Unless your organization was founded within the last 18 months, you likely didn’t set out to hire, collaborate, and operate 100% virtually. Trust that productivity and well-being are achievable for your remote workforce.
The shift to managing remote workers is sort of like when your kid leaves for college. One day they’re under your supervision, and practically overnight, your only communication comes through a screen. You don’t know if they’re showing up on time, and you’re hesitant to micromanage for fear it’ll prevent growth. Eventually you realize they can be trusted without being in the same room.
This same lens could be applied to leading a remote team. You’re interviewing and working with several people across just as many time zones. You’ve seen more babies and cats on camera than all of YouTube has to offer. The way you welcome – and prioritize – the needs of each employee’s remote working style can build a space for more meaningful interactions. By hiring and collaborating around the individual, you can set a foundation for trust, autonomy, and productivity across the entire company. Let’s talk about three ways you can set this foundation, and act on it by 2022.
Align your values, not your time zones.
Employers and job seekers are no longer limited to the location filter on LinkedIn. Now you can find more capable candidates in more parts of the world. Our goal at BASIC® is to hire people who are best in class, not just the best in San Diego, St. Louis, or Mountain View. Last year, BASIC® became part of Dept, Europe’s leading digital agency. Together we’re able to access and provide opportunities across a global network. Within the U.S., we have full-time employees in over 35 states. Apart from major meetings or reviews, they’re encouraged to work within the time zone they live in.
Value-based hiring isn’t only reserved for large companies. One of our own Senior Copywriters created a side business during the pandemic: a completely virtual internship program for entry-level talent. In one year without an office, The Inturnship has helped over 75 “Inturns” across 13 states (plus Canada), and created quality work for businesses in 5 different time zones. No matter the size of your organization, it’s possible to make a plan that fits your values, and allow your people the flexibility to own their time.
Practice and preach balance.
Since office walls turned virtual, more people have found comfort in talking about mental health, and balance is becoming a priority. We’ve seen more LinkedIn posts about imposter syndrome. About equal pay. About being a working parent. About intersectional identities. Here we are two years in, and many of us are finally feeling like we are truly working from home rather than living at work.
Honest communication and employer validation makes this possible. There is a certain level of boundary-setting that falls on each person. Once their needs are communicated, though, it’s up to the leadership team to respond. Encourage “no-meeting” blocks. Schedule group lunches. Plan to start meetings a few minutes late for water or bathroom breaks. Just like a kid leaving for college, your employees can be trusted from afar.
Make time for IRL interactions.
It’s worth noting that many people – extroverts, introverts, and ambiverts alike – are missing face-to-face interaction. They are ready to resume in-person brainstorms, desk check-ins, high-five greetings, and late-night food deliveries. It creates a bond that entry-level employees and new coworkers aren’t getting to experience. Candidates and employees continue to crave a solid company culture. Monthly department meetups and virtual happy hours help contribute to the collective sanity of remote workers, but there is something missing when you toast with a glass of rosé, only to ‘clink’ it against your webcam.
This is what makes real-life gatherings so important. With employees working from anywhere, BASIC® is finding safe ways to go hybrid. We’re encouraging work hubs for coworkers in close proximity, and an open door policy with careful mandates for those who live near our offices. With Dept, we introduced our first hybrid company outing in November, with festival hubs in New York, Amsterdam, London, and Mar del Plata. People we’ve only seen through a 13-inch screen or a Google Meet avatar finally became real. Coworkers from all over the world were able to make new friends and memories. At the end of the day, bringing people together is what this industry is all about.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to ensuring your remote employees are staying motivated, healthy, and productive. It takes a ton of personal conversations, transparency, and company-wide surveys. Also, an entire task force of caring individuals doesn’t hurt. Lucky for us, there’s no shortage of that within the virtual walls of BASIC® (part of Dept). A proper return to normality may never exist, but the new normal depends on all of us to create it.