As more and more countries are lifting covid restrictions, organizations are rethinking what work should look like in the future. The corona pandemic was (and still is) highly disruptive in many ways, but it did prove that working from home is certainly possible in many sectors. It also has certain advantages. As a result, many organizations are now shifting towards ‘hybrid work’ as the new normal. It may seem like the best of both worlds, but organizations will have to evaluate whether they are genuinely ready for this new way of working.
The benefits of flexible remote working are undeniable. According to the 2021 Work Trend Index, less time spent commuting means that people have more time to relax and spend with their families. That is why 73% of workers want to continue working from home in some form. But there is also a major drawback: working from home creates a distance between employees or departments. 67% of employees prefer to get together again, as soon as it is safe. That disadvantage will not miraculously disappear by introducing hybrid work.
Information overload and organizational silos
Due to remote working, managers are less and less aware of how their employees feel. With remote work, there are fewer chances to ask employees how they are doing, as managers would probably normally do during water cooler talk. It creates a deviation between the perceptions of the two business layers. Executives indicate that they are thriving and can build strong relationships, while employees are less optimistic. Especially singles, new employees, frontline workers, and those from Generation Z indicate that they are primarily concerned with ‘struggling and surviving’.
The fact that so many employees struggle with their jobs is not just because they see their colleagues less often (or not even at all). The problem runs deeper. While working from home, many people feel a higher pressure to perform while at the same time being overwhelmed with information. Microsoft 365 statistics show that employees spend two and a half times more time on Microsoft Teams than they did in the past. Meetings nowadays take ten minutes longer on average, and more instant messages are being sent – even outside of office hours. Moreover, this communication overdose is largely unstructured and unplanned; 62% of all phone calls and meetings occur ad hoc. It becomes clear that working from home contributes heavily to information overload.
The information overload only keeps growing. Although we have been working from home extensively for over a year now, the number of e-mails, chats, meetings, and shared documents is still only increasing. It contributes to higher work pressure, especially since half of employees feel pressured to respond to messages within five minutes.
Generation Z is affected more
Not everyone is equally affected by this growing information overload. Due to a combination of factors, it affects Generation Z disproportionately. More often, these people go through life single, so isolation likely hits them harder. And because they are still in the early stages of their careers, they have no professional network to draw on. In addition, they have fewer financial resources to create a good, healthy, and comfortable home office. As a result, they feel less motivated and energized than other generations.
Yet, the smaller network is not exclusively a problem for Generation Z. Data from Outlook and Microsoft Teams shows that we now mainly work with our immediate team and are in contact with our broader network a lot less. This behavior leads to the formation of organizational silos. As fewer connections lead to fewer innovations, organizations will need to break down these silos.
Bridge the gaps to retain employees
There are several issues at play here, creating gaps within organizations. We see gaps between employees and managers, but also between different departments and even generations. Hybrid work will not automatically close these gaps. Many organizations are thinking about using their office more as a meeting place. But when employees only meet with their own team, you will not break down the silos. Moreover, unmotivated employees might participate less in such meetings, which lands you in a downward spiral.
Organizations need to overcome the problems surrounding hybrid work promptly because the stakes are high. The 2021 Work Index reveals that forty-one percent of workers are considering to switch jobs this year. Forty-six percent think it will be easier to change careers now that they can work remotely, as the physical distance to an office or workplace has become less critical.
That is why organizations must be prepared for hybrid work. They will need to have a flexible attitude to adapt to the needs of employees. In addition to requiring the physical space and technological solutions to collaborate both physically and remotely, organizations will also need the tools to combat digital exhaustion, information stress, and isolation.
The need for strong internal communication
Organizations need strong internal communication that goes beyond departments and teams. Internal communication plays an essential role in countering information stress and breaking down silos. Moreover, internal communication is crucial to ensure that every employee within an organization is heard.
With an omnichannel communications platform, you have everything you need to communicate with all employees, no matter what they do or where they are. This flexibility is crucial in hybrid work. Showing important company news and announcements on screensavers on laptops at people’s homes, on digital signage screens in office spaces, and in a mobile app also means that employees are less distracted during work, thus reducing information overload. It also allows managers and even the CEO to interact directly with employees, whether working at home behind a laptop or standing at a production line in a factory hall. Two-way communication also encourages social interaction. Employees can voice their opinions, share and like posts, and respond to each other. As such, internal communication helps to keep everyone on board and no one out of sight.
Want to know how to optimize your internal communication for hybrid work? Talk to our consultants and find out which solution fits your organization. Or download this free infographic with tips to apply flexible working in the right way.