Navigating hybrid working using the power of sensory intelligence®

The new world of work is hybrid and flexible 
The post-COVID-19 resulted in unprecedented changes to the way we work. As organizations worldwide adapted to the challenges posed by the global health crisis, hybrid working emerged as the new norm, fostering an increased sense of flexible working and work-life balance. This article explains how we at Sensory Intelligence® can assist in getting hybrid working right. Business leaders play a vital role in understanding and leveraging Sensory Intelligence® to create productive and inclusive work environments that cater to the diverse needs of their employees, not only as productivity but also as a staff retention solution.

Understanding Sensory Intelligence®
Sensory Intelligence® refers to how people use and process their daily work environment through the 7 senses. We are surrounded by an onslaught of incoming stimuli providing the baseline data our brains need to process daily. Each person has a unique genetic code and sensory wiring, which influences their sensitivity to environmental factors. These daily sensory processing patterns affect attention, emotion, and behaviour, all forming the baseline for workplace productivity and efficiency.

What we observed during and following the COVID-19 pandemic 
The pandemic provided an opportunity to observe the impact of Sensory Intelligence® on remote work. Research conducted during the pandemic revealed that about 30% of people with high sensory thresholds are relatively oblivious to sensory stimuli, not getting overstimulated quickly. Another 30% of individuals with low thresholds, however, are more sensitive to environmental stimuli,  get overstimulated and overloaded quickly and more frequently. The latter group experienced increased productivity, comfort, and happiness while working from home, as they could control their environment and eliminate distractions. This group also reported less stress, less burnout, more energy and better use of their time. On the other hand, the former group group struggled with isolation, feeling lonely and deprived of social interaction. Their ideal work environment, such as the bustling office space, is filled with activity, variety, and collaboration.

The Need for Hybrid Working
The pandemic highlighted that what works for one individual may not be suitable for another – a “one size fits all approach” is outdated. Employees with low sensory thresholds thrive in home working environments. On the other end, employees with high sensory thresholds thrive in the busy office.  There are advantages and challenges to both. The solution lies in adopting a hybrid approach that combines the best aspects of traditional office-based work with the flexibility of remote work. For the 40% of individuals who can adapt to various work environments, accommodating their preferences for optimal productivity is relatively straightforward as they can work anywhere.

The Benefits of Hybrid Working
Hybrid working offers several advantages. First, it acknowledges that humans have different needs and preferences, enabling organisations to create tailored work environments that enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. By implementing a hybrid model, organizations can become employers of choice, attracting and retaining top talent. Additionally, the adoption of hybrid working can lead to cost savings through reduced office space requirements.

Guidelines for Successful Hybrid Working
To make hybrid working successful, business leaders and managers should consider the following guidelines:

  • Embrace Individualality: Assess employees to determine their best-fit work environment, whether it is remote, in-office, or a combination. Accommodating individual preferences not only boosts productivity but also promotes employee happiness and retention.  Especially the younger generation wants flexibility and choices.
  • Implement a Scheduling System: Establish a scheduling system that ensures fair access to office space while maximizing efficiency. This may involve additional administrative efforts but can result in cost savings through rental office space.
  • Encourage Face-to-Face Engagement: Face-to-face engagement is essential for boosting morale, ensuring healthy communication and promoting teamwork. Those in leadership positions should recognize that sensory avoiders may require less contact, while sensory seekers may benefit from more interaction.  Human connections and social isolation are the risk factors associated with remote working, so it must be top of mind for leaders and team managers.
  • Support Remote Workers: While remote work is encouraged, leaders must acknowledge that not everyone has an ideal home working space. Provide guidance and support for employees in setting up effective home workspaces. If necessary, consider flexible working options and create focused and quiet spaces within shared office workspaces.
  • Focus and manage on Output, Not Hours: Shift the focus from monitoring hours worked to measuring output and productivity. Implement systems that track and document the results employees produce, regardless of where or when they work.

