In 2020 did you go remote?
What were the consequences? How did your employees and company perform during that time?
Well, many saw an uptick in revenue and employee satisfaction.
But that didn’t solve the crisis occurring inside the heads of HR leaders and company executives. The employee experience was completely up in the air.
The giant virtual tidal wave came with a new set of challenges and flipped the employee experience on its head.
So the question is…
As a talent leader yourself, how can you make sure you’re still a magnet for great talent and taking care of that talent while they work for your company – especially when you don’t see them everyday?
A comparison of the in-person & remote employee experience
Let’s compare the pros and cons of the traditional work experience (Isn’t it wild that an office setting is now considered “traditional”? Sorry, back to the essay.) and the new remote-first one.
In-person employee experience
- Benefits — Ah, the pleasures of seeing your colleagues each and every day. In-person work allows you to interact and collaborate face-to-face with your employees. Communication through technology made things difficult. So much is up for interpretation and weird, intangible boundaries exist. In-person? It’s so much easier to read body language and truly understand how others feel. Making the employee experience much easier to design.
- Drawbacks — Ew, the displeasure of seeing your colleagues each and every day 🤣 If you don’t like your job or those you work with, the in-person experience can be … dreadful. Plus, in-person collaboration is time-consuming. That long commute and the lack of flexibility? Yeah, I function better at home anyway. But as far as the employee experience goes, it can be difficult to manage an in-person culture. Moving parts everywhere.
Remote employee experience
- Benefits — Remote employees love remote work. That’s abundantly clear. They get greater flexibility and work-life balance in exchange for no commute or physical interactions with their teammates. To a lot of people (especially in tech), that’s a net positive.
- Drawbacks — Well, historically speaking, we’ve never encountered this challenge before. So there’s little evidence to show that what we’re doing helps in the long-run. Employees are more lonely than ever before. Connection is difficult. Text-based communications and messages are so much more difficult to interpret than in-person conversation. The challenges seem endless.
But above all, a lot of employees prefer remote work – or at least a hybrid model where they have the flexibility to work in an office some days and at home other days.
And depending on your industry, some companies are more open to a virtual employee experience than others.
This much is clear – Virtual setups aren’t going anywhere.
So if you’re balancing between the two or if you’ve already gone fully-distributed, here are 5 ways we’ve seen Fortune 500 and small companies alike optimize for their virtual culture.
5 ways to optimize for a remote-first employee experience
1. Communication & collaboration
As I noted, remote communication is the first thing that comes to mind when people leaders think of the consequences of a virtual employee experience.
American workers spend 45% of their time working collaboratively. So clear, frequent and effective communication is mission critical for in-person and remote teams.
With the right tools and expectations, remote teams can be just as productive as in-person teams.
Let’s look at a global, fully-distributed tech company.
From the foundation of the company, remote work was ingrained in their culture. But they know some in-person interaction is irreplaceable. Zoom can’t solve that.
So they invest in tools like Slack and Miro to make sure virtual collaboration works for them. Plus, they host quarterly in-person meetups so employees can meet each other and form connections outside of apps and digital forums.
2. Culture, connection & engagement
Companies with highly engaged employees are 21% more profitable than those with laggard engagement. As a talent leader, you know how important connecting your employees to your company’s success is.
The biggest challenge for remote workers is isolation. So companies that prioritize culture, connection and engagement will have a significant impact on employee satisfaction.
Take the example of a remote marketing agency.
When a new employee joins the team, the company hosts a virtual get-together to introduce them to the brand, the culture and their new coworkers.
Then they get the chance to speak with department heads and know the company and individuals on a much deeper level.
Team building activities, such as online trivia games and virtual happy hours, create a sense of belonging too.
The agency also requires managers and team leaders to mentor employees.
An open and transparent culture, where employees felt comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas, is critical.
3. Training & development
Research found that HR teams waste 85% of training budgets. Yikes!
At the top of every employees’ list is personal and professional development. So how can you help them achieve their goals?
Remote work can make training a bit more challenging. But with the right resources, remote workers can still receive the support they need to grow.
Meet Sally, the graphic designer.
In-person workshops and training sessions are difficult for her because she takes care of her family during the day.
But her remote-first company was saving so much money on office space and snacks (don’t get me started) that they offered her a personal development stipend to spend on whatever she wanted.
So Sally took an on-demand course at her own pace. Plus, she found online learning to be way more effective because she also takes care of her family.
Sally levels up in her graphic design work, and her company reaps the benefits – and saves money.
4. Wellness & work-life balance
60% of employees say their well-being makes them stay longer at a company. Use this correlation to your advantage!
Promoting wellness with remote employees is slightly more difficult than when you’re in-person with them. Remote work blurs the line between work and personal lives.
But the chance you’ll retain them longer should motivate you to get creative.
Here are some examples of how companies have promoted well-being and work-life balance:
- Help employees eat well by educating them on healthy diets and foods
- Give employees a stipend to spend on gym memberships or at-home equipment
- Give employees access to mental health resources like meditation, breathwork or yoga
A healthy, happy employees makes for a more productive team too.
5. Technology & tools
What if I told you your team’s productivity will increase by 20-25% if you use the right tools?
This is a high ROI activity: Make sure your team has the right tools in place to be as productive and efficient as possible. Here are some ideas:
- Whiteboarding app
- Communication hub
- Virtual meeting platform
- Project management tool
- Document and file storage
But be careful, too many tools and you’ll start to confuse your team. And after months or years using the wrong tools, it’s tough to reinvent the wheel and start all over.
So invest heavily in the research and onboarding phases of technology hunting.
So yes, the employee experience doesn’t have to be in-person to be great. We’ve seen time and time gain companies excel remotely. Even across timezones and international borders.
Want to make sure you retain your key employees and design an EX fit for kings and queens?