As employees begin to slowly return to the office, the term ‘work-life balance’ is once again dominating popular discourse. A new wave of personal priorities for wellbeing is following suit.
Indeed, a report by Harvard Business Review found that 96% of white-collared professionals say they need flexibility.
In response, a hybrid working model has been introduced, with our recent “Back to the Office” report showing that two in three people are now working in the office one to two days a week.
However, despite the popularity of hybrid working, there are still a number of challenges that businesses need to overcome; the biggest being proximity bias.
Recent research from Momentive found that 21% of workers were worried that they were missing out on opportunities to develop by working remotely and this concern has led to divides emerging between those at home and those in the office.
While many business leaders are aware that it is important to address this concern (with 81% believing it is important to provide parity to in-office and at home staff), creating a deliberate strategy to break down hierarchy and promote team building can be challenging.
National Work Life Week presented an ideal opportunity to delve further into employees’ thoughts towards in-office and at-home working structures.
It also enables companies to think about how they can tackle office divides as a result of hybrid working, while also promoting a healthy work-life balance.
Creating an environment for learning
The younger generations have been the most vocal about their concerns with hybrid working.
According to Momentive, one in three 18-24-year-olds are worried that working remotely.
This is because they have fewer opportunities for development and less of a say at work. On the other hand, just 7% of 55- 64-year-olds share this concern.
This statistic is largely due to Gen Z’s preference for in-person learning, with 51% saying that they learn best through in-person activities.
Opportunities to learn in-person can often be marred by the fact that older, more senior leaders within a business prefer to work from home.
To help combat this generational divide and continue to attract new talent, businesses should look to create new learning opportunities that thrive in a hybrid setting and explore ways to recreate that watercooler moment that many new starters relied on to grab five minutes with their boss.
Office gatherings centered around food are a great way to help bring people from different roles together in one place and spark those natural inquisitive conversations which might not be as easy to have over Slack.
Our own Just Eat for Business study confirms this hypothesis, with two out of three employees believing eating lunch together develops a great work culture.
We recently launched Just Eat Pay, which is a daily or monthly credit that can be spent across our restaurant and catering partners at home or in the office, aiming to bring teams together over mealtimes.
Providing equal opportunities to all
While many have enjoyed returning back to the office, albeit for a few days at a time, it is important to also consider those in a team who are still continuing to work remotely.
Presenteeism and career development have historically gone hand in hand, with data from UK’s Office for National Statistics showing that people who worked from home were on average 38% less likely to have received a bonus, compared with those who never worked from home.
The trend is especially prevalent amongst working families, with a third of working parents believing being a parent is holding them back from promotion.
Many believe that the only way to combat this is by working longer hours, with almost two-fifths of working parents saying those who are able to work the longest hours are most respected by senior management, but this logic can be detrimental to an individual’s mental health.
In order to prevent this trend from being exacerbated in our new hybrid world, businesses should put employee wellness at the forefront of any employee engagement plan and ensure that they are encouraging a healthy work-life balance.
A great way to tackle concerns about longer working hours when at home is to carve out a set time where everyone can down tools and have a break.
Employers can help facilitate this by giving staff regular lunch budgets and sending food to their homes, ensuring those at home are receiving the same as those in the office.
While food is not the sole answer to improved work-life balance, regular breaks and taking lunch is proven to boost productivity, reduce stress, and can even improve sleep, and is a great first step towards ensuring those at home have the same amount of coffee breaks and lunch breaks that those in the office will naturally have.
While hybrid working provides many with the flexibility and freedom they were looking for, as business leaders, we need to ensure that the approach continues to work for everyone.
Fostering a sense of collaboration and unity is essential in tackling potential divides and can be achieved through simple wellness initiatives and ensuring employees’ efforts are noticed amongst management – even as they continue to split their time between the office and home.