In this day and age, employers know that workers value flexible work. Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey reported in 2021 that 87% of U.S. employees who were working remotely during COVID-19 preferred to continue working remotely at least once a week. This type of “in-and-out” approach, which we’ve come to know as the hybrid workplace model, seems to be the preferable option for most. Sixty-eight percent of workers in the survey said that the hybrid workplace model is the ideal way to work.
Failing to adapt could come at a high cost for companies of all sizes, as 42% of current remote workers polled said that if their companies didn’t offer remote work options post-pandemic, they’d leave in search of a job that does.
Considerations for hybrid work
So it’s clear that employees want options for hybrid working arrangements, but what’s murkier is how companies can actually pull that off. As a business leader, how can you ensure your company’s workplace model sets up every employee for success?
The working world has been buzzing with conversations about how to best lead people in remote and hybrid environments (check-in frequently, set clear expectations, encourage engagement, and the list goes on). What leaders might overlook, however, is how to make sure that employees can feel comfortable and safe when they return to the office, however often that may happen in your hybrid model.
In a 2021 Harris Poll survey, 65% of U.S. workers said they felt concerned about the cleanliness of their workplaces upon returning to the office, and 58% would like to see their workplaces put an increased focus on cleanliness and sanitization in response to the pandemic.
To truly set employees up for success in a hybrid working model, business leaders must ensure that offices are clean, safe, and comfortable before inviting workers back through their doors. These steps can help:
1. Invest in hygiene-promoting items throughout the office.
The few bottles of hand sanitizer and several boxes of tissues strewn about the office back in early 2019 won’t cut it when it comes to keeping employees comfortable and healthy in the office today. Now, employees want to feel well-equipped to protect themselves and others from communicable illnesses. The Harris Poll shows that employees want to see items such as hand sanitizer stations (58%), hands-free restroom fixtures (48%), and higher-capacity paper towel dispensers (35%) in offices when they return to work.
Although you’ll need to make a concerted effort to show the company is doing everything in its power to keep employees safe, you want to give workers some agency in the matter, too, by investing in supplies and tools they can use in their day-to-day office routines to stay safe.
2. Stay open and transparent about cleaning procedures.
The Harris poll also shows that 44% of respondents said they wanted to see more communication about safety and cleanliness when they reenter office spaces. In an article for CleanLink, Brian Miller, business support specialist at milliCare Floor & Textile Care, notes that many of his facility customers keep systems for reporting and recording cleaning.
“It could be a shared spreadsheet available online to BSCs (building service contractors) and building tenants or a logbook that technicians can use to note with their initials and timestamp where and when they cleaned certain areas,” he said.
The key is to be transparent with cleaning practices and procedures to show employees you and your company’s cleaning team are committed to keeping the working environment as healthy as possible.
3. Foster communication, especially up the corporate ladder.
Open communication can be the lifeblood of good corporate culture. There’s no point trying to make employees more comfortable if you’re unable to receive feedback on what methods are working. Instead of throwing spaghetti at the wall until your workers seem happier, invest time in understanding what work environments encourage employees to give feedback and voice concerns, and make sure you have systems in place to ensure that feedback makes it to the right ears to create change.
When employees are deciding when to speak up, perceived ability to affect change and psychological safety are the two main determinants of whether they follow through. If you’re not making it clear to your workers that you’re willing and eager to listen and implement feedback, then don’t be surprised when you get crickets in response.
Make sure to highlight multiple routes to encompass various communication methods — allow written feedback, anonymity, or suggestion boxes — and work with all of management to help your employees feel seen and heard. Even if their suggestions aren’t feasible, connect with them through a teachable moment on what is and isn’t possible at this time. Your employees will feel more comfortable, and they’ll probably respect you more, too.
For business leaders and employees alike in companies of all sizes, learning to stay on our feet in an ever-shifting landscape is challenging. Learning to lead effectively through these changes and others to come is vital to ensuring that your company thrives well into the future, but don’t forget that helping employees feel safe and comfortable is a big part of it.
The original article can be found at: Forbes (Entrepreneurs)