Christian Logue, MD of Sagal Group, explains how treating your employees like grownups is the key to hybrid success.
A changing workplace
It won’t be a shock to you to hear that the workplace has changed in the last few years.
The unexpected move to WFH, that landed with the pandemic, had a seismic effect on the way we do things. Across the country, offices were suddenly vacated en masse in favour of, previously ignored, back bedrooms.
Now, as the influence of the pandemic seems to be diminishing, employers are looking to revert to the previous office-based system of working. But there’s an issue. In a recent Gallup survey, 59% of workers (in remote capable jobs) stated they wanted to work with a hybrid model. Whereas 50% of leaders in Microsoft’s recent polling state ‘their company already requires or plans to require, full-time in-person work in the year ahead’.
An expectation gap
Clearly, there’s an expectation gap between employees and employers here. Yet, anyone who thinks that we can return to how things were in 2019 is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land, or at least in a suburb of Cloud Cuckoo Land with excellent broadband speeds. Whether employers like it or not, hybrid working is here to stay. The question becomes how do we incentivise employees to spend more time in the office than working from home?
Carrots & sticks
It seems that the old ‘carrot & stick’ approaches are being used, with predictable levels of success. The stick is the least nuanced tack, typified by the stories covered in recent newspaper headlines where WFH civil service team members were left passive-aggressive notes. All this approach does is make the organisations involved seem archaic, leading to a haemorrhaging of talent. Microsoft YouGov survey 51% of workers stated they’d consider leaving their company if the hybrid option was removed. So, in order to incentivise hybrid workers back into the office more often, let’s forget sticks. The key is finding the right kind of carrot.
Some workplaces have introduced schemes such as free lunches on Wednesdays, after-work drinks on the company and sessions with everyone from mindfulness gurus to Zumba instructors. I can’t help feeling that these initiatives feel like gimmicks. They underestimate the drive and passion of professional teams.
For me, it’s all about treating your team as grownups. Think of your own staff. They’re an impressive and dynamic bunch. Surely that’s why you hired them? They want to strive. They want to achieve. They want to do the best job they can. Professionals aren’t driven by free pastries; they want access to an environment that allows them to excel at their jobs. Yes, WFH during lockdown was great for focused work. But it also highlighted all the parts of our jobs that are done best in a really well-functioning office. A great office is somewhere with the people, tools and facilities that allow team members to be the best versions of themselves. Your team will brave the commute if your office is a destination, the type of place where they can complete a task during a single 30-minute meeting with everyone, rather than doing it piecemeal and having it take all day.
Professionals aren’t driven by free pastries; they want access to an environment that allows them to excel at their jobs.
The office should be somewhere that’s specifically designed for a variety of interactions and filled with the equipment that will make doing their job easier. We’re talking about scrum areas for quick, engaged, problem solving and client presentation areas filled with the type of kit that allows your team to paint a true picture of their vision and mission. Nooks and pods for jumping on those vital video calls, collaborative tables for moments of synergy and breakout spaces for blue-sky thinking. All of these environments should be stocked with bleeding-edge technology like big touch screens, magnetic whiteboards, integrated handheld peripherals and much more.
Yes, your team will like free muffins or a shiatsu massage, but they’ll prefer the feeling of satisfaction that comes from spending time in an office that allows them to meet their potential.
A final thought
Is your office a carrot, tempting hybrid workers out of their back bedrooms?
It should be.
With all this talk of carrots, I’m off for a salad. Or perhaps a burger, with a salad on the side.
Christian Logue, MD Sagal Group.