Article: Unconventional work hours – stress or flexibility?

Employee Engagement

Unconventional work hours – stress or flexibility?

“The future of work is now. The pandemic, really, thrust us into an environment in which we've taken advantage of it in terms of learning what it means to be in a remote workforce and, and going into a hybrid model,” said Michael Kim, Head of HR APAC, Spotify.
Unconventional work hours – stress or flexibility?

History has witnessed a transition in the workforce several times but every time it has come at a gradual pace and affected by a number of socio-economic factors. But, the global change of the work mode over the last eighteen months was too sudden to absorb at once and for all. However, experts are of the view that it is here to stay and in the future, more talks around the new hybrid and remote workforce are going to take place.  

In the session ‘Fireside Chat: Blueprint for Engaging Workplaces: The What, The Why & The How’ of the People Matters EX APAC Conference 2021, Michael Kim along with Amrita Prasad Head Of Strategy and Business Development, APAC, Glint shared their insights on the future of work and engaging workplaces. The interaction was conducted by Lavinia Iosub, Managing Partner, Livit International on behalf of People Matters.  

While initiating the conversation, Losub cast some light on the prevailing situation of the pandemic and its effects which varies from region to region. She pointed out that as the hybrid and remote work modes are going to prevail for some more time, it is extremely important to figure out the right ideas of employee engagement.  

Speaking on why leaders need to relook at the employee engagement activities in the hybrid work environment, Kim said, “the pandemic has changed the landscape of work, and the workforce comprising the millennial generation as well as how Gen-X is adapting to this new workforce.” Talking about the Spotify leadership he said that on opening the office it has been found that while some people enjoy working remotely, some prefer onsite working. Hence, to decide on the work mode is an autonomy vested with the people. 

 “Millennials prefer flexibility and we need to embrace that considering our platform is focused on millennials, we need to adopt,” Kim said.

With the continuously transitioning scenario, HR analytics has come to the rescue of the leaders and employers to offer what’s best suitable for the workforce. Talking about data and evidence based HR, Amrita Prasad said, “Evidence based HR is not new but what the pandemic has done is that it has increased manifold the usage, the need to use data, right, because things have been changing so rapidly.” She stressed the fact that the employee sentiment is hard to catch given the present situation but due to the global talent crisis, it is crucial to sense their nerves by leveraging data. According to Prasad, regular analysis of their issues such as remote working, work-life balance, and so on must be in check.  

The war for talent has gone to the next level with the workforce gaining more flexibility with time. While people have more opportunities today, technical innovation has opened more of so in terms of time zones or geography. Today, the need is not just to relook but also ideate new engagement practices to keep in touch with every employee at every corner of the world.  

Talking about the new ideas to engage employees Kim said that irrespective of the company, the future is still uncertain, and the true picture of a hybrid workforce will be painted only when the pandemic element is removed, as people will not have external factors pushing them into it. However, he stressed that the factors that will never go out of frame are health and work-life balance. So, in terms of employee engagement and enhanced employee experience, organisations should start focusing more on these two factors. Kim added that through an internal survey, Spotify management discovered that there was a spike in the rate of anxiety and stress. “We saw a huge drop in the sense of belonging. We've seen a big spike in employees very much blurring the lines between work and home because you're literally living in the same space,” said Kim.  

Prasad added that skill development is yet another important factor to build a future-ready workforce. She said, “Think about the skill development of your employees so that they can stay relevant and do whatever works in your context.” She further said that data gives a diverse picture on wide ranging subjects. It is significant to note that there is rarely a chance to socialise in a remote workforce. So, in order to push the wellbeing of the employees a sense of belonging must be created. 

“Like I said data will tell you a lot about what your employees are asking for but focus on creating a sense of belonging,” said Amrita Prasad. 

Michael Kim pointed out that the structure of work-life balance has transitioned into work-life integration. The space that people spend their whole day in has decreased to the size of a screen, the location being his study or bedroom. So, ironically it is important to socialize in the period of social distancing. Adding to this Prasad said that people should not feel burnt out by the unconventional working hours. For example, people should make use of every moment with regular activities such as dog walks or helping kids with homework.  

Despite the complete dependence on hybrid culture over the last eighteen months, enjoying trust is still the talk of the town. Most of the burn-outs are reported by people working under managers with trust issues with their employees. In order to ensure utmost productivity in an integrated work-life model, managers have to start trusting their employees. Commenting on this, Prasad said, “Data will only reflect a set of numbers and not sentiments. So, I think managers will see the need to change their behaviours and take ownership.”  

Concluding the discussion, Kim said that it is important for the employees to speak up in such cases and fortunately this generation isn’t scared to communicate which Spotify accepts and appreciates. 

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Topics: Employee Engagement, #EmployeeEngagementIdeas, #RemoteWork, #PMEXAPAC

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