So many people now are working virtually in order to flatten the coronavirus curve and protect employees’, customers’ and candidates’ health. Without the proper protocols in place, however, these virtually functioning team members are at risk of feeling out of touch and disconnected, impacting morale and overall performance. Here’s how companies can advocate for better collaboration and connection, prevent hiring and organizational silos and spur greater levels of productivity in remote cultures.
Phase One: Establish a Remote Leadership + Communications Hub
1) Form a Leadership Team to Buffer the Shockwave of Change
Forming a leadership team of experienced remote workers is one of the initial, short-term transition solutions to a virtual workforce. Doing so can help buffer the initial shockwave of change, according to Darren Murph, head of remote for GitLab. Specifically, these leaders can “communicate nuances and serve as resources to those (team members) who will inevitably have questions.”
2) Centralize Questions + Conversations, Recognizing the Ongoing Nature of Remote Transition
Murph also recommends launching a single repository – ‘source of truth’ – for pressing questions, which can be housed on a single web page or in Notion or Ask Almanac. Doing so liberates remote team members to seek answers on their own time at any hour versus being dependent on the availability of colleagues or management. This is particularly relevant for home office lifestyles that often consist of late-night, early-morning or weekend activities reliant upon internet resources to facilitate continuous performance.
Start a central blog that enables dialogue around “pragmatic ways to feel and work productive” where employees with kids can share what’s working for them, suggests Angela Genaro Ruilova, Talent Leader and Human Capital Transformation Advisor. “Let’s not pretend everything is going to be fine or like it was last week.” Ruilova shared examples of kids at home doing elearning and the overlap of families in the house using technology and physical space in new and unfamiliar ways.
“Particularly for companies with strong ‘in-house cultures,’ it is vital for leadership to recognize that the remote transition is a process, not a binary switch to be flipped,” says Murph. As such, messaging ongoing iterations and evolvements during these waves of change builds trust and cultivates shared-goal support.
3) Proactively Jump Start the Conversation with These 6 Questions
Beth Castle, in the article, COVID-19: 6 Questions Managers Should Be Asking Employees While Working From Home, suggests managers be more intentional than ever before by asking six questions of your temporarily remote team members in order to remain abreast of (and respond to) organizational challenges:
- Do you have what you need to work from home?
“According to Gallup,71 percent of deskless employees are not actively engaged in the business,” says Eileen Brown, in ZDNet’s How to Better Engage the Remote Worker? There Are Apps for That. This situation may be exacerbated by reduced (or no) access to desktop or laptop company email address, limited or no access to company news and updates, etc.
- Do you need time off or more flexibility?
“At the start of the pandemic in the U.S., project management platform Basecamp gave its employees two additional days off to prepare—to buy groceries, to navigate child care,” according to Castle.
Ruilova suggests parents working remotely may need flexibility to “get up early before the kids and crank out their top priorities (or a piece of it), and that they may need to think about their schedule in blocks of time rather than full-day increments. Perhaps even, they may find that getting work done on the weekends is easier if their spouse or partner is more available then.”
- What ‘life’ work is impacting your ability to do your job right now?
This might include distractions such as kids home from school or two adult family members (spouses, partners, etc.) now sharing the same workspace. Address these issues squarely to assure team members that accidental interruptions are okay, further reinforcing a culture of adaptability and support.
- What would make you feel more supported?
It only makes sense that some personalities—particularly the extroverted types—may feel disengaged and as if they are performing in their own silo. The scheduling of ‘coffee chats’ to maintain a connected feeling is not a waste of time, according to Lindsay Konsko, of entirely remote company Scott’s Cheap Flights. “Work is a social and emotional activity, and it’s important to be productive.”
- Do you want to have a call?
More-frequent check-ins with telecommuters lets them know you are paying attention and reduces their feelings of being a silo-of-one.
- How do you plan to take time for yourself?
Perhaps most important is addressing the potential boundary-less nature of working from home. “Emphasize the importance of your employees setting boundaries and finding something positive to do that is not work related. Model that type of behavior by sharing what you are doing with your team,” suggests Castle.
Phase Two: Create a Collaborative Environment, Using Tools and Technologies
1) Use Project Management, Video and Chat Technologies
Employing collaborative technology will go a long way to minimizing isolation and encouraging interaction among remote workers and their colleagues, candidates and clients.
Bill McCabe, National Manager, Talent Acquisition, Polyglass USA, Inc., recommends “creating a ‘virtual office’ and leveraging a project management suite of products; e.g., MS Teams, Office 365 and SharePoint.”
According to Worksighted, MS Teams’ value is fourfold: 1) It’s easy to use; 2) Everything you need is in one place, including Excel, Word and cloud storage, among other resources; 3) New features are being added every day, including integrations with Excel and apps from Trello, SurveyMonkey, etc.; 4) You can maximize your Microsoft investment because Teams is included in your Office 365 subscription.
As well, Grayscale for candidate communication via text, and video interview portals such as Zoom support both screening and interviews. “You can keep the train rolling; you just need to change the message vehicle, not the message,” encourages McCabe.
Other home-office communication tools include Yammer and Slack. “We find [Yammer] to be a really great place because it’s very asynchronous and people can come and go as they like,” says Carol Cochran, director of people and culture at Flexjobs.
Slack describes their technology as an alternative to email where “conversations happen in channels — organized by topic, project, team, or whatever makes sense for your company.” Check out our 7 top Slack tips for recruiters for help on how to leverage Slack in your talent strategy.
In addition to instant messaging and chat features, McCabe also suggests using video whenever possible to bridge the gap. Meeting and chat technologies like Zoom are adaptable to the devices an organization already has in place and Zoom includes a free account allowing up to 40 minutes and 100 participants per meeting. Moreover, a 50% week-over-week spike in interviews booked via Lever’s Zoom Integration occurred as many customers shifted to remote work, in response to COVID-19.
2) Leverage Mobile Apps to Deepen Engagement + Create 24/7 Access
Less than 2 percent of enterprise organizations take advantage of mobile platforms to communicate with employees, according to Brown.
And, according to Geraldine Osman, CMO, StaffConnect (in the aforementioned ZDNet article), this metric needs to change. “To effectively drive engagement across the organization, businesses need to implement mobile-enabled apps that are capable of reaching every employee and delivering an engaging user experience.” Not only does this spark engagement, but it also enables employees to be in-touch with company information 24/7, whether at their desk or away from it.
Moreover, the opportunities to rev up employee engagement and productivity via mobile are seemingly endless. More than 50+ remote work apps can be found on DigitalNomad, including Jing (screen recording software), Join.me (meeting hosting tool), OfficeVibe (collaboration platform), Quip (productivity software) and many more.
Final Thoughts: Rapidly prioritizing solutions in the new reality of a COVID-19 pandemic, Lever has released an expanded offering for remote interviewing in partnership with Zoom. According to Lever Founder and CEO, Sarah Nahm, they’re making those features available at no charge to all users of Lever through May 31, 2020. Any organization looking to enable remote interviewing with Lever + Zoom, can get in touch here.