How to Rethink the Employee Professional Brand in a Hybrid Work World

By Renee Holland, Global Head of People, Contentstack

Authenticity forced upon us by remote work practices has fostered better collaboration – people are no longer encumbered by how they “want” to be seen at work, by their carefully cultivated “brand” — but by who they actually are.

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HR and business leaders need to consider employees who are embracing a new professional brand as life is now hybrid. In a recent Accenture report, 83% of workers surveyed prefer a hybrid model, which means they seek to work remotely at least 25% of the time. They seek this work and lifestyle change and our job as organizational leaders is to mold our practices to better suit this workforce.

As we start moving back into the workplace, we must ask ourselves: is a highly polished, perhaps unrealistic version of employee professional brands actually netting them the results they want? Or, perhaps, the person who occasionally joins a Zoom in their PJs or has their laundry in a basket in the background, creates a more approachable person in which co-workers can relate? Can this new professional brand more quickly break down those barriers and get to collaboration and problem-solving?

Company leaders and HR professionals should adapt. Here’s a few ways we can lean into the movement.

Embrace work-life alignment

Work-life balance. It’s simply not true or attainable. The concept of alignment has been tossed around in career and health discussions for years but, truly, this time is different. We jumped into a new way of working and the definition of how we mix professional and personal will always be different. 

When we think of our employee’s roles, there will always be something getting more attention at any given time, whether it’s work, family, kids, personal relationships, pets, health, etc. The role of the employer is to determine how to keep the company wheel greased so employees can find that alignment when they need it.

Spritz some WD-40 into the workplace by letting go of the typical 8-hour workday. Parents during the academic year may need to split hours to support their children in school. Or help sick family members. Global workforces should be cognizant of those who get up early to take a meeting with colleagues across a few time zones. Create an environment that respects that there may not be a set period or time of day that one must work every single day. If the work is done, client or customer needs are met, a few hours away to participate in personal matters, can improve morale and keep the wheel turning in the direction of your bottom line.

Holistically know your employees

Our new workplace environment is a great opportunity for HR professionals and organizational leaders to connect with employees at a different level. We’ve been given the gift of seeing our employees in a more natural environment, watching them virtually work from home, or other places outside of the office. 

As we brought our work home in 2020, I got to know more people’s hobbies, I’ve enjoyed meeting family members and pets, and got to really know what interests employees. The pandemic pushed us to see employees holistically and, if you haven’t already, it’s time to acknowledge the new traits we’ve learned from our peers. 

Are some people’s talents left unused? Like an actor who is typecast in the same movie role, take a look around and notice if there’s an employee who is pigeonholed into a position that isn’t helping them – and ultimately their team, and the company – to thrive. Is there a great digital artist sitting in an account manager position? We are many dimensional beings and it’s time we look at employees holistically and see their broader range of skill sets.

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Evolve the employee perk program

Now that we have come to a realization of our changing needs at work and home, employees expect and deserve better tailored benefits. I recommend we rethink two types of benefits. 

First, evaluate the general wellness benefits. The workplace snack room or on-site gym may not be a perk anymore, allowing a budget that’s more suited to the real needs of employees. One benefit I’ve been exploring is helping families with young children with nanny, babysitting or daycare costs. Also better assistance with maintaining good mental health is a big one; perhaps it’s providing a subscription to meditation apps, or providing a wider network of therapists that employees can see on a regular basis. 

Second, give employees the opportunity to expand their skill sets by providing reimbursements or time to take extra courses. Time at home has helped so many people uncover different interests. This is especially true with Generation Z employees and many seek to be more broadly skilled. For example, web designers or even developers and those in the IT world may seek creative courses.

Every workplace is unique. Every team and department has their special talents and needs. We’re all adapting and figuring out how to best listen and provide a workplace that lets our employees know we hear them. We have seen them in a different light; those lights were from converted closets to offices, or with dogs barking at the mailman during your afternoon meeting. It’s given us a real chance to see our coworkers as multi-dimensional human beings. Let’s give them a place to work that treats them that way. 

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