COVID-19 has shifted the way we work, with many employees transitioning to working from home. This presents a new set of challenges for employers, as they need to keep employees engaged with a sense of culture, and, when hiring needs arise, communicate that culture through a virtual lens.
Employers have a unique opportunity to rethink their workplace through the lens of a remote worker. What are the best tools to drive employee collaboration? How can they engage employees and keep them motivated through a virtual office environment and culture? How can they meet the needs and demands of this new normal filled with children and home-based distractions? FormAssembly recently interviewed more than 100 employees across industries to better understand how attitudes surrounding remote work have shifted. Based on that research, here are four things to consider when looking to hire and retain employees in a remote work environment.
1. Demonstrate a Remote Work Culture
Any successful remote work culture depends on a balance between work and play. The FormAssembly survey, entitled “The State of Remote Work 2020,” reports that 91 percent of respondents said their workplaces cultivate strong company culture remotely through virtual activities such as coffee talks, happy hours, and other virtual opportunities including art lessons or baking. Respondents also shared common practices, such as exercise, yoga, and meditation, that they use to promote mental health while working remotely.
When working remotely, companies need to ensure their employees have a sense of community, company culture, and improved mental health. By instituting a remote culture and virtual social and educational activities, organizations are showing their employees they care about their mental well-being and success, not just as an employee but as a person. For example, some organizations build their remote work culture through methods such as birthday celebrations, “bring your pet” happy hours, and inviting guest speakers.
Since FormAssembly has been a remote company since 2006, we’ve also recognized the importance of having such activities to keep employees engaged, especially during the pandemic. For example, we recently held a “Week of 100” event, celebrating the hiring of our 100th team member. We had 10 different activities and encouraged each team member to work together to collectively reach the goal of hitting 100 in each category, whether it was planting, baking, running, reading, or another activity. The team kept each other updated with progress and achievements by posting pictures, making videos, or giving reviews. Each team member got involved, and we also gave out prizes to three team members who really embodied the FormAssembly team and its culture.
This wide-scale effort showed us the creativity of our team, whether it was expressed through art, baking, recreating our logo with cake, or building a custom FormAssembly wood sculpture. This kind of creativity and involvement would not have been possible if we didn’t already have an existing company culture and camaraderie.
If your company hasn’t already started hosting virtual events for employees, you can start by having virtual versions of what were once in-person activities, such as happy hours, game nights, or holiday celebrations. Showing future and existing employees that you care about them will allow them to feel a sense of belonging and purpose, which will drive them to want to continue to do their best work for your company.
2. Offer Flexibility on Work Location and Hours
Not everyone does their best work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. According to FormAssembly’s remote work survey, this only applies to 45 percent of employees. Other findings from the survey showed that 31 percent are most productive from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 11 percent from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. By giving your team members the opportunity to work on their own schedule, you are empowering them while cultivating company culture and a sense of trust.
3. Provide Effective Collaboration Tools
Communication is necessary in any company, but in a remote environment, communication is critical for success. By overcommunicating with employees, you’re creating a collaborative environment where you and your team can hold each other accountable, whether it’s checking in on the status of a project or letting others know when you’re taking a break. According to the survey, some of the most popular collaboration tools that teams use to stay in touch are Zoom (44 percent), Slack (33 percent), and Microsoft Teams (24 percent). Whatever tools your company uses, they must be effective in creating a sense of collaboration, which is essential in a remote work environment.
Communication also is needed for establishing friendships and strengthening teambuilding at work. Make sure your teams are staying connected, whether through chat channels such as Slack for updates on personal life, virtual coffee breaks via video, or other conversation tools. In fact, according to the survey, 54 percent of respondents said they prefer video meetings over face-to-face communication, which is ideal in a time that cohorts must stay socially distanced. Additionally, 81 percent of respondents said they spend one to three hours on video calls and meetings while working remotely, which further emphasizes the need for good quality video tools and chat software. By utilizing these collaboration tools, employees are contributing to the overall remote work culture, making their company a more coveted workplace for outside job seekers.
4. Offer a Hybrid Working Model
According to the survey, 60 percent of those surveyed indicated they wanted to continue to work remotely full time even after work-from-home mandates lift, while only 27 percent of respondents said they wanted to continue to work remotely at least part time.
This shows us that most workers are open to and comfortable with the idea of remote work, and employers should continue to encourage it even after the pandemic. Companies should continue to be flexible, giving employees the option to work where they are most comfortable, whether that is in office, at home, or a combination of both. This flexibility is not only appreciated by employed team members, but also by those looking to be hired by your company. Flexibility will set you apart from other companies that may not be as willing to have dispersed teams.
A thriving remote work culture is one of the most important benefits companies can offer right now during the remote work era. This is important to not only current employees, but also for outside job seekers looking for new and exciting work opportunities during and after the pandemic. Once companies learn how to drive a successful remote culture through communication and collaboration tools, engaging activities, and hybrid working opportunities, they will be able to not only effectively retain their current employees but also attract new ones.
Joey Owens-Barham joined the FormAssembly team in spring 2019. FormAssembly is an easy-to-use, yet powerful Web form and data collection platform built to help organizations streamline processes and drive business results across multiple industries and use cases. Organizations and brands rely on FormAssembly’s highly rated platform, excellent customer service, and uncompromising stance on security and compliance. Owens-Barham’s goal is to ensure that FormAssembly grows and scales in a strategic way that keeps all that its employees love about the company and their careers active and present. He brings to FormAssembly a diverse career of more than 10 years in Human Resources from working with talented teams of various sizes across a wide variety of industries (including Silicon Valley Tech, marketing firms, and government agencies). Prior to joining FormAssembly, Owens-Barham most recently worked with Tinuiti (formerly Elite SEM), the Game Show Network (GSN), and Glu Mobile.