Many multinational and modern companies have dispersed workforces in various sites or various work setups. Managing these organizations or dispersed teams is not new, so naturally when the pandemic struck and traveling by plane, train, or any other way came to a halt, these companies had an easier transition. Modern or global companies already understood the tenets of success for a dispersed workforce. For organizations that were either single site, only onsite, more paper dependent or face to face reliant, the change was much more impactful and has had an impact on everything from corporate culture to day-to-day business operations.
Traditionally company culture was based on activities and behavior together and onsite – what is unofficially called “The Vibe.” How can companies foster their culture when people are dispersed, remote, WFH and alternating times at the office?
Connection: The basic rule is to make sure your employees feel connected to the company and each other. This leads to satisfaction, motivation, and mental wellbeing. New times demand new measures: tools built for remote work that keep people engaged and collaborative, even from far apart. Our research has shown that companies are using a unified remote tech stack to keep them going, and HR tech helps in so many ways to keep people productive, connected and happier at their jobs. Most notably, document sharing and video conferencing tools have gained popularity, as they help with collaboration and culture-building, as well.
Build a growth culture: A growth culture means people are focused on making things happen, and are working on the tasks they need to do to achieve their goals. Employees and team leads prioritize learning and development. A growth mindset keeps employees motivated and engaged. Recognition and unity help to create a culture of growth.
Recognition: HR needs to help managers take the time to recognize employees’ accomplishments and milestones – whether they are personal or professional – both privately and publicly. At bob, we do this using Shoutouts and Kudos posts to share wins both team- and company-wide. This is a way to celebrate success of any kind – whether it’s a new baby, a wedding, company wins, a promotion, or something else – and effectively connects people in a more meaningful and personal way. Companywide recognition helps a dispersed team know what their team members are accomplishing and enables them to feel more connected to each other.
Unity: Managers and HR leaders need to encourage employees to build relationships with each other by finding ways to connect both professionally and personally. This can include incorporating offsites, group activities, and team-wide projects into the team culture. Managers must find creative ways to build personal connections around birthdays, anniversaries or shared interests. For example, Club View on the bob platform allows employees to join groups based on common hobbies and connect to colleagues who they might not directly work with otherwise. Companies have created gaming groups, book clubs, volunteer groups and more. To bring people together, HR teams and leadership can create the “clubs” relevant to the team and find an activity that caters to that interest. For example, if a lot of people love a certain sport, create a virtual watch party, or if you have a lot of Italian food fans, set up a virtual cooking class focused on Italian meals.
Looking forward, HR should plan for largely permanent remote work arrangements.
Many companies were unprepared to go fully remote when COVID set in, and took a “Band-Aid” approach to finding a way to make it work for them. Sending entire teams to work remotely practically overnight and proving they can be productive is a major accomplishment in and of itself, but getting everyone back is not going to be easy. In addition, surprise lock downs and social distancing may be here to stay for a long time, so companies must prepare for the long-haul.
In order to stay productive, engaged and focused, companies created new processes and the learnings from these processes should be implemented for good. Part of the amazing engagement and resulting productivity was created from the flexibility of remote work, and it will not be easy to undo.
Also, hiring remotely allows companies to find strong talent from anywhere. Companies are seizing the opportunity to recruit talent from all over the country/world and, as a result, are creating more diverse and innovative teams. These remote recruits will expect to work remotely even after the pandemic. With diversified and dispersed teams, work tech tools make a difference. In fact, the right tech tools can develop positive work from home experiences for both employees and employers.
Without the right technology in place, companies will be unable to make work-from-home effective. Technology is not only about hardware, but also about software that can make the experience better. As the model of work evolves, so must the technology. Many workplaces have adopted the obvious long standing tech that is still highly relevant – Zoom, Saas based business applications, Slack, more – but there are more pieces to the puzzle. There are several key challenges that the new tech stack must aim to solve.
Communication is not just work related there is a social aspect that needs to be addressed.
Companies must find ways to respond to new situations such as: How will companies replace the connections people develop in the office kitchen? How will companies bring new joiners into the business with a feeling of belonging, understanding and connectedness to others in the business? How will companies measure performance and monitor it to understand progress and developmental needs?
By investing in strong technologies that can help foster culture, streamline communications and engage staff, companies will set themselves up for success. This is what we had in mind with the creation of the bob HR platform, for example, which integrates performance reviews, streamlines onboarding and workflows, and helps new joiners connect with existing team members with a social media-like posting and home page feed to share events, activities, news and fun with the rest of the team.
Adapting to the remote work model
Managers and team leads are key to understanding the new challenges their people are facing, and need to demonstrate empathy. HR needs to consider redesigning benefits packages to add mental wellness programs and resources, offering home office stipends, and/or establishing time off and time out policies to minimize burnout. Employees are struggling and need the support of their managers and teams.
Since the pandemic, a study from Hibob shows that employee satisfaction dropped 27%, and mental health and wellbeing dropped a staggering 33%. As employees continue to work from home, it is important for companies to drive two-way communication regarding the challenges employees are facing. Every so often, ask for employee feedback to understand what they want and need and how they are doing. Create surveys to keep asking them for candid feedback. Conducting surveys allows companies to gage how employees are feeling and then find ways to support them.
For new joiners, professional development and on-the-job learning can be hard to replicate virtually. Companies should invest in training and set up mentorship programs within the organization to make sure people are getting the support they need as they navigate their careers.
Remote work and dispersed teams are part of the new world of work. This change that was thrust upon us globally is here to stay, and the evolution is mandatory if companies are to survive and thrive. Leading companies have already committed themselves to hybrid work from home and work from office setups realigning their offices to enable social distancing and group work at the same time. The flexibility of hybrid setups is unprecedented and helps recruit diverse and strong talent and increase employees’ job satisfaction. Companies fostering a culture of growth and development will keep team members motivated and engaged regardless of where they are working from.
The impact of remote work makes us, more than before, focus on our people. We need to make sure they are keeping healthy, informed, and engaged, as this has a direct impact on the top & bottom line.