Many employers across Australia and New Zealand are now in a position to welcome their trusty employees back into the workplace after months of remote working. But despite easing restrictions and diminishing COVID cases, some employees may still wish to work from home if, for example, they’re in a vulnerable group or live with someone who is; or perhaps feel anxious about catching public transport. Since the most important aspect of workforce management is ensuring its safety, we must take any legitimate employee concerns around the return to work seriously. After all, our people are our most valuable asset!
A partially remote workforce can also be the result of increased work flexibility post COVID-19, which has left many of us wanting to work like this for the foreseeable. In fact, research by Gartner found that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19. 
Whatever the reason behind it, this mix of in-office and remote employees forms a “hybrid workforce”, which – although workable – does come with its challenges from an employee engagement perspective. How can we keep our remote employees engaged in a hybrid setting? How do we make sure they feel included? And how do we ensure our in-office culture retains that same full-office sparkle? HR plays an important role in bridging the gap between the in-office and remote workers and maintaining workforce cohesion – but so too do team leaders and mid-level managers. After all, we humans are social beings! Here, we discuss how to keep up those all-important employee engagement levels in the age of the hybrid workforce.
1. Rewards and recognition
During times of economic uncertainty, we may not be able to financially reward our employees. But the importance of simply recognising a job well done should never be under-estimated – and this is especially true with a hybrid workforce, where it can be easy to overlook the achievements of those working remotely. In-person shout-outs should be extended to remote workers who’ve done good work – whether through Slack channels or employee of the month programs, for example – to make sure our remote workers feel the love, too!
2. Offer eLearning
It’s important that learning and development (L&D) opportunities aren’t compromised during periods of upheaval such as now – and that both portions of the workforce are treated equally in this respect. It shouldn’t be a case of out of sight, out of mind when it comes to your remote workers.
L&D leaders will need to develop hybrid learning plans with the expectation that employees will be split between in-office and remote. In some ways, that’s like it’s always been, but never quite at this scale and complexity. eLearning modules that can be accessed from any location are an ideal way of ensuring continuity of L&D opportunities, and this method is often even preferred by employee
You can read all about HROnboard’s e-learning here.
3. Keep the communication open and active
When the workforce was entirely remote, online engagement was strong – we were all making a concerted effort to keep in touch and share daily photos of our desk set-ups or pet mishaps. Enter the hybrid office, and the online engagement efforts fall off a bit, due to in-office workers being able to engage with one another face to face. To facilitate hybrid employee engagement, create water-cooler Slack channels and encourage in-office workers to keep up communication on these, to make sure the remote workforce is kept engaged and included and that team cohesion is maintained.
It’s also wise to hold regular water-cooler chats via FINAZoom, to check in with our remote colleagues and see how their day is going, or what they watched on TV last night!
Read more about our Connect offering here.
4. Align learning to strategic business priorities
Post COVID-19, we’ll rely on our talent more than ever to help us rebuild our organisations. We may be expanding into new markets or launching new product lines to tap into emerging consumer demand. And research has shown that 49% of companies whose employees see a clear link between their work and the company’s strategic objectives enjoy lower staff turnover. So why not align training needs to critical business priorities? It’s a no-brainer! By offering learning tailored to business priorities, HR leaders will be able to see which programs are truly moving the needle. What’s more, in a distributed environment, ensuring that all employees are working towards a common goal will boost team cohesion – which is never more important than in a hybrid environment.
5. Develop managers to effectively manage a hybrid workforce
Upskilling our managers to lead in this new age of working is critical. The quality of management remains critical for leaders to support their teams and keep them engaged. Goal setting, regular team meetings and 1:1 check-ins should be a key part of effective coaching, to make sure in-office and remote direct reports are kept productive, which in turn gives them a sense of purpose.
This training extends to HR leaders, who should be trained on how to offer wellness programs for a hybrid working environment, as well as training on how to develop managers for this new working set-up.
HROnboard, an ELMO company, offers a best-in-class software solution that reduces the amount of time HR teams and leaders spend securing the best candidates and undertaking the critical onboarding process for new hires. Our solution also helps manage internal employee role changes and can create a smooth and seamless process for exiting employees.
ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll offers end-to-end solutions for the entire employee lifecycle, from ‘hire to retire’. This includes recruitment, learning, performance management, payroll, rostering / time & attendance, and more. For further information, contact us.
 Gartner, May 2020
 LinkedIn, 2020 Global Talent Trends, 2020