By Simon Haighton-Williams, CEO of Adaptavist.
Today’s workforce is very different to what it was 22 months ago, as employees continue to operate from hybrid workplaces between the office and home, all the while relying on collaboration tools to communicate internally and externally. It seems like the days of having a spontaneous exchange of ideas in the hallways are behind us, and this change in how we work won’t be going away anytime soon. Collaboration tools such as Zoom, Google Docs, and Slack will remain in active use as the Omicron and potential future variants of COVID-19 force new constraints around how we work.
The Invisible Workforce
Despite the expansion of technology and the vast variety of channels we’re now using in the workplace to stay connected with our colleagues, the majority of the workforce doesn’t always feel seen or heard. In fact, Adaptavist’s 2021 Digital Etiquette Study found that 71% of employees ‘sometimes’ or ‘always’ feel invisible. This may come as a surprise to some, particularly employers, when we consider the number of tools available for internal communication such as Slack, Whatsapp, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts. These tools are not new to us, and have been used for collaboration and communication in the workplace for many years now. However, a significant number of employees (45%) said their organisation has too many tools and software requirements and that many (56%) feel that they lose time in their day due to tool switching. Employees are feeling lost in the variety of tools being provided to them and believe that managers are not aware of their concerns.
However, employees are not the only ones that seem to be struggling to adapt to the hybrid work structure. With managers saying they need better tools, software, and hardware to do their required tasks (36%), it’s clear employees and managers alike haven’t received the support they need while working remotely, and that the tools opportunistically grabbed in response to the lockdown have not necessarily made matters easier. Deliberate and purposeful selection and integration of tools, refined in response to feedback from team members can ease this challenge.
There are certain aspects of work that are very much harder when working in a distributed team, particularly when much or all of that team is home based. When asked what they missed most pre-COVID-19, managers and senior leaders agreed that working side-by-side with their team was the thing they missed the most. As well as this, employees said they missed chance meetings with colleagues they don’t work with directly for social reasons (23%) and the ability to celebrate success and give and receive recognition (20%).
Preventing The Great Resignation
A key learning from the Study is that companies need to communicate and engage more with employees to better understand how work has changed, and what their employees need to be more effective and ultimately happier in their work. Hybrid working presents perhaps as many challenges as it does opportunities, but with the world gripped by the latest developments of the ongoing pandemic, the singular mode of home working, clearly creates its own issues. The last 22 months has driven many organisations and teams apart and distrust has grown, with 35% actively pursuing finding a new job outside of their current organisation. Of those respondents, 53% are looking for another job directly related to how their company responded to COVID-19.
According to the study, 20% of employees think management is out of touch with the way work and productivity have changed. When asked what improvements employees require from management, the top responses were that they need to show empathy for what employees have been going through during COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 (24%) and that they want to be asked for feedback on the tools they’re using (21%). Evidently, communication is key to understanding employee needs. Leaders need to show more empathy towards their employees to try and better understand their feelings of not being seen or heard, their struggles with software and tools while working from home, and the way their productivity levels have been affected since shifting to remote work. In doing so, leaders will ensure their employees are happy and less likely to leave their organisation.
Developing An Agile Organisation In 2022
To optimise the hybrid workplace and to keep employees content with where they are working, it is important for CEOs to adopt an agile approach and restructure the organisation; creating teams that are self-managing and adaptive to allow them to feel more empowered and contribute positively to the organisation. This will lead to an organisation filled with teams that are able to cope with sudden changes to the way they must work, without losing productivity. But becoming agile doesn’t just mean adopting better tools and software to do the job better. It’s about changing the mindset to overcome challenges, allowing teams to accept unpredictability, and adopt a culture which embraces and flows with inevitable change, even when it’s unplanned.
Most importantly, however, CEOs must continuously strive to understand how managers and employees are feeling in terms of their mental and physical wellbeing, their feelings of invisibility, and their struggles with the number of tools and software, some of which may be completely unfamiliar to them. By developing this understanding, CEOs will take their first step towards creating an agile culture within their organisation.