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    November 20, 2023

    Seeing and Being Seen in the Workplace

    With the workplace continuing to evolve, it can be challenging to make sure that employees feel recognized for what they contribute and who they are. For older employees or managers, so much of the idea of contributing and being seen at a company was grounded in being physically in the workplace or getting face time with clients. The pandemic forced employers to move to different models. Most companies utilized Zoom or Teams, which was both helpful and challenging. Once everything opened up again, it has been hard for leadership to not want to go back to what they are used to and what makes them feel comfortable. But that may not get us the productivity we want to attract the talent we need. Things have changed.

    Forward-thinking employers recognize that employees may need different working arrangements at different points in their careers and their personal lives. For many industries, sticking to a “9 to 5” schedule may not serve the company or the clients. This opens up new ways to serve clients and build internal teams, and offer a working environment that can be somewhat customized to get the best out of each employee.

    For some people, commute time can be relaxing. If you are able to take a train or drive to work in 30 minutes or less, this can be good health and well-being time. It can be used to read up on emerging trends in your industry, listen a podcast, study for a certification, or listen to music. However, commutes over an hour each way have a negative impact on overall health and well-being.  

    According to a 2022 NIH report, longer commute times were associated with lower job and leisure time satisfaction, increased strain, and worse mental health. Longer commutes were also associated with behavioral patterns that may contribute to obesity and other poor health outcomes over time. All of that can contribute to increases in healthcare spend and reduced productivity. Consider checking in with employees that have longer commutes. Some companies give the option of coming to the office one to three days a week, so the employee isn’t doing a long commute every day. However, so that people feel treated fairly, it’s important to recognize that a long commute is not the only challenge for employees.

    Caregiving also impacts how employees show up and whether working from home is a better option for them. The pandemic made the stress and overwhelming challenges that working family caregivers face clear. It brought to light the tension that many sandwiched caregivers experience while trying to tend to the needs of their own children even as the needs of their aging parents have increased. These working caregivers tend to put themselves last, putting their own physical, mental, and financial health and well-being in jeopardy. Having a clear policy for employees that are caregiving can be very helpful in keeping them productive and reducing the chances of them burning out. It is also important to address any bias against employees that are caregivers.  

    For those that are true extroverts, not having all the social interaction had a negative impact on them. They thrive having personal interactions throughout the day and may benefit from being in the physical working environment. However, that may not be true for more introverted employees. If their home workspace affords them more quiet time, they can feel more focused on projects. However, video calls may feel intrusive to them; there may be too much eye contact. If they have large screens or laptops, other people are simply too big, or there are too many of them. It can feel overwhelming. It’s a good rule to make sure there is time between calls and even allow people to designate “no meeting” times on their calendars. Most people are not fully extroverted or fully introverted, but taking into consideration what helps them thrive can result in better productivity. It also requires managers to understand those differences so they are judging performance, not by the number of times a person may speak in a meeting, but by how that person is working with the team and completing projects and not valuing verbal communication over written.  

    To be at their best, employees may require different schedules. Some may truly want to be back in the office, but it is important not to value someone you see in a seat over someone working remotely that consistently beats deadlines. To truly see all employees, it might be necessary to work with managers and leaders to address their views of remote workers versus those that they may see physically more often. It should be another aspect of your DE&I program.

    By taking some time to decide what works best for your organization, you can move towards a culture where everyone has the opportunity to contribute more fully. You can positively impact employee’s health and well-being as well as their sense of belonging to your organization. It may take some trial and error, but the right hybrid approach can be a positive game-changer and help keep your organization more competitive.

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