Daily Digest News – July 30, 2020

Hand selected flexible workspace news from the most reliable sources to keep you ahead of the pack. We find all the latest news, so you don’t have to. Morning and afternoon updates. Stay in the know.

Here’s what you need to know today:

The Importance Of Employee Engagement

It is no surprise that the way we work has completely evolved in the matter of months. The pandemic has forced companies large and small to completely uphaul their normal operations and adopt remote working tools — some for the first time ever.

One of the challenges that can come with these drastic changes is a dip in employee engagement, so how can leaders ensure that their workers remain connected and satisfied in their positions?

“Health and wellbeing, already climbing HR and People leaders’ agendas, has now catapulted to become a top priority,” said Paul Burrin, VP at HR management company Sage People. “Employees are having to manage blended lifestyles where the line between work and home almost no longer exists. Many workers juggling full time childcare responsibilities and other related challenges such as managing stress, or in other cases, loneliness and isolation.”

With this, Burrin suggests that HR and business leaders will need to shift their focus to their employees’ mental health and alter their managerial strategy to have an emphasis on empathy. Now, companies should keep the employee experience at the top of their priorities.

In fact, a report from Qualtrics on employee experience revealed that companies that consistently respond to employee feedback had an 80% engagement score compared to 40% from those who ignore responses.

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Solidifying A Rejuvenated Remote Workforce

Remote working was initially readily embraced by employees thanks to the lack of commute and being able to do work from the comfort of their own home. In fact, a survey of over 500 founders revealed that 76% of companies had no or a positive impact on employee productivity.

As this trend has started to become part of our new reality, employees are actually finding it easier to collaborate and is boosting efficiency.

Now, teams that had little to no interactions this time last year are now finding themselves collaborating, while all-hands meetings have given employees easier access to their CEOs. 

So how can all companies ensure that their employees remain engaged and thrive throughout these unprecedented times?

First, leaders need to provide their staff with clear goals that create the opportunity to attain long-term goals. This will take executive teams identifying what methods are working to keep productivity levels high, while offering an empathetic ear.

Additionally, it is important to keep employees across all teams on the same page. Using digital tools can open up new opportunities for creativity and collaboration with one another and help a company meet its objectives and key results (OKRs).

Although the amount of hours an employee has worked has long been used as a measurement of success, managers need to focus more on an employees’ output instead. Pivoting away from such micromanaging strategies and focusing on results will help boost morale and motivation among workers.

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The Pros And Cons Of Remote Working

Research from the University of Kent and the University of Birmingham, entitled ‘The Working from Home during COVID-19 Lockdown Project’, has revealed that attitudes towards flexible working have changed over the past few months.

Led by Dr. Heejung Chung of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research and Dr. Holly Birkett and Dr. Sarah Forbes of Birmingham Business School, the research found that 66% of non-parents would prefer flexibility at work more in the future, citing a better work-life balance and improved wellbeing.

Even more, 90% of those who worked from home during lockdowns said managers were supportive of these arrangements, while 72.7% said their manager showed empathy as many workers attempted to balance work and family responsibilities.

However, the research also revealed the negative impact of working from home. For instance, two-thirds of respondents said they suffered from “work-life blur” and many expressed missing interactions with their colleagues. 48% of mothers in the survey also said they felt more rushed during lockdown.

“Our research has brought to light the variety of experiences had, both positive and negative. We have seen a reduction in negative perception towards those working flexibly, and this is certainly a step in the right direction,” said Dr. Chung. “However, it is clear that parents in particular need more support during school and childcare closures. There are signs that the increased workload and conflict between work and family has negatively impacted parents’ mental wellbeing, especially mothers.”

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Malaysia’s Flexible Office Growth Continues Upwards

Malaysia has surpassed Hong Kong in flexible office space according to The Instant Group’s new report.

The report revealed that Malaysia has seen its third consecutive year of significant growth, with Hong Kong’s flexible office growth slowing down in recent years. Just last year, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Singapore and Jakarta overtook Hong Kong as well.

Additionally, the report pointed out that among the top 20 cities in the region, 60% saw double-digit growth in supply in 2019. Even more, supply for all types of flexible workspaces grew over 19% just in the past 12 months in the region.

Despite the pandemic causing uncertainty among the flexible office market, experts are predicting that the industry could actually benefit from companies looking for new workplace strategies in the coming months.

“The trends that we expect to see during 2020 will no doubt be very different to what the industry has seen in the past, but the long-term future still looks very healthy,” said Sean Lynch, managing director of The Instant Group Asia-Pacific. “As businesses, we face challenges that are outside of our control, but with the fierce competition growing across the region, this can only give more options to our clients and push us all to evolve.”

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Maintaining A Consistent Work-life Balance

Employees of Acuity Insurance were once able to blow off steam with the help of a 65-foot Ferris wheel, drinks and food family-friendly events twice a month thanks to CEO Ben Salzmann.

These types of social events have long been used to keep workers engaged and boost morale, but it appears that those days are over for now.

Now, companies are looking for new ways to keep workers connected and productive throughout these uncertain times.

“Some of [the best companies for work-life balance] have really great paid-time off policies, flexible working schedules, good parental leave, sabbaticals and gym credits,” said Amanda Stansell, senior research analyst at workplace website Glassdoor.

According to data from Glassdoor, Acuity is ranked among the top companies for healthy work-life balance, along with SurveyMonkey, Slack Technologies and others.

While there are varying approaches to maintain employee engagement during these times, one of the most consistent strategies is to ensure that workers take time off. Without being able to take a true vacation or having fear of losing their jobs, employees have been working more than ever before. This could quickly lead to burnout and other mental health issues.

Research from MIT Sloan Management Review indicates that offering flexibility, especially for working parents, has also been one of the more popular solutions. 

Companies have started reevaluating their priorities to ensure that employees’ mental health is cared for. For instance, SurveyMoney said it has added internal programming that combats isolation, burnout and anxiety.

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Altering Coworking Spaces For The Future

The coworking industry has experienced a turbulent few months to say the least. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to run rampant in some parts of the world, many operators have been forced to close their doors for the time being.

Despite these uncertainties, there is potential opportunity arising for the industry, but major changes will need to be made to these shared workspaces first.

First, coworking operators will need to keep their spaces as clean and hygienic as possible. Implementing increased sanitation practices, particularly in an office where many amenities are consistently shared, will be essential moving forward. This can be accomplished by installing sanitation stations around the office, as well as cleaning high-touch areas such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, desks and more.

Additionally, coworking operators should promote personal hygiene standards for their members. Things like handwashing, promoting physical distancing and one-way foot traffic, providing hand sanitizer, face masks and temperature screenings are a few easy ways to ensure that everyone in the space stays safe.

Coworking design will also need to be altered. Instead of large shared workstations, desks will need to be spread out and the number of people in shared open spaces will need to be limited. Additionally, coworking providers should consider adding more private offices or installing barriers for each desk.

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