Insights Employee Experience

Driving an employee-centric mindset to deliver success in today’s world of hybrid work

Even as the future of work continues to evolve, the most important question stays the same: How do we build work cultures that create stability for employees and align to our business goals? I recently participated in a podcast, “The Distributed Work Dilemma,” with Future of Work expert Adam Smiley Poswolsky in which we discussed that facet of the hybrid workforce conundrum, as well as many others. I left our conversation feeling incredibly positive about the future of how and where we work — and with the strong belief that we all must adopt more people-centric, supportive practices.   

I remember when I was a new mom dropping off my crying child at school on my way to the office. Fortunately for me, dealing with my difficult experience was made easier by the support network at my office. I had my colleagues and leaders there to stand behind me and help me do my best work. Now, working from anywhere, it may be harder to make these kinds of connections. The newest generation, just entering the workforce, is missing out on these intergenerational connections and the mentorship that would have been more easily accessible in the office. All is not lost, though. Here are my top three recommendations on how to create connections in the remote or hybrid workplace to improve employee experience and engagement.   

1. Be more intentional with collaboration  

Company leaders should put more thought behind their requests for employees to come into the office. Be more intentional by defining why and when it makes sense for people to collaborate in person. It falls on organizations to create the environment to facilitate this more thoughtful approach to collaboration, and executives must lead by example. Dedicated in-office collaboration days are one solution. Our annual distributed work survey showed that 78% of companies implemented dedicated in-office days during the pandemic. I recognize some people don’t like organization-wide mandates, so I recommend doing this at the team level. You can have organic and inorganically planned days. Some “at work” collaboration days could be for scheduled meetings, and some could allow for free time to walk around and connect with coworkers. These types of in-office days create opportunities for people to spontaneously meet up and have whiteboarding sessions that spark ideation. However, you will only succeed if the meetup is aligned to the right intention. Are you looking for team bonding or collaboration to drive innovation? The criteria should be agreed upon before you set up your collaboration days and choose tools to facilitate your meetings.  

2. Prioritize empowering employees by making work more personal  

It’s important to empower employees to do their best work, especially in challenging environments. By taking a person-centric approach, you’ll allow employees to feel safe and to bring their whole selves to work. One way we can do this is by setting aside time in our 1:1s to do a personal check-in — and not immediately dive into our to-do lists. Ask how your employees are doing to understand what personal factors might be affecting their ability to perform at work. Moving to a distributed work environment has provided a wonderful opportunity for us to develop our leaders to have these conversations. But are we all taking advantage of these opportunities? At VMware, we encourage middle managers to feel comfortable having these conversations. We ask them to manage their teams and lead by example. We want them to model the many ways workers can “show up” at work. That could include bringing their kid to the office if childcare falls through, because it’s okay for home life and work life to sometimes overlap, even “at work.” Addressing this deep need for empathy through this type of personal approach has already allowed for greater connection and for employees to feel seen and valued in our work ecosystem.  

3. Automate technology and processes to enhance the employee experience  

The VMware hybrid work survey also showed that burnout was the leading cause of resignation for 48% of cybersecurity professionals, who wanted to seek opportunities that allowed for a better work–life balance. But burnout and attrition are real problems across all sectors. On a positive note, we see some companies having success in retaining workers by using automation to tackle many of the manual tasks that fill employees’ days. Automation tools can help create positive employee experiences from the day people onboard, especially if they’re working from home. Some 53% of the survey respondents expected automation to improve employee experience and productivity — and another 50% expected process optimizations. Overall, 87% of organizations said they’ve increased their investment in automation over the past two years. At VMware, we have helped many organizations create secure, seamless experiences with our Anywhere Workspace platform. 

A change in environment requires a change in perspective. A clear vision, plan, and intention shared across an organization can mitigate challenges and provide solutions. Listen to the Future of Work podcast episode to learn more about the recommendations that I shared in this article, as well as Smiley’s thoughts on how to foster an environment that allows employees to thrive and get their best work done in increasingly hybrid work environments.