THURSDAY 13 JAN 2022 11:10 AM


Nazir Ul-Ghani, head of Workplace from Meta, explains why the future of work is about normalising the co-existence of physical distance and digital community to drive equity and inclusivity.

Did you know that the majority of the world’s workforce does not sit behind a desk? Yet somehow, the concept of employee experience has become almost exclusively synonymous with the lives of office workers.

This is a fundamental issue for companies as communications, policies and strategies geared towards office work simply don’t reflect the lived experience of those on the frontline. And this poses a significant risk to business operations.

In 2020, our research found a disconnect between those outside of business HQ and leadership with close to half (48%) frontline managers saying that they do not feel empowered to make decisions that impact business goals.

A further 43% reported missing important information from HQ during the pandemic – a time when being able to share information at pace was critical.

As the return to office conversation continues, businesses are forced to think about equality for all types of workers, be it office-based, hybrid or remote. But as they build new strategies for the new world of work, it’s vital they include frontline workers too.

Information for all – not just those on email

It’s time to rebuild how we want to work. Lockdown taught us that it no longer matters where your employees are based, so long as they are given the right tools to stay connected.

Yet, employees based outside of HQ often lack access to technology and a digital workplace identity. This means frontline workers are constantly at risk of missing critical information and becoming disconnected from the wider business.

Companies must embrace the various needs of a distributed workforce by looking for solutions that close the gap between office and frontline worker experience. Virgin Atlantic is a great example of a company doing just that.

To share critical news in real-time, the British airline knew it needed a mobile-first solution to reach all employees – on the ground and up in the air. With Workplace, the business has been able to forge connections between employees that previously didn’t exist and ensure everyone has the latest information, which was especially useful during the pandemic when many staff were furloughed and restrictions were changing at pace. 

Democratise access to leadership

It’s an outdated concept that the closer you are to HQ, the more facetime you will have with the boss. As we move to more remote and distributed models for the long-term, it’s important that companies are proactive about getting rid of the pre-pandemic ‘office bias’ for good.

With access to the right tools – accounting for those employees that do not sit behind a desk or may not have access to a computer – organisations can do away with top-down communication and encourage two-way conversations between leadership and employees.

This enables every employee to have a voice in the organisation, no matter their level or location.

By creating channels for direct interaction between all employees, organisations generate opportunities for feedback. Meaning that communications and policies can begin to be shaped directly by the people they impact.

Equal employee experience no matter the location

Democratising access to leadership and information holds incredible potential for businesses, as it not only means employees can have a voice and feel valued, it also gives leaders a more realistic picture of the employee experience.

Ignoring the views of employees comes with huge risk. Earlier this year, we found that 58% of UK workers would consider quitting their jobs if leaders were not empathetic to their needs. With the Great Resignation expected to further fuel the jobs crisis in 2022, it’s clear that leaders need to be listening to their workers - including those on the frontline - carefully.

Giving everyone a voice and equal opportunities to be heard is one step on the journey to creating an equitable employee experience. But this is only the beginning.

As companies continue to build more hybrid and remote roles they will need to make sure that these employees have equal access to knowledge, information, training, peers, benefits and support channels as those in the office. Too often this is what has been missing for those on the frontline, so the opportunity to reshape employee experience for the hybrid working world is also an opportunity to level the playing field for the frontline too.

Equitable workplace for all

In the new world of work it matters less where the work gets done, but ensuring employees feel connected, informed and heard is more important than ever.

Going forward, the needs of all workers must be acknowledged to create an equal experience for every employee – new, existing, frontline, hybrid or flexible.