Woman working from home

The way we work has been altered irrevocably by the pandemic. With a digital-led hybrid model of working set to become the norm, what needs to be done to ensure we safeguard employee wellbeing?

Now that we’re learning to live with the COVID-19 virus, we’ve welcomed the return of many activities that were denied to us for so long. Meals at restaurants, kids football games and much-longed-for overseas trips are now possible.

But it’s unlikely our working habits will ever be the same again. The shift to a work-from-home model was adopted quickly, albeit with teething issues. With that shift has come a greater reliance on digital tools to facilitate virtual collaboration.

For many employees, the trend towards digitalisation has brought tremendous benefits by allowing them the flexibility to choose how, where and when to work. Others, however, have experienced loneliness, isolation and disconnection as a result of working remotely.

As we settle into a hybrid model of working – one incorporating opportunities for virtual collaboration as well as coming together in person to maintain productivity and connection – is there a way to create an ideal workplace environment for all?

Finding balance, minimising risks

It’s widely known that flexible work practices can bring higher productivity, better diversity and inclusion, and more active lifestyles. The other side of it, however, is that the same flexible working practices can lead to increased stress and feelings of isolation for some people. This is evident in some of the findings in our 2021 Allianz research report ‘Finding Balance in the Modern Workplace’ (PDF, 630Kb).

So how can leaders take action to help their employees find the right balance, and create a mentally healthy workplace whilst minimising the risks?

Allianz leads the way towards hybrid working

Allianz has worked hard to support its employees through periods of change. Anna Stavropoulos, Allianz General Manager (Human Resources), says that even prior to the pandemic, Allianz was in the middle of a significant transformation that included exploring what future ways of working could look like.

“If anything, the pandemic accelerated our focus and enabled us to ramp up the technology transformation needed to embrace flexible and agile working, while highlighting the importance of collaboration and customer focus,” Anna says.

She explains that leaders at Allianz have pivoted towards the issue of inclusion in the workforce, regardless of whether employees are working remotely or in the office.

“Our leaders have helped our people embrace our hybrid Ways of Working (WOW) by building on our culture of collaboration and looking for opportunities to build virtual and in-person points of connection.”

She adds that the shift to a hybrid working model has required different levels of support for people at different times.

“We’ve built learning modules and a ‘Learn, Test, Reflect’ cycle into our adoption of hybrid working,” she says. “This empowers our people with learnings on hybrid best practice, equips them to decide what hybrid looks like for their team and allows them to test and reflect on the model they design.”

Employee expectations about how we work have changed so considerably that flexibility is a must when considering how to work better. A hybrid way of working is the most sustainable long-term model given the balance it affords both employees and employers. But its success will rely on maximising how virtual tools are used.

“Technology is a key enabler,” Anna says, “but the extent to which employers adopt virtual tools that support a seamless employee experience will be crucial to making the hybrid model work.”

Whether you’re a manager or an employee, finding balance in the new hybrid way of working is more important than ever. Find out more at our Workplace Mental Health Hub.

This article has been prepared by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL234708 (“Allianz”). Information contained in this article is accurate as at 26 May 2022 and may be subject to change. In some cases information has been provided to us by third parties and while that information is believed to be accurate and reliable, its accuracy is not guaranteed in any way. Any opinions expressed constitute our views at the time of the issue and are subject to change. Neither Allianz, nor its employees or directors give any warranty of accuracy or accept responsibility for any loss or liability incurred by you in respect of any error, omission or misrepresentation in this article..