As originally published in Forbes here.
We have been reviewing key moments in the employee’s journey in a series of articles to help guide employee experience strategy and develop a positive, productive culture. Any EX strategy today must consider remote or virtual workers. We have been talking to and surveying remote workers and have identified four key moments that define the remote working experience.
1. Do I have the tools, technology, information, training and support to do my job well today?
We mentioned before that an employee considers every day whether or not they are being set up for success. But with remote workers, the company needs to pay greater attention to making the fundamental office tools readily available at home. Some best practices include companies paying for upgraded Wi-Fi, providing discounts or even complimentary office furniture and laptops by contracting with a retailer or distributor for bulk orders, and office supply orders being filled each month and sent to a person’s home. By making home office tools a priority, a company supports the remote employee experience.
The most significant area of consideration and advancement in the past 12 months is the introduction of technology to make the remote working experience seamless. The IT team is critical to the remote working experience, as they help employees connect to work systems while maintaining the necessary data security levels. If it wasn’t a necessity before, having a cloud-based computing set-up must be the norm for every business as it provides workers with access to their virtual work environment.
Communication is key to a successful remote working environment and there is no such thing as over-communication. Remote workers want to feel connected and informed, so a communication platform and a video conferencing platform are essential to your virtual worker. We recommend managers establish regular daily check-ins with their team so workers know when communication will occur and when they will be informed. By establishing a group call to start the day, everyone can hear what is happening, ask questions and get a gentle reminder that they are part of a team. We also recommend that managers establish communication guidelines with their team, which outline the frequency and reasoning for using the various communication formats and times. Managers should also clarify when they are available each day because in a remote environment workers cannot gauge when their manager is free.
Learning and having the necessary training is essential to the employee experience. Just because workers are not in an office or located together doesn’t mean learning and training need to stop. With an investment in technology-based learning, workers can choose their time to learn based on when it is most productive for them and can focus best. This creates a tremendous opportunity to get more people learning.
2. Do I feel connected to my manager?
We touched on this when we discussed the importance of technology and keeping employees informed, but connection is deeper than this. We have been proponents of regular one-on-one performance conversations for years and have found that a remote environment allows these conversations to happen more easily. Managers can schedule 30-minute one-on-ones with team members each week to inquire how they (and their families) are doing, determine what they need, discuss priorities and establish goals for the next week. This time also ensures an employee can share, and the manager can listen. We have covered how important it is for managers to demonstrate that they care and these weekly conversations go a long way in ensuring employees feel heard.
3. Do I feel connected to my team?
While being connected to the manager is nice, feeling connected to a team is necessary. Whether we realize it or not, work provides us with a lot of our weekly social interaction, friendships and a feeling of belonging. These emotional needs can still be fulfilled remotely. Managers should schedule virtual team celebrations, lunches or coffee breaks. One of the best practices we encountered over the past year was from managers who would schedule celebrations or conversations while simultaneously delivering lunch, coffee or a care package to someone’s home. We also recommend establishing opportunities for employees to work with their co-workers sans manager. Having workers collaborate without the manager present gives them a sense of control, connection and responsibility that can elevate their work experience.
4. Can I disconnect from work?
In my last article, I relayed the importance of workers being able to disconnect from work. When people work remotely, it can become very easy to always be on (or, at least, it seems that way). Flexibility around when work gets done is extremely important to the modern worker. Once expectations have been set regarding when to communicate and what needs to get done, workers can schedule their work time around other priorities in their lives. This means that employees are working odd hours. Within my company, we have focused more on completing projects and tasks by a certain date rather than micro-managing when work is being done every day. I also established an expectation that an email does not require an immediate response. If something is urgent, I can pick up a phone and call or text indicating some urgency — but this is for emergencies only. By reiterating that workers have control over when they work but are not expected to exceed their weekly hours, they know that it is okay to disconnect, and they do not have to always be available.
We have established that many people can work from anywhere, so remote or virtual working is only going to become more prevalent and the way to work for many roles and organizations. As a result, owners and managers must consider how to create an effective employee experience for their people at home or away from the office.