We’re a few months into this pandemic thing (!!!) and employees are learning what it’s like to work remotely. Some like it, and others not so much. The same goes for employers. While many companies have had to radically adapt their business models just to survive, others have simply shifted the ‘where’ in their operations equation. Unfortunately that doesn’t translate to smooth sailing for employee experience. Forty five percent of employees working remotely because of the pandemic report feeling burnt out.
Given remote working is here for the foreseeable future, companies that haven’t done so already need to invest in their remote workplace experience – an exercise that’ll reap dividends for the long term regardless of where employees do their work.
In my experience there are three fundamental pillars that support a healthy remote workplace from which all other facets of good remote work culture spring.
Above all else, trust in employees means you’re giving them autonomy to do the job they’re hired to do. There’s a well known quote from Steve Jobs that sums it up pretty well:
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs
Trusting employees unfortunately isn’t a natural skill for many employers to make, but micromanaging over Zoom and email is a surefire way to increase employee turnover. Coupling solid assignment/role management with employee sentiment tools like OfficeVibe to get a sense of what’s working and isn’t will shed light on the ways employees feel about their workplace experience.
Byproducts of trust in the workplace:
- Healthy, candid communication
- A sense of ownership and pride in one’s work
- Implicit support of leadership’s strategy (trust is a two-way street)
- Better redundancy when employees are sick or leave the firm
A large source of assurance employees seek when working remotely comes from workplace guidelines for things like roles and responsibilities, handling sensitive data, team communications and something as simple as work hours (core office hours, etc.). It’s up to employers to provide that.
What are your expectations of employees when they work remotely? How do they differ from before the pandemic? If you haven’t thought about it and if you haven’t communicated them outwardly, I guarantee your employees are wondering about it, as noted in a prior article I wrote on taking time off.
Documenting your policies is important (and in some cases legally required), but the first step needs to come from you. Communicate what’s expected – do you need to change business hours? Say so. Do you expect employees to forgo vacation time for a few months? Say so.
Short of policy and expectations, employees are left to come to their own conclusion and I can guarantee that in times when work seems like a luxury, that’s going to mean more burn out and poorer productivity over the long term.
Byproducts of good guidance and workplace policy:
- More self-governance by employees (less need for micro-management)
- Better business continuity planning at the management level
- Employees feel more sure footed in their own career / life planning
The most tangible of the three pillars, employees need infrastructure to connect to the workplace. We’re all dependent on consumer grade internet connections, but that doesn’t mean our workplace operations are out of reach. You may have been able to get by without access to things like employee records and physically protected intranet sites for a month, but at this point it’s imperative to upgrade how and where these critical documents and assets are accessible.
Byproducts of productive workplace infrastructure
- Explicit, if not better, security of sensitive company data and assets
- Workplace diagnostics for cost and usage comprehension
- Better/easier automation in onboarding and offboarding employees
- Anytime, anywhere access to employee records and operations
If you snooze, you lose
Employers who don’t see the upside to creating a productive workplace, regardless of location, are going to have a very tough time surviving this prolonged downturn because companies with clear policy, trust, and infrastructure are already out there, ready to welcome the huddled masses of employees who just weren’t able to bridge the gap of a workplace in disarray. The question is, which type of workplace is yours? If you’re of the prior, get those engines started.