Boston Consulting Group (BCG) issued a report recently. A fascinating read. It was a collection of the thoughts of 12,000 employees on the future of remote work. A key takeaway: the more employees feel satisfied with their social connectivity the more likely they’ll maintain or improve productivity.
While workplace tools, things like videoconferencing, virtual white boards, and project management software, contributed to productivity, if employees were satisfied with them, they were not near the driver that creating, building, and maintain connections between co-workers and their managers is.
Among the unprecedented things COVID-19 brought, according to BCG, has been the opportunity to “run the world’s biggest-ever workplace experiment.” By mid-March this year, hundreds of thousands of employees went from working in the office to working from their homes (WFH).
Now, months later, many believe the experiment yielded positive results. Actually, BCG’s Workplace of the Future employer survey found it really works. Companies surveyed said they expect about 40% of their employees will continue to work remotely. A sizable portion of them anticipate more than 25% of employees will work in a hybrid model that combines remote and in-the-office work.
All this sounds exciting – especially from the perspective of the employer. But for employees it represents another change to their work routines. And to their relationships with co-workers and direct managers. For example, with a hybrid model of one kind or another, a return to the office may mean seeing certain people on an irregular basis. Maybe not seeing others at all. That has an impact on employees sense’ of social connectivity and, logically, how satisfied they are with that.
Some 80% U.S. employees surveyed by BCG who were not satisfied with their social connectivity with co-workers said they were less productive than before the pandemic. In contrast, 37% of those expressing satisfaction with their social connectivity felt their productivity was below pre-pandemic levels. More than a 2X difference.
Eyal Ronen, PhD., an organizational psychologist and co-founder of Sensemakers, a consultancy that works with companies to improve their performance by dealing with underlying processes and hidden emotions, said, “the lack of or limited amount of actual human interaction with work colleagues produces a need for stability, for security.” While workplace flexibility holds some appeal, it also has the potential to heighten employees’ sense of disconnectedness and impact their productivity.
So how can you continue to have employees WFH or operating in a hybrid model that centers on workplace flexibility without them feeling their social connectivity is less than optimal – to keep productivity where it is or get it to where it needs to be?
You need an employee engagement and performance management platform that allows you to properly deal with all the facets of the social connectivity-productivity relationship.
Of course, communications is crucial. Bi-directional. Open. Frequent. One-on-one, group-wide, company-wide. Top-down, bottom-up. Peer-to-peer. Social and private. What’s communicated is important too. Whether WFH or hybrid, employees need to know how they’re doing.
When all are in the same place, interactions are often instantaneous. That makes an impact. Remote workers need that same sort of immediate feedback. If managers are only able to see performance data retroactively – not in real-time – they’re offering a review not encouragement, let alone personalized coaching in the moment.
Such a platform will also create transparency. Data will be equally accessible to manager and employee alike. It can also be displayed on digital leaderboards. Meaning team members can see how each other – or as a team – they’re doing. With a kudos capability – providing words of praise or reinforcement from peers and managers, those getting the virtual high fives are further motivated to perform – and be more productive. The measure of the value of such a feature can be seen in the rise in the use of this feature, found on the Centrical platform. Between mid-March and the end of July, WFH employees of our customers using the platform stepped up their praise for each other 150% from pre-pandemic levels.
Another aspect of WFH or in a hybrid model is employees’ inclination to improve current skills or learn new ones to deal with changing job responsibilities amidst a pandemic. During the mid-March-July period, a 5X increase in completed learning missions was seen among users of the Centrical platform. Like the employees strengthening the sense of team by sending kudos to each other, a massive uptick in taking on learning activities said they’re engaged, motivated to be productive.
Aside from offering “the world’s biggest-ever workplace experiment,” this pandemic has shown the resilience of companies and their employees to be productive, especially if efforts are made to keep them feeling connected, engaged, learning, and performing.