Ensuring Hybrid Work is Productive Work
The Index highlights that 80% of employers reported that productivity levels had remained the same or increased during the pandemic, while only 20% witnessed a decline in workforce productivity.
Yet one in four Irish businesses are concerned about the risk of a decline in productivity as they look to implement a hybrid working model. In addition, while only 20% of employers feel the recent period of remote working has hindered their organisation’s ability to innovate, some 60% of businesses are unsure about the impact hybrid working will have on innovation.
These findings illustrate that, despite mainly positive experiences during the period of remote working that accompanied the pandemic, new business concerns are emerging amidst the gradual removal of COVID-19 public health measures and the return to office. Leaders, therefore, will need to be mindful and prepared for these new risks as they implement a hybrid business model.
The survey provides an insight into how Irish businesses intend to mitigate the risk of low productivity in a hybrid work model, with over half (52%) saying they will provide greater flexibility for employees, while 40% intend to enhance collaboration amongst staff through technology or other means.
As Irish businesses move forward with building out their hybrid working models, employers will need to provide greater flexibility and agility for employees, especially in the initial stages as new risks and challenges emerge, while maintaining productivity and business performance. As indicated by the companies surveyed, technology can play a major role in enhancing productivity within a hybrid workforce, allowing for more seamless communication for those on and off site.
Fostering Collaboration and Innovation
The survey also points towards the lingering uncertainty facing many businesses, some 60% of businesses are unsure about the impact hybrid working will have on their ability to innovate.
To meet the evolving needs of a hybrid workforce and support innovation, 49% of businesses will accelerate digital transformation, while 43% will support enhanced training for mangers to manage employees remotely.
In addition, 65% of employers agree that company culture is now more critical for business success than strategy or a business model given the changing nature of work.
Just as many organisations look to navigate a return to the workplace and build out their hybrid models factoring in everything from digital and IT requirements and office/meeting rooms set-ups to employee social interaction and diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives, many business leaders are facing an additional challenge with workers quitting in record numbers. This global phenomenon has been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’.
Working remotely has shown many employees that there is a broader range of job opportunities out there. There is also pent up demand as many employees who would have moved organisations last year, decided not to, given the volatility of the environment. Some workers, facing requirements that they return to the workplace, are simply opting out.
The ability to work remotely has made job-hopping easier than ever, especially for younger generations. Meanwhile, employers are acknowledging that company culture is now critical for business success and yet only 44% have placed more emphasis on developing their organisational culture as a result. It’s important that employers get the balance right and need to ask themselves ‘what sets their company apart?’
With culture and flexibility becoming key factors in retaining employees, employers need to ensure a sense of support, community and belonging amongst employees, whether they are remote or office based.
Given the growing dependence on technology which has been witnessed amidst the pandemic, it is not surprising that cyber-security remains a principal concern for employers navigating the future of work. Almost half of all Irish businesses cite ‘phishing’ as the biggest current cyber risk to their organisation with 1 in 4 (24%) concerned about possible ransomware attacks on their business.
Companies are taking steps to enhance their cyber resilience and preparedness with 40% having provided cyber-security training to employees over the past 18 months while 40% have enhanced their data recovery and back-up systems.
Building resilience within an organisation is crucial to heading off a cyber threat – but it is a more complex task than ever. There are four steps to building cyber resilience:
- Take it from the top
- Unite your business
- Get ahead of the game
- Protect your balance sheet
There is a strong need for organisations to change their approach and by elevating risk management today, will help build resilience for tomorrow. However, only 25% say they will revisit their risk and insurance strategies to meet the evolving needs of a hybrid workforce.
At Aon, we’ve seen how shocks are almost impossible to predict but occur with regularity. COVID-19 has added to the already existing challenges. Criminal networks have sought to take advantage of those challenges through techniques including cyber/ransomware, employee social engineering and interfering with supply chain quality. Winners who ride an unpredictable disruptive storm can gain substantial returns from increased output and productivity. This can be achieved by a heightened visibility together with new levels of resiliency including:
- Being able to move quickly and encompass new technology with digitalised end to end business processes
- Better understanding the immediate impact of unpredicted situations to the supply chain
- Ensuring business models take a cross-functional approach to risk strategy
Prioritising Employee Health and Wellbeing
While many employees will welcome a return to the office, others may struggle to return to pre-pandemic behaviours and make the transition back to their workplace full-time or in a hybrid arrangement. As highlighted in Aon’s 2021 Global Wellbeing Survey, the top wellbeing risks impacting the performance of Irish companies include: mental health, working environment/culture and burnout.
With these wellbeing issues in mind, it’s very positive to see survey results find the majority of employers (61%) agree that the pandemic has changed their level of focus on employee health and wellbeing.
Employers should continuously evolve health and wellbeing offerings, as well as benefits packages, to meet the current and future needs of employees as they embark on working in a hybrid environment.
As we look to the future, the focus is shifting from employee wellbeing to employee resilience with organisations experiencing a rapid pace of change and continued uncertainty, highlighting the importance for organisations to build more resilient workforces.
“With the gradual return to office now underway, business leaders are now planning how to successfully evolve their working model while mitigating the risks associated with the future of work.
The launch of Aon’s Business Risk Index will support business leaders as they look to navigate this complex challenge and chart a course to a new better. From navigating a changing cybersecurity landscape to maintaining productivity, the pandemic is reshaping businesses view of risk and sharpened the importance of making better decisions.
While some companies in Ireland are optimistic about the future and are proactively taking steps to address emerging risks, there is lingering uncertainty about the ability of hybrid teams to innovate and to do so in a secure manner.
At Aon, we’ve been working with industry leaders to shape better decisions as they plan the return to office and the transition to a post-pandemic environment. Through the Aon Work Travel Convene Coalition report unveiled earlier this year and the Business Risk Index released today, we’re confident that Ireland’s business community has the resilience to navigate an increasingly volatile world and meet the evolving needs of a hybrid workforce”.
In light of our Business Risk Index, we would encourage Irish business leaders to take steps, if they are not already doing so, to address the new risks which have emerged amidst the pandemic. There is lingering uncertainty about the ability of hybrid teams to innovate and to do so in a secure manner.
Leaders should firstly review whether they have the right technology in place to encourage collaboration and thus spark creativity – irrespective of where employees are located. Leaders should also foster an organisational culture that nurtures innovation and prioritises outcomes rather than processes. By continuously evolving health and wellbeing offerings, this will help support the current and future needs of employees as they embark on working in a hybrid environment.
Organisations need to review their current approach and elevate their risk management strategy. Prioritising key areas today, such as cyber security, will help mitigate risks and build resilience for tomorrow. By taking decisions today to address these risks, companies can ensure hybrid working becomes a business opportunity rather than a business barrier.
Aon’s Business Index research was carried out by iReach Insights on behalf of Aon between the 19th and 31st August. The research, which targeted C-suite leaders, was run nationally and received 160 responses from businesses in Ireland. Some 49% of respondents had 250 or more employees working in their company or business.