The workplace has shifted its priorities to support employee wellbeing.
A common term when researching organisations is workplace culture, which holds various meanings such as work-life wellness, effective communication, job security, among others. The overall workplace culture of a company is usually a good indication of what employees can expect in terms of company values, norms, and beliefs, and more generally the environment they will work in.
A positive workplace culture is one employee’s seek, as they can then expect to work in an environment that is supportive to their needs and addresses social opportunities in collaborative work. The relationship between an employee and the organisation is important, for jobseekers can establish whether they fit in with their workplace values, a theory commonly referred to as person-environment fit. Employees who feel positively a part of their organisation feel a sense of belongingness that can be powerful in considering employee retention.
Nowadays, the notion of what describes a positive workplace culture has drastically changed—largely due to the fact that the working society has shifted to support a remote, or hybrid model of work. Office meetings have transferred to Zoom calls, relying on digital means to feel connected to our workplace. The workplace culture as we knew it has grown more subjective and complex as business leaders navigate a hybrid model of work. Remote jobs have therefore called for a new way to interpret the workplace culture altogether.
Placing the Worker First
Wherein in the past the workplace culture didn’t follow a pre-disposed rule book, nowadays organisations are looking toward shifting their values to support employee wellbeing. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the workplace culture focused on employee productivity and reaching set targets. In considering what returning to the workplace looks like, leaders are responsible for organising a business model that cares for the implications of a pandemic and employee safety as well as their overall workplace culture.
The above has presented numerous opportunities for business leaders. They are able to pave the way in deciding what values will be upheld and communicated to employees. Their actions can lead to employee retention or face serious turnover. Leaders are faced with two main factors to consider: what a new workplace culture looks like, and what rules and policies should be ascribed to a hybrid model of work. One thing is for sure, there is no way business leaders can leave their policies as they were pre-pandemic. It’s time to place employee wellbeing at the forefront of their decision-making.
Belongingness in the Workplace
With work being a predominant factor in our lives, it comes to no surprise that employees look for work that grants them purpose. Something to look forward to doing and receiving the feeling of achievement when tasks are carried out efficiently. Employing meaning-making in our lives isn’t an unheard-of concept, in fact it is one that forms the basis of logotherapy—a therapeutic approach that helps individuals find purpose in their lives. Finding purpose in our work can lead to improved engagement and satisfaction, especially when this is supported by the workplace.
Research conducted by Yeoman et al. (2019) identified several papers which demonstrate meaning-making in the workplace. In this collection, the authors found that when employees feel that they belong to an organisation in such a way that their values align well with their workplace, they perform better in terms of engagement and wellbeing. A significant factor to our identities, a team and company that upholds values similar to ours will do wonders in terms of our motivation to do our jobs in Malta and elsewhere.
In contrast to the above, employees who do not identify well with organisations are more likely to experience burnout and generally underperform. These challenges, albeit experienced before the pandemic, re-ignite the potential avenues of amendments organisations can take. They can shift their workplace culture to encourage purposeful work that addresses organisational needs and employee values. As times change alongside workplace priorities, companies must retain their employees by considering what makes them feel as though they matter—as though they belong.
Fostering a Positive Hybrid Workplace Culture
In evaluating and communicating workplace values, business leaders need to involve their workers directly. There is research to suggest that employees want to be involved in organisational matters regarding their in-office or remote jobs. Organisations shifting their policies to suit novel arrangements should keep an open-minded approach that is inclusive of employees having their voices heard. Leaders should encourage their employees to voice their opinions, fostering creative solutions to workplace challenges.
In accommodating novel workplace priorities, leaders must consider and address the following:
- Inclusive workplace policies: the pandemic has showcased different and at times unequal employee experiences. Organisations must accommodate their workplace culture to value inclusivity and diversity, showcasing to employees that their needs are respected and listened to.
- Explore creative means to combat social isolation: the workplace is not simply a space to conduct work—but is also one to create meaningful relationships with our colleagues. Employees feel a sense of belongingness in their jobs in Malta or elsewhere when connecting with others. For companies that are employing a remote-first business model especially, social opportunities must be available for teams and colleagues to retain a social atmosphere and reduce feelings of loneliness.
- Be adaptive to change: whilst the pandemic has shown us how the working society can radically shift, organisations should maintain a willingness to adapt when these circumstances arise. It can be difficult for organisations with strong, traditional values, to let go and follow what’s trending. However, those that refuse to implement a modern approach to the workplace can suffer in retaining talent. Organisations must strike a balance between upholding their values and accommodating their policies to support employees.
The future of work will constantly evolve to support employee needs and other workplace trends. Business leaders and organisations at large should keep an open eye to novel research that can inform effective workplace recommendations. There’s still a lot to learn about the hybrid model of work, and what can make it effective for both employees and organisations.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that with time, we will find out several approaches that can make remote jobs work. Whatever companies choose to amend, they should ensure that any changes are clearly communicated to employees and, ideally, involve employees to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Organisations that retain inclusive practices that make employees feel as though they belong will successfully develop for the long-haul.