Now that 90 per cent of adults in Ireland are fully vaccinated, life is slowing going back to pre-pandemic normality. With this comes the reuniting of teams.
But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we must not overlook self-care in workplace situations. Whilst working from home has been a triumph for many, it has also taken its toll on mental health and wellbeing.
As we return to the office, even on a flexible basis, we must consider the impact of two major factors. The first is back to work anxiety – a common concern that employees may share – the second is how to bring a team back together successfully, whilst preventing employee burnout.
In this feature we’ll examine some of the best self-care in workplace practices, look at how to prevent employee burnout and consider tips to reignite employee motivation.
But first, let’s understand why this matters.
Why employee welfare matters
If you’re looking at how to improve productivity, you need to first look at employee welfare. While fair remuneration plays its part, we now understand that it takes much more than money to attract and retain talent. Company culture, employee benefits, flexible working, the opportunity for training and promotion are just some ways employee motivation is achieved successfully.
Experts continually tell us that an engaged workforce is a productive one – the University of Oxfords’ Business School found that happy employees are 13 per cent more productive. In short, for a business to thrive, it cannot neglect its workforce.
The importance of the Hybrid Model
While working from home has opened up our world to greater flexibility, less commuting and higher productivity, there is no compensation for face-to-face contact. We are, after all, social creatures that crave and benefit from personal interaction.
So, it’s no surprise that 70 per cent of Irish employees now want hybrid working introduced. That is, a combination of working on-site as well as working remotely, in a location-flexible arrangement.
As we look at how to successfully integrate employees back into the workplace and consider how to improve employee productivity, we must do so with the hybrid model front and centre. For business, this is a big opportunity to review current practices and lead the charge in heralding a new way of working.
Managing back to the office anxiety
For some, returning to the office may be ‘business as usual’. For others, back to the office anxiety is very real. The best way to alleviate back to work stress, is for leaders to strike the right balance.
It’s understood that up to 86 per cent of businesses will adopt the hybrid-model in the coming months. This is a positive step towards offering employees the flexibility they crave, along with the support of team dynamics.
Even still, some individuals may feel nervous for a number of reasons, from fears around commuting, to safety in the workplace and even restricted childcare options for instance.
How do you reignite a team in an hybrid organisation?
With employees half-in and half-out of the office, it can be challenging to bring teams together. To add to this, there may be employees who remain shielding or reluctant to return to the office at all.
A gentle, considerate and emphatic approach is advised. Listen to employee feedback, consider a flexible approach to working in line with the hybrid model, and acknowledge that it will take time.
With the marketplace still unsettled, we need to remain agile and flexible, whilst adapting to new ways of working. Extra consideration needs to be given to protecting employees from being exposed to the virus, whilst supporting those who are quarantining.
Individuals should be supported, not penalised, for working remotely. This means finding constructive ways to keep remote workers engaged and involved.
Let’s look at some tips to reignite employee motivation:
- Monitor employee morale using pulse surveys and address any emerging issues.
- Ensure offices are Covid-safe and new tools or infrastructure is put in place.
- Have regular check-in’s with team members on a one-on-one basis, if not face-to-face then using tools like Zoom.
- Find creative ways for increasing positivity in the workplace. For instance, employee of the week awards, enter (and attend) industry award events.
- Never overlook the value of humour in the workplace. Find ways to bring your team together, be it through monthly lunches or Friday drinks, to keep morale strong.
- Practicing gratitude in the workplace – such as appreciating the little wins, is a small but effective way to nurture a positive work environment.
- Finally, let’s not forget that remote employees should be involved and connected. Using the right software and tools to communicate frequently and effectively is one way to achieve this.
How to prevent employee burnout
As a final thought, and as part of due diligence, we must be aware of the impact of all of this on mental health and wellbeing. Reignite meaning employee burnout doesn’t always have to be the case. There are preventative measures you can take.
There’s a number of employee burnout causes and cures, so it’s important to be vigilant to the signs of employee burnout. There can be physical signs, such as; fatigue, headaches, irritability and even behavioural changes. But, there may be other less obvious indicators too – feeling frustrated and unmotivated, having low morale, and feeling incompetent are just a few.
It’s important for a line manager to be aware of these, as individuals may not realise they are suffering with employee burnout, as they juggle a growing workload. As a senior manager wondering how to improve employee productivity, it’s important to understand that employee burnout is the biggest barrier to this.
Here’s a few steps to prevent employee burnout:
- Provide clear and realistic expectations
- Review workloads and make sure teams are supported adequately
- Invite colleagues to have breaks and time out
- Offer ongoing training
- Remind colleagues of their value and contribution to the business
- Offer flexible working (the hybrid model) and set realistic work hours – as the boss you set the tone for out of office emails and contact, keep that in mind
In doing so, you will help to avoid unnecessary back to work stress, instead creating a clear pathway for success.
Reigniting teams is a step many organisations are taking at the moment. It presents an opportunity for companies to bring practices up to speed and improve employee motivation, morale and productivity in the process.
The hybrid model allows us to create a new and modern blueprint for working together. At a time when back to work stress and employee burnout is reaching new heights, it might be one of the greatest ways we can promote a cohesive and connected way of working.