Employers and HR managers have their hands full this summer. The organizations that have survived the first phase of the global crisis are now working on processes such as the ‘social distance office’, structural home working facilities and ‘reboarding’. Studies turn up all around us, with positive and negative signals about working from home. But what makes a smart policy and a successful culture strategy? Where is the right work-life balance for the employee? How will teams work hybrid and still remain productive and connected?

Our Employee Happiness & Culture experts are happy to share their analysis and vision!

Recent figures about the employee experience while working from home

To start, we have put some research results about (Dutch) employees and working from home in chronological order.

  • 99% of remote workers want to continue to be able to do this partially.
  • 19% of remote workers experience problems with loneliness.
  • 22% experience problems with switching off after a working day.

Buffer, State of Remote Work report, 2019

  • 31% of millennials experience (full-time) working from home as unpleasant in the initial phase of the corona pandemic in the Netherlands.
  • For the older generations, that number is around 20%.

Survey by health paltform OpenUp, April 7, 2020

  • 49% want to continue working from home (partly) after the corona crisis.
  • 59% miss colleagues and 39% miss the change of environment, these are the main reasons for wanting to return to the office.

National Vacancy Bank and Intermediair, May 8, 2020

  • A majority of 513 respondents indicate that face-to-face contact is very important for job satisfaction.
  • 50% have found this interaction becoming more important during the pandemic.
  • Almost 50% are now more positive about the potential of working from home, compared to a small minority that has become more negative.

University of Amsterdam, May 12, 2020

  • 54% are now working again where they normally work.
  • 64% want to work from home more often after corona, but 57% miss colleagues.
  • 23% say they are less productive at home, while 39% are more productive.

PROOF and Motivaction, July 1, 2020

  • 55% think remote meetings are just as productive as physical meetings.
  • 36% experience problems with a good work-life balance.
  • 17% suffer from physical complaints, almost 10% from psychological complaints.

Knowledge institute for Mobility policy, July 21, 2020

  • 60% of 800 Dutch senior managers indicate that digital processes have been accelerated through the corona crisis.
  • Almost 70% indicate that there will also be more remote working in the longer term.

Dutch Innovation Monitor, July 27, 2020

2DAYSMOOD also conducted research into work happiness before and during corona. In the complete Employee Happiness Data Report, we analyzed mood and employee engagement of 2,800 employees and managers every week. Mandatory working from home plays an essential role in this. So over a longer period of time, we see the positive and negative impact that working from home has on employee happiness and employee satisfaction. In addition, the most important factors are revealed, with which we can influence (remote) employee happiness.

  • During the corona period, we are least satisfied with: workload, work-life balance and connection with people.
  • We are most satisfied with: transparent communication, empathy and trust between managers and employees.
  • 26% have an ecxited mood (high in energy and pleasure) during work in July, before the corona measures this was 32%.
  • 22% experience dissatisfaction during work (moods low in energy and pleasure), before the corona measures this was 15%.
  • Baby boomers ultimately seem to be most affected by the measures. In July 2020, they experience even more dissatisfaction (24%) than excitement (22%).

2DAYSMOOD Realtime Remote Experience Monitor

What do these figures say about hybrid working: is it for everyone?

What conclusions should we now draw from all these figures? We see a clear wish from the employee to continue working partly from home, so hybrid. However, the reasons for this and the consequences should not be underestimated, but should be given more attention. The differences between employees, managers and generations are strongly present. And short-term solutions can also have an unwanted effect in the longer term.

This means that a high level of happiness in a hybrid work situation is difficult to achieve with a generalistic top-down approach. As a manager or HR department you will have to investigate which norms and agreements can be made at organizational, team and employee level, and monitor over a longer period whether the effect is positive. (This is possible with the pulse measuring method of 2DAYSMOOD, for example)

To help you design and implement an approach, we have summarized the benefits we can include in a hybrid work situation, and the pitfalls we can avoid. These are the main topics that need your attention.

Five points of attention in hybrid working

1. Scheduling work and time: autonomy vs. lack of structure

Autonomy is a topic that has become more important with every new generation on the labor market. This is about the freedom that employees are given to organize their own work and time and the feeling that they are trusted and taken seriously as an employee. From studies (pre-corona), we saw that more than half of Dutch employees experienced a lack of autonomy. It is remarkable that during the corona period this topic scores better. Partly because of working from home, employees experience more trust from their direct manager. In the 2DAYSMOOD study, this topic has the highest satisfaction score. The statement: “My direct manager believes that I take on my work professionally and with dedication” gets an ”A” from employees. So maintain this degree of trust and autonomy! Even when we are not working from home, but are in the office for a few days a week, such as with hybrid working.

But be aware, a counterpart to autonomy is the need for structure, expectations and feedback. This need may be different, especially within specific groups of employees. Think of the new generations on the labor market, employees who live alone, or older generations who find it difficult to adapt and participate in innovations and deliver their best work by following fixed patterns.

2. Work-life balance: flexibility vs. difficulty switching off

The theme work-life balance is clearly one of the biggest challenges in this special year. Do employees enjoy more flexibility, attention to family, or time for hobbies and exercise while working from home? Yes. But now that the personal living environment has also become the professional working environment, “switching off” after work is more difficult, according to the above studies.

