woman sits in office space speaking on a video call

Taking an Employee-Centric Approach to the Modern Workplace

Hybrid work environments are not a new concept, but they are becoming more widespread. As one of the most popular modern setups for businesses and organizations, it can be tricky to foster a sense of community when not all employees, managers, and executives are under one roof.

This article will provide tips that help leadership and employers feel confident about their ability to establish a sense of community in their hybrid environment.

Read more: Strengthening Culture in Hybrid Work Environments

Employee-first approach

Organizations and their leaders can no longer get by in the modern, hybrid workplace with executive-lead, one-size-fits-all, informational meetings. Instead, the shift needs to be made to truly engage all employees—no matter their work status (remote, hybrid, in-office) and location. Connecting and engaging with staff now requires unique strategies based on employee-centric foundations. In other words, gatherings and events must now focus on connection through customized, employee-led solutions.

How to build employee-centric community in hybrid work

Hybrid environments have plenty of benefits to offer organizations and their employees. Most importantly, they present excellent opportunities for organizations to engage with their employees and create a sense of community in new ways.

Shift the spotlight to employees, not leaders

Adopting an employee-centric approach that shifts the spotlight away from leadership enables a greater sense of engagement, connection, and community. Featuring employees more means to:

  • Find more opportunities to recognize employees
  • Encourage employees to plan and participate in virtual events
  • Invite employees to share their experience and photos of their passions, home office, families, etc.
  • Invite employees to share their out-of-office skills, talents, passions, hobbies
  • Conduct anonymous employee surveys to gain perspective and feedback
  • Seek opportunities to outwardly recognize employee efforts

Focus on employee wellbeing

Human resources software company Ceridian recently released a report on employee burnout rates during the pandemic. They conducted a survey of 6,898 people employed at organizations with at least 100 employees across Canada, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and the United States.

The Globe and Mail released an article explaining that from the findings, 1,304 Canadian workers were surveyed by Hanover Research in October 2021. The percentage of Canadian workers who feel burnt out is an astonishing 81 percent; additionally, 34 percent reported their level of burnout as extreme or high.

Obviously, employee wellbeing has taken a significant hit globally. Whether it’s caused by the uncertainty of the pandemic, working longer hours, constantly adapting to change, balancing work and life responsibilities, or feeling disconnected from their job, employers, organization, and peers, it’s clear that the shift needs to be made on employee mental health and wellbeing.

Employers must create a safe space and offer more mental health support options for their staff:

  • Talk about it – eliminate the stigma of mental health in the workplace
  • Distribute mental health resources
  • Offer support groups for those who need to vent
  • Invite mental health professionals to host discussions and answer questions
  • Create opportunities for employees to engage in virtual, team building activities
  • Encourage employees to get outside during conference calls
  • Plan outdoor gatherings
  • Be flexible
Mental health resources in Canada

Workplace community and belonging are synonymous with equity

You can’t create a sense of community or belonging without first acknowledging equity in your workplace.

Organizations who unlock the full potential of diversity, equity, and inclusion are positioned to experience a wave of improved organizational health, resilience, business performance, community, and satisfaction in knowing they are contributing to the revival and transformation of the modern workplace.

Avoid the us-vs-them mentality by creating a collaborative space for your teams. Ensure diversity is present among these groups to create opportunity, productivity, creativity, and a sense of community in one’s work.

Read more: How to Improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace

Avoid favouritism amongst employees

Giving preferential treatment or even devoting more time to certain individuals or teams based on whether they’re working in-person or virtually creates a larger gap between teams and isolates individuals from their work and organization.

Avoid playing favourites and instead focus on the broader team you manage. When all team members have a unified goal and can communicate easily, you’ll notice increased performance, productivity, and morale among your employees, regardless of where they’re working from.

Read more: Promoting Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Customized learning and connection

Virtual events have allowed organizations to take advantage of various opportunities with international speakers and experts in their field. Having a guest speaker join company gatherings can show employees that there is genuine interest in supporting their work (access to subject-matter experts) and understanding of the company culture (access to speakers in entertainment, coaching, career development, etc.).

Keep the learning and development material customized to your employee needs and organizational goals.

Stay in sync with work departments

One of the most common causes for concern among employees is a disconnect between departments caused by a lack of communication. How can employees feel a sense of community with their adjacent teams aren’t on the same page?

Start by getting a sense of where the issues are among interdepartmental communication and evaluate your needs. Do you need to have a companywide 15-minute touchpoint every Wednesday? Do you need to meet twice a week for 20 minutes? Do you need hour-long town halls every quarter? Figure out what would work best for your organization and follow through on meeting with a purpose.

Highlight team’s success internally

Create a space to naturally highlight your team’s success and encourage others to acknowledge their colleagues for a job well done or for going above and beyond. For example, create an incentive for others to collectively praise their peers for their efforts by pooling all shout-outs at the end of the month and awarding the top three individuals with a gift card or a paid day off. Get creative with it!

Don’t forget to have a designated person gather and share these details companywide, so your program remains consistent.

Increase employee communication

There’s no such thing as too much communication, particularly in a hybrid work environment when not everyone is always on the same page or in the know. To ensure remote staff feel connected to their teams, departments, and organization, they need to be aware of internal communications and know that their leaders are gaining and providing information regularly.

The fear of isolation or fear of missing out (FOMO) is prevalent in hybrid and remote environments, so stay in touch, communicate updates frequently and thoroughly, and allow opportunities for questions, follow-ups, team touchpoints, and one-on-ones.

Read more: Why Transparency Is Crucial for Company Culture

Make it fun

Fostering a sense of community in hybrid culture shouldn’t be a chore. In fact, it’s a great opportunity to get to know your team better, share some experiences, and have a laugh. Bring some playfulness into the workday—you’d be surprised at how many of your employees probably miss the daily laughter and amicable conversations around the office.

Since March 2020, the workforce has been thrown for a loop, juggling change in every direction. Try to remember to have a sense of humour, lighten up, and have some fun along the way.

  • Find times where there’s no agenda to discuss family, hobbies, plans, experiences, movies, books, etc.
  • Encourage casual chats before meetings where people can catch up with their colleagues
  • Organize virtual hangouts where employees can hop on and off as they please

Remember, it doesn’t always have to be so serious.

Read more: Effective Ways to Improve Workplace Morale

Learn as you go

Hybrid culture does not come with a one-size-fits-all solution. Changes you make in your environment may work, or it may not—but what matters most is you find your organization’s stride humbly through trial and error, and you listen to your team’s feedback.

Remember, leaders are supposed to learn through failures and errors in their judgement. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

The Takeaway

No one really knows what the future holds, but we are continuing to gravitate towards flexible working environments that foster a culture of autonomy, respect, and belonging. Employers must continue to shift their employee engagement strategies to operate under employee-centric models, including remote, in-office, and virtual all while establishing a strong sense of community within their teams.

If your organization is experiencing conflict, consulting with a neutral mediator will resolve distracting, challenging situations and empower all participants involved to settle on an agreeable solution and continue being productive within the organization.

At Global Mindful Solutions, we have established a process that aims to provide insightful, comprehensive solutions with a compassionate and unbiased approach. This allows all participants to focus on getting back to work and continue making a positive contribution to their organization while leading a fulfilling role in their careers.

Contact Global Mindful Solutions to get started with neutral, knowledgeable, and effective investigation, mediation, and facilitation services.


Related articles on workplace culture: