The start of every new year incites reflection on the triumphs and tribulations of the year prior and hopes for the one ahead. 2022 was a transformative year for the workplace, as companies rallied behind adopting a post-pandemic mindset and embraced increased flexibility.
One of the best things that stemmed from this past year – and even two years prior – is the renewed energy around work-life balance and, ultimately, the reprioritization of the employee experience. As we navigate today’s modern working world, leaders should consider the following principles to foster a motivated and engaged workforce.
1. Resolve hybrid work for the long haul
Hybrid work remains challenging, and employers will need to approach it intentionally in 2023. Many employees are returning to office spaces and aren’t finding the same amenities that were previously available, in addition to having fewer interactions with colleagues. What’s more, we’re seeing that requiring team members to come in for a set number of days doesn’t effectively drive culture or manage individuals.
[ Also read How to be the manager your IT team needs in 2023. ]
Increasingly, as employers shift their in-office requirements, they do so without considering the employees’ perspective. 69 percent of office workers believe hybrid work will be fundamental to retaining the workforce in the future, and 66 percent believe employers will have to support hybrid work. Contrast this with the two-thirds of workers who would quit if required to return to the office full-time. Though we’re still navigating how to lead a hybrid workforce effectively, this must be a focal point in 2023 to meet employees’ expectations.
2. Meet the growing needs of employees
Many organizations have experimented and pivoted multiple times to identify a working model that best fits their workforce. Beyond the office location debate and preferences, more employees demand better working conditions.
How do we meet those needs? It starts with listening to feedback and prioritizing their well-being. Creating a dedicated position or team charged with collecting critical feedback to improve the employee experience can be highly beneficial as organizations strive to improve the work experiences for all employees.
[ Related read: 7 tips for giving and receiving better feedback ]
Employees at my organization – especially our caregivers and commuters – have expressed the need for continued flexibility after growing accustomed to the pandemic working norms. We’ve identified this as an opportunity to meet their needs by continuing the office-optional approach and encouraging other organizations to embrace this flexibility for the employee experience.
However, if the last few years have taught us anything about the workforce, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, and we should be prepared to test new ways of meeting employee needs and expectations. Consider increasing quality interactions – intentionally – and implementing work/life balance policies to bolster the efforts further.
For leaders, this intentionality can range from the meetings we schedule and how we can be more effective and thoughtful when scheduling to how we approach well-being. Do you mirror or model good time-off practices, like stepping away from emails and calls? Can you emphasize taking time off or taking mental health days with your teams? There’s no better way to meet employee needs than leading by example.
3. Maintain culture and collaboration
Unsurprisingly, maintaining a connected, well-rounded culture is challenging. Workplaces will need to establish a means by which employees feel their workplace has a culture while also ensuring this doesn’t deter from the work/life balance they deem essential.
Leaders must become more intentional with their actions before implementing any tactical measures to address the concern over the lack of culture across organizations. Organizations can solidify this intentionality by understanding the purpose behind holding meetings, practicing team-building exercises, and collaboratively sharing information.
Collaborative work has risen within the past decade, consuming the majority of most employees’ work weeks. When scheduling meetings, leaders should decide if the time to connect is necessary, taking time to step back and consider the best means to connect with their teams.
This can sometimes become a balancing act for executive leaders. On the one hand, collaboration is essential for the organization’s continuity; however, with employees becoming more prone to burnout and disengagement, it is imperative to ensure time is effectively utilized.
Gone are the times when employee needs can be left unresolved. When the workforce’s needs are adhered to, employers can transform their organizations to be more productive. Hybrid work allows employees to address their personal needs while ensuring they’re equipped to be successful in a corporate environment.
By focusing on the ideas above and fostering greater employee experiences, leaders can strengthen their teams for long-term success.
[ Don’t try to recreate what was normal before the pandemic. Learn from leading CIOs in a new report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services: Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation. ]