Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage Articles Technology and Tooling Critical Factors for Successful Hybrid and Remote Workplaces

Technology and Tooling Critical Factors for Successful Hybrid and Remote Workplaces

Key Takeaways

  • 56% of HR leaders say the C-suite doesn’t understand that the world of work has changed.
  • Business leaders have to come to terms with the fact that organizations must adapt to the new world of work if they want to attract, engage, and retain top talent.
  • Employees are sharply focused on having an experience of connection and belonging, but they are confident they can achieve it while working from anywhere.
  • In a dispersed workforce, technology is a critical tool for building connection and belonging. Investing in the right technology at the right time is key to success in this new era of work.
  • The four types of technology that can foster the culture that both employees and company leaders are seeking, include: network, recognition, wellness and feedback.

Major tech companies like Apple and Tesla have announced that they are requiring employees to return to office, creating a debate around the disconnect between leaders and employees when it comes to where work needs to take place. In fact, 56% of HR leaders have stated outright that their C-Suite has not yet come to terms with the extent to which the world of work has changed. Employees are vocalizing the value of working from home and tech workers are concerned that more companies will announce similar policies in the months to come.  

Mandatory return to office policies are still in place for many organizations, even though troves of employees are self-selecting out, resulting in a migration of top talent to organizations more supportive of a flexible work approach. Remote work is not just a company perk, it’s now a requirement for many tech workers. The 2022 Culture Report on Tech-Enabled Employee Experience from Achievers Workforce Institute (AWI) found that 53% of tech workers prefer hybrid work, 39% prefer remote, and only 8% prefer working full-time on-site. Additionally, the report found that the top reason tech workers leave their job is for better flexibility. Despite the preference for remote and hybrid work though, two-thirds say company leaders still expect them in the office, at least part-time.

There are many benefits to offering remote work options. 83% of employees believe working remotely supports a healthy work-life balance. Remote employees are also equally likely to report being productive as those in the office and are also more engaged and more likely to advocate for their company. In addition, employees who are happy with their remote or hybrid work options are more likely to state that they trust their company leaders.

If employees are vocal about not wanting mandatory return to office policies and the science proves that remote employees are productive and engaged, then why is the C-suite reluctant to embrace remote and hybrid work? Especially since failing to do so means losing out on top tech talent.  

The main driver stems from company leaders worrying that they won’t be able to foster a culture of connection and belonging among a dispersed workforce. This is a valid concern, considering a strong sense of belonging drives a 3x return on a wide number of business outcomes. Many leaders believe that to achieve their desired culture, employees must be in the same physical space. However, this is an outdated mindset and one that needs to shift, as the world of work has changed. Leaders must adapt and take a new approach to developing an experience of belonging in a remote/hybrid context, to avoid a workforce resigning in mass. One of the key ways to do this is through the investment in technology that fosters the connected culture that both employees and company leaders are seeking.

Tools for Connecting and Belonging

Achievers Workforce Institute found that 70% of tech workers feel it’s very important to have technology and tools that support their experience of belonging and connection at work, higher than any other industry surveyed. Below are the four main tools that companies should consider leveraging to foster connection and belonging in the workplace.

Network Tools

Remote employees don’t have the opportunity to get to know their coworkers through water cooler banter or in-person lunches, so it’s important to provide digital options to help them establish connections with their co-workers and find their new work bestie or mentor. These tools could include a Teams or Slack Channel where co-workers can share pictures of their pets or discuss their favorite TV show or a tool to schedule virtual coffee chats with colleagues around the company.

Employees at organizations with connection tools outperform the average in factors such as engagement, belonging, trust, and productivity. In fact, 71% of tech employees and 42% of employees overall, feel that connection/networking tools would increase their feelings of connection and belonging – regardless of their work setting.

Network tools are a great opportunity for employees to build connections with co-workers that they don’t usually interact with. For instance, Kellogg’s uses a tool which pairs employees at random with a colleague in another area of the business and invites them to schedule a virtual coffee chat. Kellogg’s employees responded strongly in favor of this feature - they loved being able to meet and network with a new colleague to learn about each other on a personal and professional level, and in many cases even learn how their jobs impact one another. These informal conversations have led to continued relationships and coaching, and a greater sense of connection and belonging.

One employee remarked,

"I am so happy my partner and I were paired up through Employee Connections. That first connect turned into several "catch-up" connects over subsequent weeks. Without Achievers Employee Connections, we likely would have never had the opportunity to connect and forge a working friendship."

Recognition Tools

Recognition can be a superpower in retaining employees and boosting satisfaction. It is crucial for making employees feel seen and valued. In fact, more than half (57%) of employees say feeling recognized would reduce the likelihood that they would take a call from a headhunter.

