Improve your Remote workforce experience with Marketing Communications
The COVID-19 pandemic has required many organizations globally to have their employees work remotely where possible. Although this decision was made in response to a crisis, it will have long-term implications. When life eventually returns to normal, fewer people are likely to go back to their offices, as this crisis has made working from home an accepted practice. A recent Gartner survey of HR leaders globally projects an 18 percentage point rise in the number of employees working remotely post-COVID-19. This research note is adapted from Managing the Experience of Remote Workers by Gartner which guides CHROs to maintain work quality and support a remote-friendly culture in their workplace.
To ensure remote workers continue to remain engaged and productive, organizations must effectively manage the remote-worker experience. To do so, Communications leaders should:
• Evolve the organizational culture.
• Foster organizational community.
• Promote remote well-being.
Evolve Organizational Culture
Organizations often attempt to demonstrate their culture in words by defining corporate values, key behaviors and organizational purpose. However, their actual cultures are often a mostly invisible set of norms and rules that affect employee behavior and decision making. Remote workers often interpret this invisible set of norms differently than their office-going counterparts, possibly because they aren’t as aware of the behaviors and values displayed on a daily basis at the office. As a result, organizations that offer remote work should ensure their culture, both seen and felt, accurately reflects their beliefs and pervades the organization.
However, cultivating a remote culture can be quite difficult. Many organizational culture initiatives are rooted in employee interactions and personal connections that occur within the same physical space. As a result, most organizational culture initiatives happen in offices rather than in remote environments. For instance, offices help facilitate culture when cohorts of recruits are interviewed, new hires are trained, co-workers eat lunch, teams celebrate successes — together in the same office space. These spaces are often designed to reflect company culture and/or values and create a cohesive workplace identity; these elements of the physical space are unique to that company and hard to replicate in home-office or remote settings. Additionally, although culture measurement remains the same regardless of work location, an organization’s ability to bring about culture change is curtailed in a remote environment. For example, an organization that wants to cultivate a team-oriented culture will be able to influence employees in their offices more easily than those in remote environments.
According to a July 2021 poll of HR executives, more than 70% expect their organizational culture to change in the “new normal” of remote work. Thus, organizations must begin making small changes to their culture as soon as possible to mitigate the degree of culture change that might be necessary to support remote work in the future — when it is even more common. To do so, leaders must facilitate a mindset shift from a culture that supports remote work to a culture that treats remote work as normal. Leader role modeling — where leaders and managers at all levels understand and demonstrate organizational values — not only mitigates undesirable behaviors but also improves employee engagement and performance. From a remote worker’s perspective, consuming stories of leaders and managers who demonstrate behaviors consistent with their organizations’ cultural values and belief system encourages them and their direct reports to follow suit.
Foster Organizational Community
Remote workers often work out of their homes or a different office space, limiting their interactions with peers and teammates. As a result of this isolation, they may experience feelings of loneliness and doubt. Two out of five remote workers don’t feel connected to their colleagues. Additionally, according to a survey by Vitalsmarts, they are more likely to report feeling colleagues mistreat them and leave them out of conversations. If these problems are not addressed, they can lead to remote employee disengagement and lowered productivity. To counter such feelings, organizations must create a sense of community that supports collaboration between remote and nonremote workers. Three key segments make up a remote worker’s community — leaders, managers and peers. Each of these groups can improve the remote experience.
Promote Remote Well-Being
The lines between work and life are often blurred for remote workers because their homes often double as office spaces. As a result, remote workers may struggle to “switch off” from work. The lack of travel, limited movement and fixed schedules also take a toll on the body of a remote worker. In fact, one of the major downsides of remote work is wellness-related. The International Labor Organization found remote workers commonly experience insomnia and sleep disturbances. Potential reasons include remote workers’ perception that they need to be flexible and contribute more than their office-going peers.
If not addressed, all these issues may adversely affect the personal and professional lives of remote workers. To help remote workers maintain their confidence, some organizations are redesigning their health and wellness campaigns, revamping or launching company fitness challenges, making online workouts available to employees or sharing links to free online resources for workouts. Some organizations have also added resources to improve sleep or nutrition, free or discounted access to physical activity apps, or discounts on healthy food subscription services.
Additionally, a mental health employee resource group can help remote employees with shared interests or backgrounds freely express themselves and offer support to others by providing a forum to talk about mental health issues without fear of being judged. Remote workers often don’t have an avenue to express themselves freely and having such outlets can benefit them greatly.
Although these forums and avenues are a great way to support remote workers’ physical and mental health, other simple measures can be taken by every manager and employee to support their remote-working counterparts. Practical and easy solutions include setting remote-friendly meeting schedules, limiting virtual meetings to 90 minutes and using the delayed send option when sending emails to remote workers outside their scheduled work hours.
As organizations begin to shift to permanent remote work arrangements, Communications leaders have the opportunity to effectively manage their remote employees’ work experience. To do so, they should: