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The future of the workplace: creating a better, more compassionate culture

By Emma Newman, CRO at PubMatic EMEA

There are many considerations when it comes to the future of the workplace, ranging from the ethical, should employers require employees to be vaccinated, to the practical, how do employers deal with flexible working requests. There’s also the challenge of the unknown which is causing many employers and employees to pose the question: What does the future workplace look like?

Fostering better mental health

The COVID 19 pandemic has thrust the importance of the relationship between work and mental health further into the limelight than ever before. At all levels within organisations we have learnt valuable skills to support each other while working from home. In the coming months we need to focus on understanding the relationship between the physical workplace and mental health as well as how a hybrid office/home working model affects mental health.

All businesses work hard to achieve the strategic goals that are set at a high level, e.g. increasing profit by 20% year-on-year. If something does not fall into the ‘strategic goal’ category, it tends to fall by the wayside. With this in mind, the first thing an organisation needs to do to truly understand how their operations affect employees’ mental health is to make it a strategic goal which is championed from the highest level.

Next comes a culture level-set – embedding behaviours such as compassion, trust, openness, and kindness into the core company values and making sure that all employees have the resources, knowledge, and skills they need to uphold those values. Only then can you start to examine how your workplace negatively, and positively, impacts mental health. But keep in mind that every organisation and every workforce is unique so it’s important to really dig deep into your procedures, policies, working practices etc. – don’t rely on general guidance when making strategic decisions about mental health.

Office working, working from home, a bit of both?

As the pandemic subsides, people and businesses will evaluate the pros and cons of office and home working. Some will conclude that they would like to remain working from home, others will want to be back in the office full time and many will seek a blend of the two.

Unlike the height of the pandemic when everyone was in the same boat – working from home – over the coming months employees will find themselves in unique situations and managers will have to adapt to the hybrid working from home/office model. It is important to set expectations from the outset, e.g. if you’re on a video call from home you must have your camera on. This provides structure which reduces anxiety during times of change and importantly, allows people to plan both home and office responsibilities effectively. This is a simple example and there will be more complex situations and decisions that have to be made.

Let’s say you have a big meeting coming up where some people will be in the office and others will be at home. There is the potential for those at home to feel removed and less involved – so do you have everyone dial into these bigger meetings or do you establish a meeting structure where everyone has a chance to speak through a ‘round the table’ approach?

Embracing the future of the workplace

Now is the time for business leaders to commit to creating a better – more compassionate – workplace culture. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and each business and employee needs to take responsibility for clearly communicating their needs for the future. It’s time to look at the practicalities of returning to the workplace, be that part-time or full-time. It’s important to reflect on what we have all learnt about ourselves professionally and personally from the past 12 months and continue to learn and reflect in order to grow.

The biggest commitment everyone can make to ensure that the workplace of the future is as good as it possibly can be is to approach everything with patience, compassion, empathy, and most of all kindness.