Key Takeaways
Work environments matter and are a key driver for employee productivity and well-being. By embracing individual differences, implementing effective scheduling systems, fostering face-to-face engagement, supporting remote workers, and focusing on output rather than hours worked, leaders and managers can navigate the challenges of hybrid working successfully.  Some leaders seem to want to revert to bringing everyone back to the office which is a pity. The pandemic taught us that the new workspace is hybrid and flexible and should be embraced by progressive leaders.
Leaders can create work environments that foster the diverse needs of employees, utilise individual differences and be prepared to cater for these varying needs of employees. Doing this will not only maximize employee productivity and promote employee well-being but also increase employee loyalty. Hybrid working offers the flexibility to accommodate different sensory styles, allowing employees to thrive in their preferred work settings.
It is crucial to champion the benefits of hybrid working and advocate for its adoption within organizations. By harnessing the power of Sensory Intelligence®, organizations can retain top talent, boost productivity, and create a positive work culture.

The future belongs to organisations that prioritize individuality, leverage Sensory Intelligence®, and embrace the benefits of hybrid working.

To discover how Sensory Intelligence® can transform your hybrid working strategy so that your employees are set up to succeed contact us, at [email protected]

Watch this to learn more about how Sensory Intelligence® tackles the idea of hybrid working.

My love-hate relationship with online working

In April 2019, I made a calculated leap of faith: I sold my pediatric Occupational Therapy practice at a school and ventured into the world of online work. The excitement of starting my morning routine in a home office was overwhelming. Being able to control my home environment was one of the deciding factors for this leap into the unknown. I painted my office walls in a soft neutral colour. A plant found it’s way onto my desk. On garden service days, I closed my office door and played calming music through headphones (don’t you just love the sound of a weedeater…). A jar of hand cream was placed within arm’s reach, mostly to be used when craving the lovely vanilla-smell filling the room when removing the lid. On cold winter days,  a heated foot mat kept me warm. Life was blissful and I felt so blessed to have changed my work life to fit my sensory needs.

As a sensory avoider with low sensory thresholds, I cope best with LESS sensory input. If an environment gets too busy and loud, my productivity levels drop and I then have to exert a lot of extra mental effort to maintain a high level of work. In a quieter, calmer, more relaxed environment, I thrive and feel healthier and happier. I love working alone in my own space… not that I’m a recluse (I hope not), it just fits my sensory style best. (If you’d like to discover your sensory style, complete your Sensory Matrix™ online)

What I did not bring into account when leaping into my new work adventure, was that I’ll be joining the digital world of online work consisting of a massive population. According to Internet World Stats, there were 4,833,521,806 global internet users on 30 June 2020. So much for solitary work! Within my little 13-inch laptop screen, I was connected to a whole new community. Exciting, yet overwhelming at times.

During the past 16 months, online working and I have gone through quite a few ups and downs, adding to my love-hate relationship with the digital world. I’d like to highlight some, it might just resonate with you if you’re also part of the online work community:

      An “off” button to switch everything off -vs- Nowhere to hide when you’re online

                                                   No need to travel for work -vs- A complete lack of movement while working     

Customization of your desktop display and icons -vs- A quick buildup of clutter on your desktop

                    The ability to stand up and walk away for a break -vs- The guilt of standing up and walking away from work

                                                        Flexible working hours -vs- Working longer hours due to a lack of routine

No time wasted making small talk with colleagues -vs- Missing small talk with colleagues

Control noise levels easier -vs- Eyes and ears are fixed on your small (but busy) digital world throughout the day

 

The list of pros and cons is endless and will vary for each person. However, digital work is here to stay. I realized it will be most beneficial to wrap my head around my digital environment and make the best of it. Some of the strategies I’ve implemented (and do my best to follow…) are:

  • Take short movement breaks. Your body and brain need it. 
  • Move my gaze away from my screen at times, to avoid “computer vision syndrome“.
  • I have raised my laptop and am using an external/additional keyboard to avoid a poor sitting posture.

There are lots more easy-to-implement strategies that we use as a virtual team at Sensory Intelligence® Consulting. Since your wellbeing matters to us, we’ve been sharing knowledge and ideas by means of our online workshops. To discover more simple, yet neuroscientific tools, follow the link to Digital wellness through the 7 senses. 

Take back control and be the master of your digital universe!

Who has benefited

24054
Sensory Quiz™
completed
13832
Sensory Matrix™
completed
9942
Senses on Call™
completed
235
Senses@Work™
completed
20694
Social media
fans
16958
Sensory Intelligence®
subscribers
526
Practitioners
trained