The pandemic ushered in a new, remote working world and it is clear that for many companies, it is here to stay.
Many organisations have already rewritten their flexible working policies entirely in light of the surge in remote working. Tech giants Shopify, Salesforce and Slack have all implemented new flexible working policies that allow employees to work remotely 100% of the time.
What’s more, a YouGov survey carried out in the latter months of 2020 found that 57% of employees want to continue working from home some or all of the time after COVID-19 has passed. Clearly, the last year has given our employees a taste of the remote work lifestyle that many are reluctant to give it up!
And yet, for our HR leaders navigating this newly remote working environment, their jobs have become that bit more challenging. As the people department looks for new, innovative ways to lead and support their employees; there are four crucial things that HR leaders must get right to ensure the success of remote employees.
Building culture is relatively straightforward in the office. Culture is developed by the shared values, norms and assumptions of a collective that are widely shared and felt at all levels of an organisation. In a pre-COVID world, employees that are immersed in your culture on a daily basis get a ‘feel’ of what the working environment is like; they can see how things are done and understand the driving force behind why the company exists.
However, when an entire workforce is remote, creating a culture where employees maintain their connection with your business and a feeling of being part of something can be incredibly challenging.
It is important to remember that organisational culture is dynamic and it must evolve with new experiences and changing circumstance. The pandemic was an unexpected, once in a generation event that has seemingly transformed how we work forever. Your culture must adapt to this new way of working, too.
Developing your culture to reflect this new world of remote work will pay dividends to long-term employee happiness, satisfaction and retention. Research by TINYpulse has found that employees who don’t like their organisation’s culture are 24% more likely to quit.
Whether you move your normal company social outings, teambuilding events and get-togethers online, or you survey employees regularly to better understand the changing needs of your employees. It is important to ensure that your leaders set the tone for your newly adaptable culture that is authentic and allows your team members to adjust to the changing world of work while maintaining a feeling of community and togetherness.
Similarly, keeping track of engagement levels is significantly simpler in the office and critical for employee retention and satisfaction.
During these times of distancing and working from home, it can be easy for employees to become disengaged. Away from the office, the lines between personal and professional lives have become increasingly blurred. During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever that we develop new ways to keep engagement at a high.
Keeping employees involved, committed and motivated is crucial for every business, at any time. But it is especially important now – for working and furloughed employees – that leaders look to maintain company morale, transparency and interaction. The day-to-day social aspect of the office that we are all used to is largely non-existent now so HR and wider business leaders need to create new, innovative ways for employees to connect.
Think about the ways your employees normally interact in the office, could any of these be brought online or modified in a way to facilitate them remotely? If your teams tend to go out for lunch on a Friday, could you send an afternoon tea hamper and get them together on Zoom to have lunch together? Virtual tea breaks, online fitness classes or company video game tournaments are all ideas that are relatively budget-friendly but could boost company morale and maintain employee engagement.
If there was to be a winner of the COVID-19 pandemic, technology would be it. We’ve seen swathes of technology-poor companies transition to remote work almost overnight. This digital transformation was expected, yet the pandemic forced many companies to fast-forward their digital growth plans by years.
To put it into context, a 2020 survey by Harvey Nash and KPMG found that companies were spending an extra £11 billion a week on technology during the first wave of the pandemic.
Providing your employees with the correct tools and adequate technology to do their jobs is a given. Without it, your employees’ productivity will suffer and they’ll quickly become demotivated and disengaged. Take the time out to ask your team what they need? Are the tools and platforms they have access to enough? Even the provision of dual monitors and peripherals. Many employees left the office for the last time in a rush so find out what you can do to support them to work remotely.
What’s more, the pandemic ushered in a new demand for collaborative tools like Slack or Teams, social platforms like Donut and normalised the use of video chat for meetings.
Technology has become central to businesses managing their way through, and out of, the pandemic. From video conferencing software to new tools to facilitate remote working; COVID-19 has accelerated the rise of the digital workplace as industries have moved online.
But as entire departments moved to remote working, many had to look at new ways of using technology to maintain business continuity. HR leaders in particular needed complete access to employee records, policies, procedures and documentation from one central, online location that was accessible remotely. Filing cabinets and folders stored in the office quickly fell out of favour as remote work became the norm.
The cornerstone of leading remote employees to success is communication. Without clear, open channels of communication here your leaders are entirely transparent, you risk employees feeling alienated and detached from your business.
Throughout the pandemic, staying in touch with employees has been critical. At the start, employees will have had all manner of questions about job security, safety and what happens next. These questions may still be plaguing the minds of your employees but some will have now progressed into questions about a return to the office, doing their job in a recession and continued worries about personal health and safety.
Whether your employees are furloughed, working fewer hours or working as normal; providing regular information and updates – even if you share that nothing has changed since your last update – will safeguard your employees from filling in the gaps themselves and fearing the worst.
Regular ‘all hands’ company town hall sessions, weekly updates from senior leadership and ‘as it happens’ responses to changing government guidance cam help to allay any doubt in your employees’ minds and reassure them they you’re there, you’re listening and you care.