Refael Edry’s Lessons for Improving Employee Engagement in a Hybrid Office

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in an irreversible transformation of the office as we knew it. In a pre-pandemic world, most employers would scoff at the idea of letting their entire workforce remotely.

Pandemic-imposed restrictions showed organizations it isn’t just possible to adopt remote work but also use it to achieve productivity gains. It gives you access to a global talent pool and even helps keep your business operational round-the-clock.

Three years into the pandemic, companies and their employees are accustomed to the benefits of remote work. A Gallup survey from June 2022 found that only 20% of employees work entirely on-site. A whopping 80% of employees are working remotely or in a hybrid setting.

Another study by AT&T found that hybrid work adoption is projected to grow almost 2x between 2021 and 2024. It’s safe to say that workplaces of the future will be hybrid. It gives employees more autonomy and flexibility. But what does it mean for business owners and employers?

The Challenges of Hybrid Work

Despite the benefits of hybrid work, many employers are still skeptical about implementing it. One of the biggest challenges of a hybrid workforce is the possibility of disconnect and disengagement among employees.

When some of your employees are co-located while the rest are working remotely, it can result in communication gaps and silos. Co-located employees are more likely to share informal project updates and ideas during lunch breaks or water cooler chats. 

Remote workers don’t enjoy the privilege of participating in these conversations, which can make them feel disconnected from their coworkers. They might even have a harder time balancing personal and professional commitments. 

Also, when it comes to rewards and recognition, the efforts of on-site employees are usually more visible to managers. That, in turn, creates an unintentional bias against remote workers and takes a toll on their engagement and productivity. Ultimately, it can increase employee turnover and recruitment costs. 

Therefore, it’s crucial to implement suitable measures to engage and motivate employees in a hybrid work environment. And if you’re looking for some inspiration, you can take a cue from the remarkable journey of Refael (aka Rafi) Edry, one of Israel’s most renowned entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

Here are a few lessons from the life of Refael Edry that’ll come in handy for today’s employers:

Connect With Your Employees

Refael Edry’s childhood and adolescence were filled with economic hardships. He had to start working at a young age to support his family. The good is it didn’t stop him from turning his dreams of a better life into reality.

But Refael Edry doesn’t want his professional achievements to define his life. His early experiences taught him what it’s like to be denied opportunities because of one’s circumstances. That, in turn, helps him relate to the challenges and hardships children in Israel’s periphery face.

It’s his empathy that has driven Refael Edry to start the Ahinoam Association for the Promotional of Equal Opportunities. The non-profit organization runs several initiatives to help underprivileged children and at-risk youth find their footing in Israeli society.

Similarly, if you want to engage employees in a hybrid workplace, you must empathize with them and design a human-centric work environment. That involves giving them the flexibility to work around other responsibilities, such as caregiving and parenting.

Also, it’s crucial to give them some level of autonomy over when and where they work. If you make it mandatory for them to be present in the office on fixed days, it can be detrimental to their productivity.

Emphasize Collaboration

A key reason why Rafi Edry succeeded in turning his life around was that he didn’t do it alone. His younger brothers, Eyal Edry and Moshe Edree have always been by his side, weathering every storm together.

Besides operating several successful businesses in Israel and Africa, the three brothers also run the Ahinoam Association together. The shared experiences of their childhood help them work toward their shared vision of creating an equal world.

Similarly, in a hybrid office, it’s crucial to create processes that facilitate collaboration. It could be as simple as asking all employees to join a meeting on Zoom, whether they’re working remotely or on-site. It’ll help bring remote workers at par with their co-located peers.

Also, it’s crucial to provide employees with cloud-based project management tools. These tools can be instrumental in weeding out communication gaps and keeping all team members on the same page.

Predict Problems to Avert Disasters

When the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt, thousands of Israeli students were destined for a bleak future. Their schools had started online classes, conveniently ignoring the fact that a large number of students didn’t have the means to afford personal computers.

Refael Edry quickly recognized the long-term ramifications of the situation. Denying these children their right to education would deprive an entire generation of the opportunity to build better lives. That, in turn, would threaten Israel’s social resilience.

Refael Edry launched a fundraising campaign through the Ahinoam Association, calling upon ordinary citizens to donate. These donations help provide computers to more than 30,000 students and reinforce Israel’s future.

Such timely interventions are the backbone of a hybrid workplace. Instead of waiting for problems to spiral out of control, you must develop an eye for problem-spotting. Identify potential challenges that could affect employee engagement or motivation and implement suitable measures to mitigate them.

Final Thoughts

Refael Edry is the nephew of a fearless war hero whose name he shares. His uncle, Refael Edry z|l, kept inspiring him through the darkest times and helped him see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s time you seek inspiration from the journey of Refael Edry (the nephew) and use empathy and foresight to manage your hybrid workforce better.

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