How leaders can get their organisations aligned on working arrangements

Photo by Stephen Dawson

As many people settled in their home offices and flexi-work policies, the question of returning to office full-time became more prominent as the effects of the pandemic slowly subsided. Companies around the world have started opening their office spaces from the end of last year, and many are finding it to be a challenge.

One challenge that frequently surfaces is the disconnect between the policy and what employees want.

Leaders and top-level executives are more likely to prefer a full return to the office. Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt even chimed in to highlight the challenges of building a great management virtually.

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On the other hand, most employees do not share this sentiment. According to the survey by The Future Forum Pulse in August 2021, 76% of employees do not want to return to work at the office full time. The study also found that top level executives are nearly three times more likely than employees to prefer returning to the office full-time.

Managing this disconnect requires a delicate balance between prioritising business performance and respecting employees’ autonomy. EngageRocket’s co-founder, Chee Tung Leong, shares that the key lies in transparent communications about plans for returning to office. It’s worth noting that ‘communications’ call for two-way interactions between employers and employees. 

“Over the last two years, we have learned that connection at work isn’t built just because you’re together in the office. Teams have thrived while fully onsite, hybrid, and fully remote settings. The differentiating factor is the ability of managers to maintain the human connection with and within the team,” said Chee Tung.

“As companies embark on RTO programmes, proactively listening and responding to staff needs while clearly communicating leadership priorities will strengthen these connections. This is a necessary condition for a successful RTO.”

Managers as a critical node

Knowing what exactly people think and feel is the first step towards mitigating risks of disengagement among employees. When employers know exactly what is causing employees to be hesitant in returning to office, relevant actions can be taken to ease the workforce into it.

Here’s where the role of managers becomes very important. Different teams will have different dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and levels of engagement. A one-size fits all plan is not going to boost employee engagement or morale regarding RTO plans.

Rather, managers should be empowered to have autonomy when it comes to their own teams. They should be equipped to make decisions regarding communication plans and their team’s work arrangements. Manager’s involvement is the key in bridging employee’s aspirations and business needs.

However, it is not as simple as it seems. From EngageRocket’s research, as many as 42% of HR professionals find it difficult to include managers in taking action. This is not due to managers’ lack of competence or intent, but them not being equipped with the right resources to act on things that matter for their teams.

For example, managers may not know what is causing levels of trust among team members to drop and they become unsure of what to do as a result.

Launch of ACT: An action suggestions platform for managers

EngageRocket has launched ACT as a solution for leaders to empower their managers in taking actions that would drive meaningful change, allowing for HR and leaders to easily plan action points for their managers and empower them to improve their teams’ engagement and performance.

As a result, managers would be better equipped to take the right actions based on their team’s sentiments and scores instead of guesswork. 

“ACT was solutioned from our years of research into the pain points of leaders and HR practitioners around the world. Managers are a critical node in organisations, and equipping them to lead their people with effective managerial action is responsible for up to 70% of employee engagement. Through ACT, we will enable more organisations to build productive and meaningful human connections at scale,” said CheeTung.