Now more than ever, organisations rely on their workforce's energy, commitment, and engagement to survive and succeed. Working remotely during the pandemic prompted major disruptions and disconnections in team dynamics. And with many companies now shifting from WFH to hybrid or on-site scenarios, leaders have to find new ways to reset the workplace culture whilst considering their teams’ needs and experiences.

FutureBrand North America's Group Director of Client Experience, Clare-Louise Smith joined the Equality Lounge at Advertising Week to explore ways to inspire work communities to redefine their purpose, reconnect with each other, and come together once again while prioritising inclusion and equity.

The all-female panel with speakers from Meta, The Ad Council, 4A’s and The Female Quotient discussed the future of work and the need to realise that there is not one solution that fits all companies. From career development to mental health support, the crucial learning from the session was that a high level of transparency with employees is required to maintain a motivated and engaged workforce.

Moments that matter

The hybrid work environment brought about a major shift in the way companies engage with their employees and clients. All speakers agreed that flexibility is key for the future of work as we need to listen to each other more openly and share best practices and productivity techniques among team members. At FutureBrand, we quickly realised that everyone’s daily routine changed during the lockdown and a pre-pandemic approach can no longer be applied. As such, we developed a new work philosophy in our North American offices around “Moments that Matter” to really help us determine when we come together as a team in the office or spend the time working solo at home. This approach encourages the team to be considerate of everyone’s time and working style and not revert to auto-pilot mode in the new hybrid workplace. Used across company, project and individual levels, those moments act as an opportunity to collaborate, learn or share.

As discussed by global company Meta, every company should plan according to their values, size, region, and what’s best for their employees. Celebrating the wins on a global level, and recognising the people for their contribution and impact is especially important with hybrid teams as it aims to break the disconnect between individuals.

Taking action on mental health

One of the major consequences of the global pandemic was the increased level of mental health issues - from depression and anxiety to insomnia and isolation. This had an inevitable knock-on impact on employees, who had to suddenly begin working from their bedrooms and have conversations only through a screen. We have to understand both the personal and professional experiences of individuals to fully support them when they need it. As such, we trained a dedicated team of Mental Health First Aiders to be on hand to all employees globally, either in a group or one-to-one sessions. Through a partnership with the MYNDUP app, we now provide instant access to a therapist globally, even one that speaks in your native language.

Evolving the progression ladder

Last but not least, the panellists explored what the shift to hybrid means for career advancement and leadership. All panellists agreed that career development paths must be personalised based on the employees’ needs, skills and expectations, and not their location. At FutureBrand, leadership comes into different forms and is expressed in line with individuals’ personalities – something that is taken into account when evaluating progression. Despite the disruption our workflow has had in the past two years, we have managed to adapt to the new operation processes very quickly, and that has resulted in an engaged and motivated workforce globally.

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