Are employees and employers on the same page around new work models?

Dumo Mbethe, CEO of Momentum Corporate
Dumo Mbethe, CEO of Momentum Corporate

Recent research by Momentum Corporate shows how navigating the pandemic unified leadership teams, while employees have generally found their leaders to be caring and empathetic as they lead their organisations through the challenges of Covid-19. This strengthened employees’ trust and confidence, keeping them feeling connected to their organisation.

However, an area where there appears to be a potential disconnect between leaders and employees is the matter of the work model of the future. The research shows that around 50% of the organisations surveyed are planning for their employees to return to their worksites, and 5% plan for their employees to continue working from home, while 44% plan to adopt a hybrid model. This aligns to a global Gartner study which found that after the pandemic, companies are planning for nearly half of employees to work remotely, at least some of the time.

It appears locally, however, that employees who have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home have a far greater appetite for this model. Research from Afriforte shows that 50% of employees surveyed would like to continue working from home after the pandemic, while 41% are keen on a hybrid work model. Only 4% would like to return to the worksite. This is partly exacerbated by the impact of commuting to traditional worksites.

A report by the International Workplace Group, titled the 15-Minute Commute, indicates how employees want to live in closer proximity to their place of work, so their maximum commute is no more than 15 minutes. According to the research, not only will hybrid work become the primary model for the future, but we will see far smaller, shared, community-based workspaces developing to address this need.

Dumo Mbethe, CEO of Momentum Corporate, says their research highlights the extent to which Covid-19 is fundamentally changing the world of work. He believes business leaders need to find a “Goldilocks” solution.

He explains, “Most of us are familiar with the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. Goldilocks samples all three bowls of porridge before she finds the one that is just right for her. Organisations differ significantly in terms of industry dynamics, strategies, and employees. Leadership teams need to work collaboratively with employees as they explore and ultimately find the work model that is just right for their organisation.”

He continues, “Our research suggests that as leaders, we need to become more flexible and consciously strengthen the trust between employer and employee by adopting a think human-first approach. This involves creating an enabling culture that employees buy into, and one which empowers them to deliver on organisational purpose and their personal purpose. An important part of this is the Employee Value Proposition (EVP), including employee benefits (EB).

“Gone are the days of a top-down approach in which leaders base the EVP and EB mix on what they believe is best for employees. If we want our employees to become strategic enablers of our organisation’s success, we need to work collaboratively, creating a culture and an EVP/EB mix that aligns to their lived life experience.”

It’s heartening to observe that the Momentum Corporate research shows that many leaders are already prioritising:

  • Clear, ongoing, open communication.
  • Building trust between all employees.
  • Clear strategy, measurable objectives and accountability for growth and retention.
  • The appropriate technology to support employees working remotely.

According to Mbethe, there are risks for employers who dogmatically ignore the changing dynamics of the workplace and employees’ changing psyche and needs. Hybrid and work-from-home (WFH) models open up new employment opportunities for skilled, qualified knowledge workers and leaders, no longer limited geographically in terms of their choice of employer. Employers may lose this talent if these employees perceive a competitor to be more aligned to their personal purpose and values and offering a more appealing EVP/EB mix.

He continues, “As we tackle these challenges, it’s particularly important to understand the needs of younger generations and a growing contingent of gig workers, and carefully consider how to respond to their needs with an evolved logic so as to create a culture in which all employees feel appreciated, protected and invested in the success of the business.”

Mbethe also says that it’s increasingly important for leaders to be on the look-out for more potent stressors that may arise as new work models evolve. Remote workers are more highly exposed to role workload and ambiguity, where individuals simply have too much to do and insufficient resources to deliver, which contributes to burnout, stress-related ill health and impacts on motivation. These employees also face increased work-life balance challenges as home and work boundaries blur.

“The research also shows that while traditional employee benefits such as retirement savings and group insurance remain core, there is a growing need for a more holistic mix of benefits to address employees’ physical, mental and short-term financial wellness needs. For example, integrating an employee assistance programme with employee benefits releases a range of synergistic benefits for both employer and employees,” says Mbethe. 

Mbethe concludes, “Navigating the new world of work presents an array of challenges. However, I’m confident that adaptive leadership, innovative thinking and a think human-first approach will enable each organisation to find the Goldilocks solution that is just right for them and their employees.”

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