal ‘water cooler’ moments - understand and tailor ideas to match your employees needs.”

Encouraging collaboration and connectivity throughout the business

The road to wellbeing isn’t just a one way street, however, and effective leadership is only part of the puzzle. Normalising wellbeing and making it a natural part of the day to day of doing business, empowers employees to prioritise their mental health and recognise where they need more support.

Alicia continues: “At AVEVA we’ve worked really hard to embed even more openness and honesty into our culture in how we talk to each other, how managers lead teams and how we treat each other.  We’ve created new processes and ways of working to encourage awareness, human connectivity and wellbeing.”  

For example, we have ‘meeting free Fridays’ - when formal meetings are effectively banned!  We were all experiencing ‘Zoom fatigue’ at one point and instigating an invitation to our employees to go ‘meeting free’ on Fridays encouraged focus on their own workload, rather than having to turn up to endless Zoom calls. Of course employees still connect informally if they need to, but on Fridays we empower our teams to get through their workload before the weekend.

We also have our ‘walking meetings’ where we all commit to going for a walk during the meeting and talking on the phone, rather than being sedentary and sitting in front of a screen. As well as getting us outside and moving our bodies, we’ve noticed it’s also worked as a real leveller, with team members sharing stories of their walks, in turn encouraging the more social and human interaction you would traditionally get in an office setting.”

Our mental health weeks and mental first aid training are also positive initiatives we’re really proud of at AVEVA.”  

How to embed the right level of employee support in our changing workplace

The webinar concluded with three key take-outs that can be actioned immediately:

1.     “Keep it top of the agenda” 

Make sure wellbeing stays on the corporate agenda – create an ‘Always On’ campaign paired with a quick and agile more emotive polling.

2.     “Content is king and queen” 

Centralise your resources, create good valuable content and optimise for inclusive accessibility: Create a Health and Wellbeing communications hub that focuses on enhancing the employee experience whether you are at home and at work. 

3.     “Make it safe and make it open” 

Create an open culture which allows for consistent authentic two-way dialogue. Audit your digital and in person communications channels and create a plan that not only supports key milestone in Global wellbeing but allows for story sharing and active participation – leading by example is also really effective here – let your leaders share too.

 

The 30-minute webinar is available to view in full here.

Looking for support to help your employees cope with a changing workplace?  That’s what we’re here for.

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Katie Bannon

ACCOUNT DIRECTOR