Welcome to The Work from Home Place, where we’re hot on the trail of what makes great remote-workplace cultures tick, and what we can all do to make ones we work in better. I’m Andrew Scarcella. On this mini-ep, we’re working from home.
Hello, neighbor. I’m glad to be with you. Like many of us, perhaps most of us, I’m working from home for the next few who knows? That means I’m not in my usual cozy recording studio—I’m in my closet with a less than optimal setup that sounds a little different. But maybe that’s good, ‘cause things ARE a little different. Not least of all, workplace culture.
Now, working from home was already on the rise long before the current crisis. Looking to the federal reserve, always a good place to go for macro-data, in the last 15 years the portion of the labor force that works from home has tripled. In 2016, 3 point 4 percent of the total workers in the U.S. were fully remote. Do a little math and that’s, wow, almost 7 million people regularly working from home. Four years later, you can bet that number is several million more.
And it’s about to be higher than it’s ever been before. Way higher. There aren’t any official numbers yet, but there are some unofficial, self-reported numbers available, thanks to a survey by teamblind.com. As expected, the tech industry is leading the charge, with 29% of companies mandating all their employees work from home. E-commerce and retail are in second with 25%, with finance in third at 21%. And it falls off from there. This is a relatively small sample size, with 903 responses so far from just under 500 companies, but it’s still helpful for understanding just how widespread this is.
With all that in mind, it’s important to note that workplace culture doesn’t need an office. There are plenty of fully remote companies that have thriving, intentional cultures without having a centralized workforce. If you’re working from home, even in the midst of a crisis, there are plenty of ways to keep your culture positive, focused, and healthy.
In fact, there are lots and LOTS of ways. So for now, we’ll keep it to the top five tips for helping your culture thrive even when everyone’s hidden away in their homes.
1. Make sure everyone has the tools they need.
And make sure the tools work. One of the most common complaints on almost every employee satisfaction survey is inadequate equipment. Aging laptops, slow or over-taxed internet connections, glitchy VPNs, and sub-optimal video conferencing apps can take a huge toll on productivity—and sanity. Few things are more frustrating than being unequipped or under-equipped to do a job. You can start by letting your teams know which tools are already available. Then, ask them what they’re missing. Whatever the additional investment might be, it’s unlikely it’ll cost more than the productivity lost from not having the right tools for the job.
2. Set clear expectations.
If the practice of working at home is new to your people, be specific about what you expect of them now that they’re not in the office. Get together with other leaders and make sure you’re all on the same page about work from home policies—even if they’re tentative. Will your teams keep the same hours? Will there be any regular calls or video conferences? How often should people check in with their leaders, or expect their leader to check in with them? Even in times of crisis, everybody still wants to contribute. But if they don’t know the rules, how are they going to play?
3. Communicate more frequently than usual.
Without clear communication, people make assumptions, imaginations run wild, rumors spread, and things can get out of control pretty fast. So start talking. Even if it seems excessive at first, daily, company-wide emails can keep everyone calm and connected. Weekly townhall-style video conferences are also a good way to get everyone on the same page. As long as you keep your communication honest, open, and never, ever sugar coated, you can’t go wrong.
4. Maintain your one-to-ones.
Even if you can’t be face-to-face, you can still be one-to-one with your team members. Virtual meetings can still have the same positive effects as in-person ones, so get on your Zoom, your Skype, your what have you, and talk to your people, one on one. And like every remote meeting, leave your video on. Facial expressions and eye contact make empathy easy and misunderstandings difficult. The key, as always, is keeping it real and making the experience meaningful. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability or share your own emotions. We’re all human, right?
5. Recognize people for their contributions.
A recent survey of healthcare workers during the first stages of the COVID-19 outbreak found acts of recognition had an outsized impact. Trust in leaders increased by 48%, fear in the workplace decreased by 59%, and engagement soared by 67%. Finally, some optimistic statistics.
Crisis or no crisis, it’s important to remember that recognition and appreciation are just as impactful when you’re working remotely. Maybe more so. Expressing gratitude isn’t just about motivating people, it’s about connecting them to their purpose and helping them feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. And don’t just recognize your direct reports, recognize your peers and your superiors, too. We could all use a few extra kind words these days.
That’s it for this mini-ep of The Work Place. This episode was written by yours truly with original music and sound design by Daniel Foster Smith.
Before we go, I’d just like to ask: how are you doing? What’s going on with your workplace culture? Are you feeling isolated or more connected than ever? Is your team working remotely, or are you furloughed until further notice? Write us an email at email@example.com and tell us what’s happening in your neck of the woods. Things aren’t as scary when we share with each other.
The Work Place is sponsored by O.C. Tanner, the global leader in engaging workplace cultures. O.C. Tanner’s Culture Cloud™️ provides a single, modular suite of apps for influencing and improving employee experiences through recognition, career anniversaries, wellbeing, leadership, and more.
For more tips on developing a positive and productive workplace culture, take a look at our Company Culture Glossary.
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