Motivating Employees In The New World of Work

The future of work will involve workplaces that are physical as well as virtual. We need to plan the future with a hybrid model in mind.


If there is one thing that is common among office workers over the last few months, it’s the fact that the calendar of the previous week looks similar to the one for next week; a transition from weekend to a weekday in a seemingly continuous loop of monotony. The initial newness of remote work increased productivity as teams came together with purpose. Its continuance however is seeing fatigue, falling engagement and a disconnect that is difficult to handle.

Our work environment plays a big role in the levels of motivation. This includes the physical spaces we occupy, the colleagues we interact with and the multiple leisure options that we have become used to like cafeterias, gyms, climbing walls, game rooms and movie theatres. So, it’s no surprise that motivation is especially at risk when work goes remote and engagement is largely virtual.

Neuroscience research has found that our ability to focus is designed to work in bursts of attention, rather than uninterruptedly. Researchers have found that rather than being laser-like, attention is more akin to a spotlight that continually dims and comes back on again. Our brains work in a rhythm that alternates between two states – focus and distraction. This is part of our evolution when there were periods we needed to be on guard against dangers and periods where we could relax. There is now enough evidence to show that brain rhythms are closely linked to our work outcomes. Our work facilities with built-in provision for exercise, leisure and interaction helped us to be more productive by making use of our brain rhythms. 

The future of work will involve workplaces that are physical as well as virtual. We need to plan the future with a hybrid model in mind. It will involve the creative use of office facilities to enable physical interaction, collaborations and to develop social capital. And the use of innovative virtual set ups to give people increased flexibility as well as more time for learning and development. An ideal workplace of the future is making use the best of both worlds in a manner that is seamless.

So, what are some of the things we can do to keep motivation levels up in the new world of work?

Make work engaging – interesting work that is engaging and purposeful is the biggest motivator for individuals and teams. A study we did among remote workers showed that the highest productivity gains happened in teams which worked on tasks that were challenging and were directly connected to client impact. 

Communicate frequently – a large portion of communication people trust at offices comes through informal channels in the office. While companies easily shift their formal communication channels to remote ones through technology, the replication of the informal channels requires thought and attention. It is good to encourage private chat channels and other technology-enabled informal communication solutions. Employees who are trusted with information are more engaged and deliver better work.

Re-design successful engagement program to remote modes - while you might create new engagement programs, most current programs can be reengineered for remote work with a bit of imagination coupled with technology. Plus, people like the familiarity of the old programs while working in the new world and they love to innovate in making them work remotely. 

Overdo on health and wellness – remote work increases isolation and disrupts routines. This adds to anxiety and stress. It is important to deploy activities that benefit physical, mental and financial wellbeing.

Bring your office systems home - people get used to systems and support when they are in the office. Getting these systems to work in a remote mode is a big step in terms of keeping productivity and motivation levels up. A seamless office experience remotely can only happen through best-in-class systems that give a great user experience.

Repurpose office spaces to a new way of working - people need to know that the office is there for them when they would go back in a full or partial way. It’s time to repurpose the office to what will be a new world of work. Some ideas involve creating spaces for team huddles where people can meet or creating spaces for deep work when people want to focus on a task that requires isolation.

Working remotely involves both a sense of freedom as well as periods of struggle where motivation drops low. By focusing on some of the areas outlined above, we can help people adapt. Motivating people in the new world of work is one of the biggest leadership challenges we will face as we move ahead.

(The views in this article are solely expressed by By Richard Lobo, Executive Vice President, Head HR, Infosys specifically for BW People/Businessworld.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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