Preventing presenteeism: creating a workplace for everyone

A business psychologist explains how to create a flexible environment that benefits all staff and boosts productivity in the age of hybrid working.
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Staff are struggling to adapt to hybrid working, even though nine in 10 UK workplaces are operating some kind of hybrid model. The rub is that hybrid work disproportionately benefits senior staff, with 74% feeling that they have more control over their timetable as a result, compared with only 24% of junior staff. Here, University College London professor Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic outlines how managers can show up for their teams – and help them work more effectively.

1. Trust people to work how they want

Tomas says that managers should provide the structure and then trust people to do the work however they see fit. ‘You need to respect their private and personal time, and their wellbeing,’ says Tomas. To help you do this, he suggests laying down some ground rules. Examples could be establishing how fast they need to respond during working hours or preventing emails from being sent on weekends. The most obvious display of trust is ‘letting them clarify what their hours are’.

2. Highlight why impressions always matter

It's worth reminding staff that impression management – looking busy and being available for tasks – will always play a part in the world of work. ‘We live in a world of impressions, where perceptions trump reality,’ says Tomas, ‘Every successful person needs to make an effort to impress others and manage their reputation. If you don't care about what others think of you, you're done, especially when you're young.’

3. Measure the value employees create

‘Competent managers must learn to measure the value employees bring,’ says Tomas. This means your employees should be assessed on their results, not on how often you see them. Ironically, it can be difficult to judge people equally and accurately when you're seeing some more than others. There's no silver bullet for doing this, but a good framework to follow involves speaking to your employees, picking some tangible goals to measure against and tracking those over time.

A version of this article was published in the Courier Weekly newsletter. For more useful stories, tips, tricks and simply good advice, sign up here.

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