2020 has brought about some challenges to say the least...
But one positive to emerge from all the chaos and disruption we've faced, has been the ability of many organisations to adapt to remote working...
In the past, managers and leadership teams may have been reluctant to allow so many of their employees to work from home on an almost permanent basis. However, with Covid-19 we’ve had little choice in the matter.
And, you know what?
Employees adapted, productivity didn’t fall off a cliff and customers haven't been let down.
Now, more of us are seeing the positive outcomes that this style of working has had on our work/life balance, and we may not want to go back to commuting into the office every workday. But what does this mean from a workplace culture perspective?
With more businesses researching the benefits of downsizing, or even removing the need for a physical office at all, it’s more important than ever to find ways to grow a positive workplace culture that includes our remote workers. Let's take a look at some of the things you should consider...
why you should consider making remote working a permanent benefit
As we start to “return to normal” and offices begin to reopen, there will be some employees who are keen to get back to a physical work space that doesn’t impose on their home life. However, others will be less keen to return.
This could either be due to health concerns, such as commuting on public transport or sharing a communal spaces with lots of people, or possibly due to the positive impact they've seen on their working and personal lives.
If you’re not convinced about retaining this for your business, here are some of the top benefits of remote working to consider:
- Improved employee satisfaction
- Reduced unscheduled absences
- Increased productivity
- Employers save money
- It helps to cut down on wasted meetings
- Increased collaboration
- Expanded potential talent pool
But despite these benefits, the two main causes of concern for most employers are:
- The impact on company culture
- The lack of communication
So, being mindful and proactively looking for ways to avoid these issues will help to keep both employers and employees happy.
communicate your culture
When you’re in an office environment, many organisations will opt to put their core values up on display.
However, when you’re not sharing the same physical space as your employees the documentation of your culture needs to be inspirational, clear and well written. Make it easy for all employees to understand what your expectations are, how performance is measured and the behaviours that will be used to assess if someone is a good fit or not.
No matter how old or new your employees are, this document should be circulated and reassessed as your business grows and evolves. Monitoring how your employees’ measure up to your culture and values needs to be consistent.
If you haven’t done so already, consider incorporating your core values into one-to-ones or your recognition programme, to ensure employees can see how these values translate to their day-to-day roles within the company.
welcoming new remote team members
When we’re all in one office, it’s nice and easy to go round and introduce a new hire to the team. But how should you welcome a remote team member into a team without an awkward video meeting?
Sending a welcome email which introduces your new hire to the team and tells everyone a little about them can be a great way to start building connections. You can also try some quirky techniques like asking your new hire some icebreaker questions:
- What’s your favourite movie and why?
- What was the last book you read?
- What do you like to do to relax?
- If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
Getting different members of the team or even different departments involved in their induction plan, either for one-to-one meetings to introduce themselves, or to help with elements of their training, is a great way to help new hires meet more people and understand other roles within the business.
encourage 'non-work' conversation
By creating a dedicated channel on your Slack or other instant messaging platform where employees can chat about trending topics or share fun articles, will help to build stronger relationships amongst peers. Just be sure to communicate clear guidelines to avoid any content issues which could cause offence or be inappropriate.
On a one-to-one basis, when having a video call, take five minutes to catch up on what you’ve both been up to outside of work so you can get to know your remote workers a little bit better. This can help them feel more valued and part of the team, rather than only being communicated with to get a project update.
Translating your company culture into a remote working environment will rely heavily on your communication skills.
Setting regular meetings to catch up with what everyone is working on, any company news that may affect the team, and allowing for feedback and two way communication between management and the team will be vital. These meetings should not be seen as micro-management, but an opportunity for the team to keep in touch with what everyone is doing and provide support if needed. Trust will be extremely important for creating a positive culture that can be felt by both remote and office-based staff. Employees will need to be transparent about their productivity and employers will need to be clear about the expectations they have to avoid any trust issues evolving.
When it comes to availability, let everyone know what is expected of them. From being online at particular times, communicating if they aren’t going to be available and encouraging them to switch off once the work day ends, will help all members of the team work better together. When working from home it can be easy to slip into working longer hours or being constantly available, but this can not only breed contempt, but can also be a factor in employee burnout.
Download your free Employee Burnout Cheat Sheet here to discover the symptoms and how to resolve burnout in your business.
If possible, try to arrange for face-to-face meetings every so often, maybe having your remote team in the office for workshops or including them on social nights out (pandemics permitting of course). This helps build a stronger bond between your coworkers. When face-to-face isn’t an option, encouraging “videos on” during video conferencing can help people to recognise each other, and see reactions and facial expressions to help with communication amongst the team.
measure employee engagement
When employees are working remotely it can make it harder for management to spot warning signs of stress or disengagement before it becomes a bigger problem. Setting time aside for formal quarterly surveys and educating your management teams on the changes to look out for within employees can all help to keep an eye on employee engagement and satisfaction.
From here any shifts or concerns from employees can be proactively dealt with and help make sure the culture you want to see flourish both inside and outside of the office.
If you would like to find out more about how to create a happy and healthy workplace culture, download your free step-by-step guide by clicking here.