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As we navigate changing workforce landscapes, employers continue to struggle with hybrid and remote workforce challenges. Each workplace model brings unique pros and cons, whether it’s fully return-to-work, hybrid or fully remote. For employers trying to attract and retain employees, having flexibility in workplace strategy is extremely important, but how do employers know the strategy is working and how do employers know their employees are happy?

“The definition of workplace is changing, we’re at this watershed moment. LinkedIn reports that members are posting more about flexible work, wellbeing, and company culture to compete with today’s reshuffling of employees,” said IBI Researcher Carole Bonner, who presented IBI’s research findings.

According to the Pew Research Center, people are quitting their jobs for the following reasons: pay too low (63%), no advancement opportunities (63%), felt disrespected at work (57%), the benefits are not good (43%), childcare issues (48%), or lack of flexible hours (45%). Seventy-eight percent of respondents took a new job, and reported they were earning more money (56%), had better advancement opportunities (53%), better work/life balance (53%), and more flexible hours (50%).

Measuring engagement among employees is crucial, and the data shows remote and hybrid employees are the most engaged. More remote employees indicate they were highly engaged both with (24%) and without children (21%). More in-person employees indicated that they were on the lower end of the engagement scale. And employees 30-64 years old with children is the largest group that is highly engaged.

Brian Davey, Director, Health & Safety, World Bank, discussed how the World Bank approaches the challenges of a remote and hybrid workforce. “The name of the game in everything we do and have been having to do over the last two years of the pandemic, is flexibility. There’s no one size fits all,” said Brian.

Mental health was not only a challenge during the pandemic, it’s always been a challenge, shared Brian. Brian shared some data on when staff were asked how the pandemic affected their mental health and wellbeing. Up to half of employee’s reported seeing a worsening of their mental health in the past two years, in spite of the fact that they felt fortunate and more productive working from home. The main issues employees reported included work hours and high workload/demands, unrealistic or shifting deadlines, and unclear/conflicting work priorities.

“This falls squarely into management, not in the hands of mental health professionals,” said Brian. Toxic behavior is by far the greatest predictor of negative workplace outcomes. “You can throw as many EAPs and stress management programs you like at your staff, but if you’re not dealing with relationships in the workplace, you’re not going to make headway,” Brian added.

Strategies for Success

Brian shared a number of strategies that the World Bank has incorporated to meet the challenges of a changing work environment, including:

  • Leadership and communication comes from senior management
  • Teaching the soft skills of hybrid work, which involves talking about shifting the mindset from an office-centric approach to a people-centric approach
  • Look at the relationships between people
  • Build an environment of psychological safety where people feel they can speak up
  • Bring awareness around emotional intelligence

Brian explained that they came up with a written charter on how they’d be communicating, which included when communication would take place, agreed upon core hours, a schedule of weekly check-ins, sharing recordings of the meetings, and transparency around everyone’s schedule which could be accessed from a company intranet. Teams regularly survey staff on how they’re operating with one another, developing action plans when needed, committing to regular check-ins, and evaluate how things are working.

“There’s a silver lining from the pandemic, there has been a jump start in technology and an improvement in the access to mental health support availability through apps, and also to education and development that have improved vastly over the last two and a half years,” concluded IBI President Kelly McDevitt.

It’s important to acknowledge that your mental health strategy doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all model, Kelly emphasized. Employees are looking for personalized care in today’s job market. And lastly, don’t drown your rockstars- monitor workloads and potential burnout so there aren’t retention issues in the long run.

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