Flexible Work Arrangements Keep Remote Workers Engaged
Brogdon cited flexible work arrangements as a key element in keeping employees happy and productive. “When we're talking about flexibility, it's not just working from the home office, it's making sure that, hey, if I have to run for an appointment or I have to pick up a child from school that I have the ability to take that meeting on my phone and be mobile.”
“It also means the flexibility and taking needed breaks. One concept I recently learned was called digital exhaustion,” she continued. “It turns out that when you're in a room with other people and you're just doing a call and you have other people in a room, you're taking a drink of water. You're writing notes. You know that not all eyes are on you if you're not speaking. But the thing is, when you're on a videoconference call, anyone can be looking at your video at any time and seeing what you're doing that exact moment.
Being on camera for extended periods of time can be mentally taxing, Brogdon said “Brain studies have been shown that even if you take five minutes between remote meetings it really helps people to think clearly, and it helps reduce stress.”
Brogdon noted that the use of advanced analytics is becoming a trend in hybrid work. “That means that you can see how much time you're spending in meetings. And this is data that only the user can see,” she explained. “Meetings are great for collaboration, but you need focus time to do your actual work. Really using these tools and strategies can definitely help a worker to be more productive, especially in a hybrid work environment.”
Empathy Is Essential to Building an Inclusive Work Culture
Cisco’s Shari Slate, chief inclusion and collaboration officer and senior vice president of inclusive future and strategy, and Gianpaolo Barozzi, senior director of people experience innovation, joined the discussion to share their thoughts on the importance of empathetic collaboration.
Slate said she believes that empathy is a core part of the success of hybrid work. “Empathy has long been a leadership skill that we all aspire to have, but it's never been more important than it is today. There's a recent Forbes study that says empathy touches everything from innovation to retention to how people feel from an inclusion standpoint.”
From the Forbes study, Slate highlighted the effect of empathy on engagement and inclusion. “Empathy is a massive driver of engagement. What the study says is that 76 percent of people whose leaders are empathetic and who have experienced empathy are feeling 76 percent more engaged than those that don't have empathetic leaders. And in the area of inclusion, 50 percent of people with empathetic leaders have said that their environments feel inclusive compared with 17 percent who haven't experienced empathy from their leaders.”
Creating a Culture of Empathy Can Yield Many Benefits
Barozzi agreed with Slate on the importance of empathy during an era of hybrid work. “Before COVID, 14 percent of meetings included remote participants. In the future, 98 percent of all collaboration meetings will have at least one remote participant. This is why empathy is becoming so critical between participants from multiple locations,” Barozzi said.
Without empathy, he predicted hybrid work environments will involve more burnout, video fatigue, lack of connection and engagement. “But just delivering the best technology and the best training on how to use it, it's not enough. We need to create inclusive, collaborative empathetic experiences in a much more deliberate way. And the question is, how can we do this?”
At Cisco, Barozzi explained, “We started analyzing emerging and innovative experiences, 200 cases in multiple business areas. And we distilled them into a set of design principles. Then we applied those principles to some of the most relevant collaboration use cases in the organization to create a guide that is really enabling our people to create more empathetic collaboration experiences. Finally, we conducted a neuroscientific study of more than 150 people, which proved that the application of the design principles that we identified in the preparation and delivery of a hybrid collaboration session really led to a significant, better participant experience and a higher, positive emotional state where we want to be.”