Connecting the Dots Between Culture and Remote Workers
Attracting and retaining talent is harder than ever, especially with the average employee tenure declining over time. One of the best ways companies can stay competitive is by investing in their employees. And, investing in employees doesn’t necessarily mean having the latest and greatest gadgets — it’s listening to your staff’s needs and investing in their happiness, well-being and productivity.
One highly desired company perk is having flexible work arrangements. According to the Millennial Majority Workforce Study, 56 percent of millennials value flexible working locations. Even more, in a recent study conducted by Harvard Business Review, work-from-home options ranked the fourth most popular benefit when deciding between a high-paying job and a lower-paying job with more perks. In fact, 80 percent said it would be taken into heavy or some consideration when making their final decision.
While flexible work arrangements have proven to be highly sought after by job seekers, they can be difficult for managers and HR leaders to integrate due to the concerns of employees becoming disconnected, slacking off or doing non work-related tasks.
From full-time remote to once a month, or one day a week, there are various ways to create productive work-from-home situations. We spoke with both a company that offers this employee perk and a marketing manager who receives this benefit to understand differing perspectives.
From two perspectives
“We decided to offer flexible work arrangements after receiving requests from a few team members and studying workplace satisfaction, on my part, from multiple sources,” comments Andy Sperry, vice president of marketing for Magazines.com. From a team leader perspective, “All roads pointed to ‘no harm’ in offering it, and a likely budget-neutral perk for team members,” he adds.
“The reaction to flexible work arrangements has been very positive,” says Sperry. “The team was pleased and ready to take advantage of the offering.”
Amanda Lindberg, marketing manager at an Appleton warehousing and transportation management company, has been receiving work-from-home benefits for the past three years. She says, “I was working for my company and a relocation didn’t allow me to drive into the office every day, so they asked if I would be able to work from home … I liked my job, so I decided to give it a try.”
Lindberg makes the commute approximately two days a week from Milwaukee to her office in Appleton. She comments that having at least one routine day in the office helps her team accommodate meetings and events. Her other in-office day varies based on workload, events and the need for in-person meetings.
After recently permitting flexible work arrangements, Sperry comments that his team members currently work from home once a month. He stresses the importance of setting expectations for flexible work arrangements and adds, “We expect everyone who works from home to keep the same schedule as if they were in the office. We utilize video conferences for meetings, as well as email and chat options, such as Slack, for regular communication.”
Being available to others while working from home is key to success since face-to-face conversations happen infrequently. Whether utilizing an instant messaging program or communicating by email or phone, responding instantaneously or in a timely fashion makes working in different locations easier.
From a management perspective, it is important to hold all employees to the same level of expectations and provide the same opportunities to take on projects, whether they are working remote or in the office daily. The marketing team at Magazine.com’s flexible work arrangement philosophy is that “working from home doesn’t mean ‘day off’ — it just means ‘different seat’.”
“The biggest challenge I have, still to this day, is conference call meetings,” Lindberg states. “Body language and facial expressions are really important in meetings, and I am typically on the phone. To overcome this, I really just try to focus on the conversation. Sometimes I might have to say something that unintentionally cuts someone off, but I have to since I don’t have the luxury of seeing those cues.”
“Prior to the meeting, I make sure to ask the meeting organizer if there are any visuals,” she adds. “I typically set up screen sharing and don’t expect others to do that for me. In order to be successful working from home, I need to be proactive myself.”
Lindberg emphasizes that the key to working from home is staying engaged in meetings and making sure your expertise and opinions are heard. Her team also helps accommodate her by jumping in and asking for her opinion so that her voice is not lost.
With over three years of work-from-home experience, Lindberg offers the following advice to employees and employers:
“If someone works from home, try not to cram their ‘office days’ with meetings. Allow them some time to informally build relationships with their co-workers outside of a rigid meeting environment,” she says. “Also, try to plan employee get-togethers a few times a year outside of work, even if it’s just with the immediate team. This helps build on relationships and further integrate the company’s culture.”
Lastly, for employees who receive this benefit, Lindberg mentions that attending her company’s goal setting and communication meetings in-person is critical to her understanding the company’s annual objectives.
Before embarking on a work-from-home plan in your organization, set your team up for success by strategizing and pre-determining potential roadblocks so you can offer organized solutions from the start, and brainstorm creative ways to help integrate culture.
Bridging organizational culture gaps
Don’t let “out of sight, out of mind” be a phrase used in your organization. We’ve compiled four ideas to incorporate culture and goals into your remote employee’s routine.
1. Provide communication tools
Arm your remote workers with communication tools that can help them stay connected.
2. Promote regular check-ins
Encourage leaders to schedule regular check-ins with their remote employees to set priorities and understand progress. When possible, promote the use of video chat to increase “face-to-face” engagement.
3. Build informal monthly newsletters
Keep remote employees connected with a monthly informal newsletter. It could be company-wide or department-based depending on the size of your organization. Share anything from birthdays to memorable moments, or feature an employee of the month to allow coworkers to learn more about each other. By asking easy-going questions like, “What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?” or “If you were a crayon, what color would you be?” you can strengthen team relationships and discussions.
4. Create peer mentorship programs
Offer annual mentorship programs between employees to boost cross-functional collaboration. Mentoring programs in the workplace help individuals strengthen relationships and work more cohesively as teams.
By connecting individual contributors from different departments together, remote workers may feel more comfortable reaching outside of their team. At the same time, you’ll be training mentors for potential management positions and offering new growth opportunities.
The value of your company benefits
While 88 percent of HBR survey respondents noted that better health, dental and vision insurance would be taken into deep consideration when making their decision about a job, in the end, it’s the total benefit package that influences candidates. Discuss ways to incorporate flexible work arrangements into your benefit packages to offer additional options that suit your staff’s needs.
If your company is currently re-evaluating its health plan, ask your insurance agent about options from HR-Playbook’s sponsor, Security Health Plan of Wisconsin, Inc. Based in Marshfield, they provide competitive employer coverage in Central, Northern and Western Wisconsin as well as the Fox Valley region, including Green Bay and Appleton. Contact Security Health Plan today or call 1–800–622–7790 to learn more.