Before the pandemic, the ability to “work from home” was a perk. But since 2020, it’s become an absolute necessity that many employees say they are not willing to give up — and many job candidates say is a “must” when considering new opportunities. The difference in perception of remote work or work-from-home arrangements is evident in, for example, the friction between middle management and juniors. The former might be conditioned to see it as a luxury. Meanwhile, by the time younger millennials and Gen Z employees joined the corporate workforce, remote work was considered perfectly normal. Increasingly, data shows remote work is just as productive as on-site work — along with other benefits, like reducing turnover — but while some professionals are still getting used to the idea, the hybrid work environment is being considered a civil compromise.
However, dissolving this tension between younger workers and the old guard is not the end of the challenge: As the hybrid work environment emerges as a dominant trend, so does the dire need to find better ways to keep employees engaged with the company while they are working remotely. Employee engagement is key to employee retention, and the lack of physical proximity has become a significant obstacle for HR professionals and managers. And in a candidate’s market, they’re under extra pressure to find ways to improve employee engagement in the remote-first or hybrid workplace and keep employee satisfaction high.
How to improve employee engagement in a hybrid work environment
Here are five ways to improve employee engagement in a hybrid work setting:
1. Be approachable
Nothing beats being approachable, whether you’re concerned about maintaining a healthy relationship with your employees online or offline. It’s important that your team realizes that you are there for them.
Building trust among colleagues can take time, especially in the case of remote-first teams, when they have never met in person. But encouraging employees to connect with you one-on-one for any query they have can go a long way — especially when you deliver on the promise to be available. Go beyond your monthly and quarterly one-on-ones and team meetings, and find ways to develop a personal rapport with each individual member on your team.
On an organizational level, make sure that the managers are well equipped to facilitate transparency, even virtually. Provide them with the required training and guidelines to ensure a more open work environment.
2. Reshuffle, and then shuffle again
As chaotic as it might sound, reshuffling teams can prove to be a great exercise in allowing your employees to collaborate and work with a broader group of talent.
Remote work hardly allows you to engage with anyone beyond your core team. With half of your staff working off-site, there are no shared lounges, cafeterias, or water cooler conversations happening. They must understand that your company culture is not limited to the handful of people they are working with, and the meetings they attend on Zoom.
The excitement of working on new projects and partnering with new people would help break the monotony that distributed work can sometimes bring. It can also help your on-site staff get to know your virtual workforce and better understand their individual working styles.
That being said, establishing a smoother process becomes crucial here. Frequent transitions can be disorienting or disruptive. Look for ways to switch it up without causing confusion.
3. Respect the boundaries
Contrary to popular belief, working remotely is not all that chill. In fact, people who work from home or from “third spaces” other than home or the HQ often feel overworked and exhausted. The line between personal and professional time starts to blur.
Setting up strict boundaries becomes undeniably critical: Working hours that are too flexible can be taxing. Respect the personal time of your freelance or remote employees, not their time zone, and be cognizant not to reach out with requests outside of working hours.
4. Instate dedicated days
Give your employees something extra to look forward to by introducing fun days like No-Meets-Mondays or Funtastic Fridays. Adding special days not only makes the work environment fun but also rejuvenates the team. This method for boosting employee engagement and team morale is catching on with companies from budding start-ups to corporate giants — and they’re relishing the opportunity to get creative with this trend.
5. Make collaboration easy — and not just at the HQ
Of course, working remotely doesn’t just mean just working from one’s house. Today, corporates are powering their flexible and hybrid workplace strategies with platforms like Upflex, with a global network of coworking spaces in more than 1,200 cities around the world. Proptech platforms like Upflex makes it easy, quick, and secure to browse and book safe, connected, amenity-filled workspace on demand, helping companies give their teams space to come together, socialize and collaborate, even if they’re not commuting into headquarters. Recent research shows that employees who book workspace together on platforms like Upflex interact more with one another across digital platforms, even when they’re not working in the same location, throughout the workweek — a win for employee engagement metrics.
The competitive opportunity in remote and hybrid teams
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the perfect remote-first or hybrid work strategy. It requires research — employee surveys, observing workspace usage behaviors and trends — and iteration. But it has big benefits, especially in the “war for talent.” Companies open to distributed work have the competitive advantage of boundary-less hiring. Once those employees are part of the team, create a solid engagement plan that considers the nuances of remote and hybrid workplace dynamics and make them feel as much a part of your organization as your work-from-office staff.