Audrey Tang is a Chartered Psychologist and award-winning author of “The Leader’s Guide to Resilience”.
Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology, once suggested that a high level of happiness can be associated with three things: a sense of purpose, a feeling of flow and healthy relationships.
Many people have taken the time away from the office as a cue to re-examine their lives. The “where” of working has become less important than the “why”, with priorities shifting and working habits being reshaped.
The onus is now on them to respond to these changes by developing a workplace that can help to foster individual values, company culture and a core sense of purpose, so here are 3 tips business leaders can adopt to capture Seligman’s pillars of wellbeing within a hybrid working model.
1. Consider situational and generational differences
The pandemic has forced business leaders to view generational and situational differences with greater importance.
No two people are the same. In any given team, you’ll have some who are excited by the prospect of leaving the four walls of their home to reconnect with colleagues and others who are worried about the return of crowded commutes and social mixing.
Additionally, there may be graduates itching to experience the buzz of the office and learn from the face-to-face interactions, but senior members of the team who have taken the opportunity to move out of the city over the last two years and are enjoying the ritual of home-working.
One way to approach these differences in a hybrid setup could be to send out a workplace strategy survey, allowing employees to articulate their feelings about the office and working habits in general.
This is not to say that business leaders need to approve every individual request, but the feedback will provide insight into what the team wants from both in-office and remote work in 2022.
2. Encourage unstructured innovation
Two of Seligman’s pillars are a feeling of flow and sense of purpose – something that has been missing for many of us while working from home.
While remote work hasn’t dented productivity, it has removed some of the unplanned moments of innovation that occur between meetings. Often it’s the debrief when perched around a desk, or walking around the office that brings about ideas and collaboration.
Although a good workspace should accommodate a range of personalities and working preferences, open-plan spaces that are increasingly popular options for hybrid models can promote innovation and foster a sense of belonging.
Employees are now seeking a more purpose-driven space that makes venturing out worthwhile. This could mean the inclusion of inspiring open-plan areas away from desks too, such as a coffee bar or rooftop balcony.
Research has shown that positive mental health and a sense of autonomy help people to be productive anywhere, so hybrid working should facilitate both. It’s those human connections that provide people with a feeling of flow and a sense of purpose.
3. Provide clarity
One thing we have learned over the past two years is the value of effective communication. With so much uncertainty in this new reality we find ourselves in, managing people’s emotional needs is more complex and vital than ever.
Most businesses will now have refreshed their workplace strategies and ironed out the kind of granular detail needed for employees to feel welcome and safe, but communication is an extra step that many are forgetting.
Be honest with your team. The chances are you cannot accommodate everyone’s needs, so transparency can help teams understand and empathise better with your decisions.
Crucially, providing clarity will help employees better understand how they’re being encouraged to work. This will not only create a happier team, but also a more productive workforce driving the business forward.
Consultation is the way forward
Since happy employees are typically more productive than a stressed workforce, it makes sense as a leader to consult, where possible, each individual team member when building a workplace strategy.
As I mentioned before, that doesn’t mean that leaders must entertain every suggestion. But the act of consulting will bring in more options and help your team feel involved in the process.
One of the conclusions to come out of Kitt’s latest report was that employers are increasingly out of touch with their employees.
A collaboration process can help bridge this sense of disconnect, providing an opportunity for employees to air their concerns and create an office in 2022 that everyone is happy with.