Simply saying thank you is not enough though. Recognition provided must feel meaningful for it to be effective and for employees to feel truly appreciated. To provide meaningful recognition, tech leaders should:

  • (1) highlight something specific the person being recognized did,
  • (2) note what it was about this individual specifically that had an impact,
  • and (3) how the person being recognized made a difference to the person giving recognition.

For example, the head of the software engineering team could say something like "thank you for catching and fixing that coding error, it ended up saving the team about X number of hours and ensured the company had a successful product launch. Your attention to detail and problem-solving skills saved the company a lot of money and time." 

Managers should also endeavor to make praise public. Employees ranked social recognition as most important (42%) before frequent low-monetary recognition and infrequent high-monetary recognition.

It can be challenging to consistently provide frequent, public meaningful recognition to employees when physically isolated from each other. Managers might not have the option to make an announcement to everyone or throw a celebration in the office. Recognition platforms can help with this to ensure team members receive meaningful, public praise.

Currently however, only 29% of employees say that their company provides access to a recognition platform. Moving toward incorporating a platform to promote recognition is a powerful investment, given that employees with a recognition platform are more likely to say they feel meaningfully recognized – leading to higher employee satisfaction and retention.

Discover is a great example of the power of using an employee recognition platform. The company rolled out a recognition platform to their entire employee population in order to better recognize employees. Discover surveyed people leaders to learn how the platform helps them drive results among their teams. They found that Achievers saves them time, allows them to recognize more frequently and broadly and allows their recognitions to be more visible across the organization. In the first three months of using the platform, they saw an 80% adoption rate and recognitions increased by 400% in the first year. As a result, engagement has been at an all time high of 87%, with 94% of employees saying that they are personally committed to helping the organization succeed.

Feedback Tools

Research from AWI reveals that organizations who collect feedback from their employees have 50% higher levels of engagement and that 88% of those employees are more likely to feel they belong.

Currently, less than half of tech employees say their company uses employee listening tools like surveys and chatbots. Tech leaders that want to boost engagement and belonging should talk to decision makers at their company about adopting listening tools to collect feedback. This way, leaders are making decisions based on data that is specific to their organization and not just based on what they think an employee might want.

Once feedback has been collected, companies need to take action and communicate how they plan to implement feedback. One of the top drivers of trust for employees is employers acting on feedback. Unfortunately, just 21% of tech employees say that their organization takes meaningful action on employee feedback. Listening to and implementing feedback is an important step that tech leaders need to take to keep engagement high, retain top talent and boost trust in leadership.

For instance, if leaders are seeing feedback in anonymous surveys that employees want more flexibility and time off, leaders can announce during an all-staff that the company is implementing new policies to support this like summer Fridays, additional PTO or recharge days and allowing employees to work wherever they want.

If executives are seeing a lot of feedback/requests for something they are not able to change at the moment, they should still acknowledge it and let employees know they are looking into other solutions to improve the workplace based on employee feedback.

Feedback proves to be one of the most powerful actions an employer can take to drive key outcomes. Those companies that do not act on feedback see incredibly low rates of engagement, belonging, commitment, and productivity. An organization struggling to increase engagement scores and other key metrics should look at how they collect, assess, and act on employee feedback.

Wellness Tools

Burnout is a real and serious issue facing the workforce, with 43% of employees stating they are somewhat or very burnt out. Burnout is a combination of exhaustion, cynicism, and lack of purpose at work. This burden results in employees feeling worn out both physically and mentally, unable to bring their best to work. It often causes employees to take long leaves of absence in an attempt to recover and is a key driver of turnover, as they seek new roles that they hope will reinvigorate their passion and drive.

Sources of burnout might include overwork, lack of necessary support or resources, or unfair treatment. Feedback tools can help find the root cause of burn out and how to mitigate them.

Implementing wellness tools are another way to address this issue and demonstrate that the company prioritizes mental health. Employees whose organizations provide wellness tools are less likely to be extremely burnt out. Currently, only 26% of tech employees say their company provides wellbeing support tools. With the potential dire consequences of extreme burnout, including low productivity, high absenteeism, and increased turnover, tech leaders should talk to their HR department about identify wellness tools to combat this issue.

Adapting to the new world of work is essential for attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent. The bottom line is that employees are no longer willing to compromise on flexibility at work, and companies with a hardline return to office policy will lose out on top tech talent. However, this shift does not mean that company culture must suffer. In order to provide employees with the flexibility to work where they want while also maintaining a strong culture of belonging and connection, tech leaders need to talk to the C-Suite and their HR departments about leveraging technology tools that have been proven to boost engagement and employee retention.

About the Author

Rate this Article