I’ll tell you something: Beyond Covid, leaders need to consider more than just hybrid working

Equally as important will be company culture, inclusion and ethics, explains Amrit Sandhar

In this environment of economic growth and high levels of job opportunities, employees may be more likely to leave if they see a lack of recognition, poor work experiences or a toxic culture in their organisation.

And while the move to home working may keep employees happy, this alone may not be enough to retain them. A recent Microsoft study found that although 70 per cent of employees want their remote or hybrid working to continue, 41 per cent of the global workforce will consider leaving their employer within the next year.

It might seem confusing that employees want to retain remote working, yet it’s not enough to stop them looking elsewhere. But how does the experience of working from home differ between organisations? Leaders need to help employees develop deeper connections with their employers, which requires creating a culture of involvement.

Yet remote working itself doesn’t come without challenges. Research by AWI highlighted one of the areas most at risk of being impacted by remote working is trust. In an increasingly partisan world where fake news has made many question who they can trust, the recent Edelman Trust Barometer found that businesses are now the most trusted institutions globally, more so than governments and the media.

This could be the reason why organisations are increasingly being drawn into providing opinions on societal issues. We’ve seen many state their support for LBGT+ issues, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, but what’s also apparent are those organisations that stay quiet. In a world of ‘cancel culture’, leaders need to be aware that employees are looking to their organisations to understand their stance on important societal issues – and not having an opinion can be as damaging as not speaking up.

Organisations are no longer just seen as profit-making entities, but as a reflection of the social and ethical conscience of their employees and wider society. In a recent survey of 2,000 UK office workers by Reuters, 65 per cent said they were more likely to work for a company with strong environmental policies. It’s understandable, then, that many organisations are looking to become a force for good by, for example, becoming a certified B Corp.

Ethical leadership isn’t a new concern. In 2018, Gallup asked generation Z and millennials what they looked for most in an employer, and the two most important areas highlighted were that organisations cared about wellbeing and demonstrated ethical leadership. But what does ethical leadership look like within organisations? How ethical is it to allow employees to work long hours or under huge amounts of pressure? According to the ONS, 118 million days were lost across the UK in 2020 because of sickness, with mental health one of the main causes. Leaders need to consider the ongoing responsibilities their organisations have to wellbeing and creating cultures where people feel cared for.

We know from research into social identity theory the importance of a distinctive culture – one that employees can connect with. While the move to long-term hybrid working will require a greater focus on ensuring employees remain connected through effective communication and team cohesion, leaders will also need to appreciate the responsibility they carry to support causes their employees feel passionate about.

Amrit Sandhar is founder of The Engagement Coach