We also miss the change of environment, the external stimuli that you hardly get in the home office and the feeling of satisfaction that you experience after you close the office door behind you (and allow the working day to settle during the journey back home). These are definitely factors that influence employee satisfaction in the longer term. A chance with a hybrid work culture is that you can mitigate these disadvantages. You can encourage employees to take more ownership of a pleasant work-life balance and offer the opportunity to regularly visit the office environment or colleagues again.

The lack of informal face-to-face contact with colleagues is recognizable for the majority of workers in the Netherlands.

3. Working conditions: productivity, focus and creativity

Preferably, every (HR) manager would like to customize the working conditions of individual employees to their specific wishes by pushing a few buttons. But that is not how reality works. Paying attention to the needs of teams, the unique employee, and making them co-responsible, is the only way to create a healthy, future-proof working environment for everyone. We see that opinions about the remote working environment are strongly divided. How productive are employees at home compared to the office? Where do employees find more focus, creativity and motivation? How comfortable is the home office? Moreover, this depends on the content of someone’s tasks and the working methods that best suit those. During this period you just need to know the answer to these kinds of questions as HR or managegment. It is the basis of your culture change, and healthy working conditions are also a precondition for good performance.

4. Well-being: workload, connection and excitement

More than ever, the working atmosphere we experience every day has an impact on our well-being. That makes this topic very important, because burned out or absent employees create a situation with only losers! For example, the various studies show that the theme of connecting with colleagues is a priority. The lack of informal face-to-face contact with colleagues is recognizable for the majority of workers in the Netherlands. Certainly if we continue to work remotely or opt for a hybrid form, we must anticipate the consequences of this loss.

For example, we know that people are less able to deal with stress if they do not feel connected. Our sense of fulfillment is also related to connecting with colleagues, friends or family. Perhaps these are reasons that contribute to the fact that the workload is rated very poorly in recent times of working from home and social distance. In school grades the subject gets an ”F”.

Finally, we note in the happiness trends of 2DAYSMOOD that excitement (positive energy) of employees and managers, since the outbreak of the corona virus to date, is gradually decreasing and gives way to dissatisfaction.

So keep a close eye on whether there is a negative mood or lack of energy in your team(s). And is workload the cause of this or are there other factors? Besides an unpleasant working atmosphere, this is is also at the expense of performance and the impression that employees leave on (potential) customers!

More face-to-face contact may give you more control over these topics. But collectively going back to the office is not necessarily the solution. You can also explore other ways in which you can keep employee well-being, energy and connection high in a remote work culture. As long as it matches the needs of your employees. Because if they do not agree with the new culture, you may wonder how long they will stay with your organization.

5. Communication: empathy vs. scattered culture

A positive development from the corona period is that managers realize that working remotely requires a different type of communication. Communication is more frequent, clearer and with more openness and empathy. Because of this, employees experience a feeling of togetherness and resilience, especially in times of social distance. But how are you going to maintain this type of intensive communication when other things are given more priority again? When do you choose a virtual channel and when face-to-face? How do you interact in groups when half are in the office and half at home? If you do not make a good strategy and approach for this, communication in hybrid working forms a risk rather than a strength. This is also the opinion of Future of Work Catalyst and founder of Hello Monday Club, Angelique Slob.

“A hybrid culture is a logical next step for lots of companies, but many growing and international organizations will eventually notice that this can be difficult or even problematic. Different islands arise in companies: everyone who works completely remotely, completely at the office, or colleagues who are always at the office on the same days. This gives you multiple communication flows and corporate cultures that are not properly aligned. In comparison, organizations with multiple locations indicate that during this period they work together more efficiently now that everyone is working remotely.

Another challenge in hybrid working is equal treatment of employees. Someone who works much more from home than teammates, or who misses certain days in the office when the supervisor is present, may fall behind. This can have consequences for the feeling of connection, well-being, but also for performance or even the chance of promotion.

In any case, managers must take into account that for any intermediate form that arises they must find fitting solutions to avoid pitfalls. Especially because the consequences of dispersed communication or a scattered culture sometimes only become visible in the long term.”

Checklist for hybrid workins

Are you going to try out hybrid working with your organization or team? With this new knowledge, we hope to help you as a director or HR professional in forming a new policy. Important! Always keep involving your employees for support and the greatest chance of a successful culture full of (home) work happiness. How many times a week do they want to work from home or in the office? Where are they more productive or creative?

The 2DAYSMOOD online Hybrid Working survey is the starting point to find the right balance and to identify pitfalls (in multiple teams) at an early stage. You also continuously measure how enthusiastic, (dis)satisfied or stressed employees are.

Do you want to get started in your team right away? Then use the hybrid working checklist!

Expert contribution: Angelique Slob

Angelique Slob is known as a Future of Work Catalyst and is the founder of Hello Monday Club. The strategic consultancy firm and associated community, offer an innovative Mastermind Club for HR and organizational leaders who value strategic discussions about modern ways of working. A unique combination of reflecting with a leading expert and exchanging ideas with colleagues from all over the world.

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