By Jo Sweet, HR Director, Smart Communications
The remote work revolution has resulted in a learning curve for both businesses and employees. These challenges only become more complex when workforces are located in disparate corners of the world. But despite the hurdles, companies must find ways to empower their entire organization so it can achieve the best results possible. Among many challenges, one of the most pressing issues facing companies in 2020 is addressing is how to keep employees engaged, productive and fulfilled now that the majority of workers are fully remote. With that in mind, here are a few areas companies should focus on to successfully navigate the new remote working world and accomplish this goal.
Rely on previous remote experiences
Because our platform was built to help large companies effectively communicate with their customers at tremendous scale, we’d like to think we’re experts when it comes to communication across different channels and formats! Even so, we never thought we’d be working 100% virtually as a company. Yes, we’re well versed in connecting with our global team members with technology vs. face-to-face meetings, but still the transition to a fully remote working infrastructure changes the dynamic in many ways. This can be a hectic transition for employees and human resources teams. In many cases, however, it’s important to remember how your business was already facilitating success with remote work scenarios, even before the current pandemic began. Chances are, this has been happening in big or small ways inside your business, and the leap doesn’t have to be as giant as a result. Inside Smart Communications, many of our U.S.-based team members worked remotely full-time since well before the crisis. They served as great resources to us as we scaled up remote working for the long-term. By asking yourself what has and hasn’t worked in the past for remote workers, company leaders can lay out a solid foundation for the entire organization without getting too overwhelmed.
Culture, culture, culture
In many ways, remote working is a tradeoff for both the company and team members. While remote employees can work without a commute, avoid office distractions and have more flexible schedules, there are still drawbacks. Those “serendipitous” moments of running into someone in the hallway for a spontaneous brainstorm or problem-solving session don’t happen naturally. Therefore, for remote teams, it can be difficult to recreate unplanned in-person interactions or foster the sense of cultural belonging. But it is doable.
By leveraging technology properly, companies can maintain this collaboration and camaraderie. For example, teams can set up dedicated virtual catch-ups and meetings to check in with co-workers and stay connected. In addition to shifting more of our formal in-person meetings to virtual video conferences, we have also developed “Watercooler” chat rooms via Microsoft Teams for Smart Communications employees to continue to share those informal moments and more personal insights—such as how they are using their commute time to maintain a healthy work-life balance, photos of their pets or children as their new office companions or suggestions on the best new shows to binge watch. This type of interaction is so important right now when even our U.S. colleagues—accustomed to being alone in their home offices well before COVID— are feeling more isolated. In addition to our ongoing monthly All Hands video meetings, our Leadership Team also post a weekly vlog to kick start the week, providing more casual updates on what is new with the business. For a remote work environment, continuous communication and celebrating success is particularly important. In addition, we have encouraged managers to support our employee’s personal circumstances as many have had to juggle home life with work life. Actively encouraging work-life balance to ensure that employees feel able to be their true self whilst working at home. We have ensured employees do not feel that they need to apologize for their children or pets occasionally interrupting video calls and wherever possible have allowed employees to modify their working hours to accommodate child-care responsibilities. All these things help to maintain your company’s culture and employee engagement even in remote circumstances.
Allow remote work to inform future decisions
It is important to establish a remote infrastructure that maintains business values and success. However, we should also keep our eyes peeled for lessons that come out of remote working that could lead to better results moving forward.
One positive of a remote culture we’re seeing is that it lends itself to a more relaxed approach to what are still very busy days. We’re finding that when employees are more comfortable in their respective work environments, they are less self-conscious about offering ideas, participating in group discussions, or opening themselves to a freer exchange of thoughts and opinions. We have also found that our conversations with customers (who are also working from home) have become even more productive and rewarding. This is because they now have more time to spend exploring possibilities and diving even deeper into strategy than was possible when people had trains or flights to catch.
Remote working en masse has definitely made this year unique for employees, human resources teams and enterprises more broadly. However, with the right tools, technology and processes, continued innovation and employee success is still possible. It just might look a little different for us right now. Want to be part of our currently remote yet still very much engaged team? Take a look at our open positions.