More and more employers are recognising their employees as individuals with unique working styles – but are their workplace arrangements lagging? asks Andy Hurt, MD Poly ANZ.
Based on research conducted across eight major countries, only 43 per cent of the workforce remain tethered to fixed offices, while 34 per cent are constantly on the go as part of their work. Both of these, however, are only two broad representations of the many diverse personas or workstyles of today’s workforce.
On one end of the spectrum, you’ll find location-tethered employees such as Office Communicators, who spend all of their time at their desk, would rather work with traditional modes of communication, and are slower to adopt new technologies. On the other end, you’ll spot highly mobile workers like Connected Executives who are active communicators, constantly working on the go, and are always on even beyond their working hours. Research has identified a specific set of seven personas on this spectrum who each have their preferred modes of communication and workplaces. These personas make up 91 per cent of a typical workplace.
To ensure productivity and success in the long run, business leaders must ensure that workspaces are designed to properly bridge the gap – and facilitate more efficient coordination, collaboration and conversations between both worlds.
Informal 1:1 conversations have always formed the building block of everyday communication – no matter the forum they occur in. That’s why informal chat platforms specifically designed for teams have been gaining popularity among companies of all sizes. Employees are now encouraged to communicate with their remote colleagues informally, just like how you would approach someone in person at their desk to ask for feedback. For those who are on-the-move, reliable messaging and telepresence platforms play an increasingly important role in making those ad hoc conversations possible.
Instead of replacing seemingly obsolete tech en masse, however, companies should take note of device usage for each employee and assign the most suitable equipment according to their needs. Although desk phones usage has declined, personas such as Office Communicators still rely on this fundamental technology heavily for day-to-day operations. For employees who spend 75 per cent of their time completing work while commuting, working with noise-cancelling headsets or earbuds can help minimise distractions and maintain effective communication with customers and peers while on the move. By providing the right tools to the right people, workers will be empowered to be more productive, no matter where they are.
Encourage Collaboration and Nurture Connections
With loneliness posing as one of the major problems for remote workers – especially those separated from coworkers by country borders or timezones – businesses should also consider virtual options for culture-building, such as regular team-wide video conference calls. These options can help close the distance within teams, especially between people who are unlikely to meet in person frequently due to their variability of work environments. Video and telepresence options allow workers to pick up on a far wider range of nonverbal cues, including facial expressions and body language, that traditional voice calls lack – but only if supported by low-latency network connections that can maintain video quality in a variety of situations. With this connection, workers of diverse personalities are able to exchange ideas instantaneously, actively fostering their creativity and innovation together, even when they are miles apart.
Good workplace arrangements, however, only succeed if built on a strong sense of culture and community. Yet how can employees across multiple time zones or far-flung locations build truly meaningful connections between one another? The answer lies in empathy. When colleagues empathise with one another’s working environments, personal connections can form despite – or even because of – barriers to face-to-face or real-time communication. A Connected Executive working from a moving train who actively accommodates an Office Communicator’s preference for phone calls, for example, not only inspires greater productivity from that Communicator but also a far deeper personal bond by that act of empathy. The more businesses encourage awareness of different employees’ unique working arrangements – and the opportunities and challenges of each – the stronger that empathy can become.
Working in a positive physical environment can also, of course, help employees construct a powerful sense of belonging and purpose. Aside from open-concept office spaces, businesses can provide a broader range of flexible spaces such as conference rooms, soundproof cubicles, and huddle rooms to support varying preferences across personas. Remote workers aren’t exempt, either: businesses can, for example, provide a desk space in their local co-working space, with all the social connections and amenities that come with such an environment. If chosen well, these spaces can not only build connections amongst employees but also foster them with outside parties like customers and partners.
The perfect team doesn’t exist. But that shouldn’t stop businesses developing workplaces that can support and empower every persona in their workforce. When business leaders understand the needs and personalities of their employees, they’ll find it easier to design solutions and adopt technologies that not only accommodate, but even celebrate the individuality in their organisations – and turn it into greater returns for employee loyalty and profitability alike.