Implementing a Successful Enterprise WFH Policy
As employee experience (EX) continues to become more important to hiring managers, so does the necessity for organizations to explore new policies that ensure they attract the best and brightest that the market has to offer. One enterprise policy that is now particularly popular is developing a work from home culture; usually, starting small, like on-boarding just a few at-home employees, and then growing the initiative if it works.
As the revolution continues to propagate, so does the opportunity to learn how to create a WFH strategy that’s streamlined for what best suits an individual business. But before we get to that, let’s first, look at the state of remote work, as a whole, right now. Via FlexJobs,
“According to the “2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce” report, remote work exceeds public transportation as the commute option of choice in more than half of the top U.S. metro areas. And remote work has grown far faster than any other commute mode. As of 2017, 43% of U.S. workers now work remotely at least occasionally, up from only, at the most, 9% of workers in 2007.”
And as the numbers continue to climb, it’s surprising to see who has already jumped in. The article names many well-known companies that hire remotely including, Amazon, Dell, Intuit, Williams-Sonoma, Aetna, Xerox, and Toyota. What’s more, the variety of institutions span many more verticals than you’d imagine,
“Five of the fastest-growing remote career categories are therapy, virtual administration, client services, tutoring, and state and local government. While a wide variety of jobs can be done from home, the 20 most common telecommuting job titles include teacher, writer, developer, analyst, sales representative, nurse, accountant, and program manager.”
If you’ve decided that the practice is a great opportunity for you to grow your organization in a new and exciting direction, that’s awesome. As you continue down this brand-new road, however, there are a few things you should consider carefully. There are many questions to keep in mind—like, how do organizations create a rich corporate identity without everyone being in the same location every day?
For companies that are new to out of office employees, these tips will put you on the right track; setting you up for success. If you’re already enlisting the practice with your team, be sure that you’re covering all of your bases to guarantee the most beneficial results with this plan. Although there are unique attributes to the practice in each individual organization, there are several easy-to-implement solutions that are a one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to developing a remote work proposal.
Make In-Person Meetings a Must.
For a team to become cohesive, it’s important to spend enough time together in-person. Creating comprehensive employee events at least once a year should be a top priority. Because so much of remote work relies on secondary forms of communication, getting to know counterpoints in real life allows everyone to learn together, relate and grow on more personal levels. When employees feel comfortable with their coworkers, they’ll work better together, regardless of their physical location.
Hubstaff shares a few examples including,
“Jay Baer of Convince and Convert brings his team together annually for a strategic planning meeting. They spend two days working and two days hanging out and getting to know each other. Zapier brings their distributed team together for regular team retreats where cooking, games, and lots of other team-building activities are involved.”
Although new technologies provide the chance for a team to be in constant contact, it’s notoriously difficult to decipher the nuances of conversation when not communicating face-to-face. It’s naturally easy to misunderstand what someone is saying unless you’re familiar with their personality—spending time with them will build the confidence in best interpreting all different dialogues with colleagues when working virtually.
Construct Your Manifesto.
Begin by taking ideas from your traditional corporate standards and streamline the procedures for the new policy. Concretely detailing the attributes of a quality corporate culture is imperative for happy employees within an organization. It’s especially vital for setting a common standard for a remote team. Some institutions keep it super simple, like this Inc. example that includes only seven words.
Gitlab, conversely, who has worked tirelessly to set a stellar standard for how remote work can be done most efficiently, has an entire handbook, over 500 pages, that documents the exact policies and procedures for their own WFH culture.
Congruently, Gitlab’s mission for collaboration by creating an “opensource software development tool” ties in seamlessly with the way they look at their corporate culture as well, managing 160 employees in 160 locations throughout thirty-seven different countries all around the world successfully. Be sure to uncover their advice in this insightful conversation with Y Combinator.
Whichever works best for your business, ideating and implementing a written plan that everyone understands and signs off on will make it easier for management to stay on top keeping a remote team on their best game.
Test Varying Levels of Communication.
