Rewarding hybrid workers

RedBalloon For Business

Creating a happy hybrid workforce

In an upended work/life scenario, how can we keep employees feeling engaged and valued when they rarely see their colleagues in person?
It used to be that everyone worked in the office from Monday to Friday and that was that. Now though, you’re just as likely to find barely a soul in the workplace on a Monday, and Thursday is suddenly the busiest day!
Hybrid working is more than a pandemic-led trend; it may well be here to stay. While many employers are pushing for a return to the workforce, workers are not so keen. In a recent survey ‘Hopes and Fears’, PWC found only 10% of Australian workers say they wanted to work in an office; while more than three-quarters would prefer to work in a hybrid world.
This conundrum remains to be played out: a recent Fortune article went so far as to say “CEOs intend to kill hybrid work”.
For now, hybrid is happening. But it’s not all rosy for the half-in, half-out brigade. In these times of greater workplace fluidity, those choosing to work from home may feel disconnected from their workplace. By not physically being there, they can be less visible. We all know it shouldn’t be this way – after all, during the pandemic countless teams of hundreds of people all worked together remotely to achieve great things.
Managers need to be aware of the issue and look at ways of creating healthy employee cultures in this increasingly digital world. A big part of achieving that, lies in recognition.

Presenteeism and its inherent drawbacks 

Should just ‘showing up’ give an employee an instant advantage?
In an article for Fortune magazine, Dr. Gleb Tsipursky (known in the US as the ‘office whisperer’) talked about presenteeism. He articulated this as: “the act of measuring an employee’s value based on their physical presence rather than their output.” It’s a mirage, he said, that many organizations find hard to look beyond. “… a superficial metric that obscures the true indicators of an employee’s worth and contribution to the organization. When the cornerstone of recognition and reward pivots around the hours spent within the office walls, the focus shifts from what truly matters: the quality of work, the creativity infused, the problems solved, and the value added to the organization.”  Quite right. But presenteesism is alive and well in Australian workplaces and the risk is that those working from home may start to feel undervalued. This particularly applies to people who may be less outgoing than their peers and therefore less willing to metaphorically stick their hand up.

Tsipursky explained how in “a scenario that fosters visibility over value”, employees can divert their energy toward being conspicuously seen at the office rather than channelling their efforts toward impactful work.  Evolving out of this can also come an ‘us versus them’ mentality.
There’s another risk, too. If people working away from the office don’t feel included, valued or recognised, they may also start to feel like their career prospects aren’t as good as their in-office counterparts.

Making people feel valued no matter where they choose to work  

A Microsoft survey found 85% of leaders think the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive. They talked of ‘productivity paranoia’ – “Many leaders and managers are missing the old visual cues of what it means to be productive because they can’t “see” who is hard at work by walking down the hall or past the conference room…And as employees feel the pressure to “prove” they’re working, digital overwhelm is soaring.”
To combat this, Microsoft realised the importance of giving people that recognition they crave. They directed their HR departments to “to formalise a reward and recognition plan – usually in the form of a transparent recognition platform where all stakeholders can thank one another and see their peers getting congratulated too.” Atlassian is another major company focused on highlighting great workers, through the implementation of its Kudos platform, a reward system where staff can earn points, badges and prizes for participating in activities.

Why being recognised leads to engaged staff and better outcomes 

A Gallup poll found that globally, one in four employees strongly agreed that they had received recognition or praise for doing good work in the last week.  They found employee engagement requires consistent, frequent action from managers and leaders. Annual or quarterly awards and accolades, they argued, were not enough to improve worker performance.  Gratitude and recognition have to be constant, ongoing, and above all genuine. But the rewards can be great: “The impact goes beyond productivity. A 2015 Gallup study of German companies found that receiving regular praise and recognition was a key factor in employee burnout and wellbeing. Most organizations think about wellbeing in terms of health insurance. Consider that having a culture of recognition may be as essential to the overall health of your workforce as a gym discount.”

Ideas on ways to reward hybrid or remote workers 

If you can no longer pop your head in someone’s door to offer a kind word of thanks or encouragement, you can still make sure they feel seen and acknowledged. Rewarding people can be done intrinsically and extrinsically.
A LinkedIn business administration post on this topic offered the following useful suggestions:

•Align rewards with goals

•Offer flexibility and autonomy

•Provide feedback and recognition

•Support their growth and development

•Foster a sense of belonging and connection

•Customize rewards to individual preferences

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This last point is of particular interest to us. You may recall that in our last blog post we extolled the virtues of buying vouchers that were highly personalised. It’s always a great idea to think deeply about a particular person – their character, interests and hobbies – and to then provide them with a gift that speaks uniquely to them. That’s the best kind of ‘thank you’ you can give, and goes a very long way to making someone feel valued (and in turn, less likely to ‘jump ship’).

McKinsey got it right when they noted “Make no mistake: tapping the benefits of a more inclusive hybrid work culture is difficult, delicate work.”  

There are countless apps you can now install to provide employee recognition, and this is a worthwhile thing to do, but the human touch will never grow old.

Sometimes all it takes is a little red envelope either given in person or through the mailbox.



Eager to explore the influence of rewards and acknowledgment through firsthand experiences?

Get in touch with us to delve into the impact that recognition and incentives have on individuals and organisations.

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