This is one in a series of blogs based on SAFE Credit Union experts’ appearances on ABC 10's Your California Life. Chief Human Resources Officer Colleen Nerius shares her insights on how employers and employees can make remove work environments benefit everyone. Watch her interview here.
There’s a fundamental shift happening in workplaces across the country. Employers and employees are coming to see that remote work will continue for some time and may become a permanent option for some companies. And employees say they like working from home. Various surveys show as many as 40% to 90% of employees polled said they want to continue to work from home even after the pandemic is over.
To make it work so companies and employees both benefit, it comes down to several core basics: a company’s culture, trust, flexibility, strong communication, and sharing the why.
It’s up to your company’s culture and business needs whether permanent remote work policies will work for you. Some may create a hybrid model where employees come in one or a few days a week. You read about a lot of CEOs eager to bring people back into the office to get those water-cooler connections going again, to promote the collaboration and creativity that comes from working together in one place. But other corporate leaders are embracing this new normal.
And for companies like SAFE Credit Union where our back office employees can work remotely but our branch employees show up every day to serve our members in person, you need to ensure an equitable approach so all employees are treated fairly.
Provide benefits that truly help them. We recently changed our “sick time” to “wellness time” so our staff members feel empowered to take time off to take care of their mental health or to rejuvenate. Employee assistance programs can help employees when life can be overwhelming. Create a culture of listening, caring, empathy, and understanding.
Trust one another
Employers need to trust that employees can do the work they were hired to do. And employees need to trust that their managers support them. This means ensuring employees have the training, tools, and feedback they need to succeed.
In a remote work environment, managers should be encouraged to change their focus to outcomes rather than activity. That means gauging work based on completing projects and tasks well and on time, not the specific hours spent in front of a computer.
Strong communication channels will help teams build that trust. Daily check-ins, multiple ways to communicate, and guidelines on what channels to use for specific circumstances are essential for success.
Employees have proved they can be trusted to get the work done in a remote setting with more flexible schedules. And they love that flexibility to have more control over their daily lives. This helps them create a healthy work-life balance and increases employee morale.
A lot of employees want to choose when they come into the workplace now. Maybe it’s for a big meeting, a training, or a celebration. They want to be the one to decide when and if they need to come into work. Companies can support that by providing that flexibility.
Empowering employees to have more control of their schedules lets them shed stress they face in other parts of their life so when they do focus on work, they can give 100%.
Communication will help both employees and their leaders successfully work remotely. Use the channels your company provides to keep your manager and team members updated on what you’re working on, if you have to step away for an afternoon, and if you are running into challenges you need help with. It’s easy for employees to feel isolated in this environment, but there are a lot of tools out there like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other programs that can keep people easily connected.
Much of what we envision a company’s culture to be usually involves in-person events and activities. But companies can keep connections thriving through virtual events. Some SAFE Credit Union teams have taken part in cooking demonstration events where they join in from their own kitchens. We’ve had trivia nights, and team events around volunteer opportunities.
You can also use internal methods for employees to send kudos and congratulations. You can tie incentives to that by rewarding points or awards. Company town halls can also be an effective way to engage employees and keep them abreast of important updates.
Share the ‘why’
Good leaders already understand they need to regularly communicate company goals, expectations, and progress. Now, more than ever, employees need that “why” and “how” they contribute to the overall enterprise. Provide regular updates on where the company is to goal, and share how each team is helping the company toward success. Defining for employees “why” they are doing what they do connects them emotionally to your company’s mission. Find ways to publicly honor exceptional employees and celebrate the wins. Even if we’re working apart, we all want to feel like we are part of something bigger.