Being social in a remote environment is markedly different than a traditional office setting. The idea of ‘overcommunicating’ is sometimes utilized to ensure that everyone feels like they’re on the same page, but there is a fine line between what’s being ultra-communicative and what’s just too much chatter.
And, too, when we get overly caught up in constant communication, we start to second-guess ourselves with trivial assumptions, as HBR notes for example,“
“Remote communication can distort the normal pace of our conversations. The delay between our messages can often postpone or hide emotional reactions to our comments. How many times have you written an email and, immediately after hitting send, felt concerned about how it would land? Would your boss see your late-night email and consider it to be an intrusion on her private time? Would she tell you if it was? While we may have become used to these types of asynchronous interactions, they can still conflict with our normal rules for social interaction. Lacking an immediate response, we can become distracted, second-guess ourselves, or even grow frustrated with our teams.”
Your team is smart; that’s why you hired them, right? They’ll discern what level of communication is comfortable—and you should first try to trust them to do so independently.
As we mentioned above, finding the balance between too much and too little communication with employees is ultra-important to create a well-rounded team. Next comes streamlining the flow of work—including discovering new ways corporations are looking at the overall concept of the ‘9-5’ mentality.
“For many businesses, the advantages of results-only work environments seem to outweigh the disadvantages. Employers everywhere are constantly looking for ways to attract and retain top employees – without having to pay for large wage increases or expensive benefit plans. A great way to do that? Providing a completely flexible, completely results-based work environment.”
Although it may seem a bit extreme for some entities, it does lead to positive results when implemented correctly according to well-regarded resources like Workplace Psychology. And as GitLab explains,
“Arguably the biggest advantage of working remotely and asynchronously is the flexibility it provides. This makes it easy to combine work with your personal life although it might be difficult to find the right balance. This can be mitigated by either explicitly planning your time off or plan when you do work. When you don’t work it is recommended to make yourself unavailable by turning off Slack and closing down your email client. Coworkers should allow this to work by abiding by the communication guidelines.”
Procure the Right Technology Solutions.
According to Forbes, the right tech solutions have the ability to make or break the team.
“The digital transformation brought us mobility—including the tools we need to do it well. As a leader, it’s important for you to “walk the walk” and take time to use new technology like telepresence robots, chat apps, video conference, and other unified communication channels to get your team on board with communicating this way in their daily lives. After all, that’s what it’s there for. And a strong tech leader needs to model the culture they’re trying to create.”
It’s imperative to have a balanced mix of work and play, technologically, too. If you’re implementing using Slack or the like, companies should also encourage their employees to make the most of the application. Engaging in a little goofing off once in a while procures an atmosphere that encourages the same type of interoffice-esque sociality that makes a team feels more connected to each other when they’re in the same space.
Treat Everyone Equally.
Sometimes, remote employees can feel like second-class citizens.
The Society for Human Resource Management interviewed Claire Bissot, the managing director of HR services for CBIZ, “a management consulting firm headquartered in Cleveland that has more than 100 offices and 4,000 associates nationwide,” to discuss how remote workers can be treated more fairly amongst those that work in the office.
When discussing the availability for career advancement they note, “her company is evidence that remote worker status does not necessarily impede career advancement,” and Bissot continues,
“I don’t think you have to be physically present for people to understand the impact you’re making in a business,”… [High] performance will rule out any negative thoughts about telecommuting. [But] if they can’t see your progress or you’re not taking the opportunity to communicate it, then people may assume that lack of presence equals lack of skill or performance.”
It will only get easier from here for enterprise organizations to create the best solutions for teams who work well together wherever they are, transcending beyond physical proximity; more focused on employing the best talent that will stick with the organization long term—creating the dream team. As Growth Everywhere notes,
“Your employees are the core of your organization, which is why it’s crucial that you choose people that are capable of doing the job properly – whether they’re doing it from your office or their homes.”
Savvy hiring managers recognize the importance of procuring progressive strategies to create a stellar workforce; one that develops into a robust corporate culture overall. And those not quite ready to take the plunge into remote employment could benefit from examining the ramifications of missing the boat. The future of employment is now; is your organization ready for the shift?
Originally featured on Opensourced Workplace