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How to Design the Ideal WFH Office

WFH offices have become popular these days thanks to the pandemic. The daily 9 to 5 commutes and rush hours have now been replaced with WFH environments, as statistics show. If you’ve also made the move to remote working, here’s a quick look at how you can design the idea WFH office environment in your home.

Make sure it is a permanent space.

The ideal WFH office cannot be a makeshift affair. Propping a laptop on your legs while working from bed can be satisfactory in the beginning. But, this will be a problem if you have to work from home on a daily basis. In such a scenario, you will need a definite long-term office where you will be able to work in peace. Since it is your place, it would be nice to fill it with everything that you need. This way you will work both more effectively and efficiently.

The ergonomics of your home office

Alluding to the laptop-on-bed example earlier, any unnatural angle of the body can have really adverse consequences. You won’t notice your posture in the first few days. However, soon enough you can end up with back and neck aches. This is why it is vital to work in a good place. Design a workplace that is optimal for your body and back support. After all, your typical on-site office workstation is comfortable and safe to work in. So, why should this one be any different?

Imagine you are writing about the role of chatbots in education and suddenly your back starts hurting. That will not only stop your writing, but it will also bother you in your personal life as well. It is crucial to find the right chair as well as a desktop combination set-up.

Let there be (natural) light!

Studies over the years have shown that having windows that allow the ingress of natural light is healthy. Unlike artificial lights, we can process natural light a lot better. Actually, our bodies work best in natural light. So open the windows of your home office and let all that natural sunlight increase your productivity.

Take breaks in nature.

Research shows that nature calms us. It normalizes our sleep schedule, helps clear our minds, regulates stress levels, and more. If you have a home office with beautiful views of nature, you will have a better chance of feeling calm, collected, and even more creative.

Select the perfect colors.

A home office should be a bright and colorful place instead of being a dull and dreary environment. Vibrant colors inspire a person to give his or her best shot. For example, the color blue can spark your creativity.

Find a quiet place.

Make sure your home office is a quiet place. If peace and quiet are necessary for your work you should consider building home additions for your office. Such a place is your very own dedicated workspace. When you are at work, you feel motivated to work. Similarly, you can work just that efficiently from your home office. In other words, it will become a place that you associate exclusively with your work.

Conclusion

When designing your WFH office, consider incorporating fresh air, natural light, vibrant colors, and a good chair/desk combo. It could greatly affect your productivity and overall happiness at work.

 

Is It Fair that Corporations Pay Remote Workers Less?

I recently read a story that gave me pause. And then I looked around and unearthed more. Remote employees may have their salaries cut simply because of where they work. Hmmm.

After all we have learned about remote working from the pandemic, I hope that organizations are inspired by the findings. Many leaders who have trust issues and fear around a remote workforce were forced to try something new. And, overall, remote working took off!

However, a new trend may be arising with corporate giants like Google, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn that seems ridiculous. They are finding ways to pay remote workers LESS than those who come into the office.

Thought leader Jill Christensen states: “Every organization must decide how they will manage post-pandemic salaries. Will you pay the same regardless of where employees live or cut pay based on the employee’s geographic location? Only you know what’s right for your firm, but I advise that you think long and hard about the true cost of slashing pay. You may end up losing much more than what you save in payroll dollars. Employees may disengage, costing you productivity, retention, quality defects, creativity, sick days, and customer satisfaction. Is it really worth it?”

According to The Remote Work Pay Cut Class War, “Reuters reported that one employee, working from a county outside of Seattle, would see a 10% pay cut if they chose to work remotely, and someone would get a cut as high as 25% if they lived in Lake Tahoe. Specifically, those who choose to work remotely but live near the office wouldn’t see a pay cut, despite not going into the office.”

Is it fair?

With the excuse of “cost of living,” this decision will be justifiable to many. However, is this truly fair to pay remote workers less? The article explains: “This may make sense for a local business selling to locals, but it doesn’t make sense if someone is doing work on the computer – and it doesn’t make sense when you’re deciding to pay someone less money to do exactly the same work.”

Is this move all part of a bigger picture about deeming some employees worth more than others arbitrarily? We all know that it’s more expensive in San Francisco than in Houston. But when it’s the SAME job, does it matter?

“If you pay people working remotely the same amount of money as they’d make in the Bay, you likely can’t justify the lower salaries you likely pay in Detroit, or Chapel Hill, or Pittsburgh,” added Zitron.

In the world of work, we have taken giant strides toward fairness, flexibility, and freedom. This seems like a giant step backward. Do you deserve more pay just for parking in the lot at the expensive headquarters? (It’s argued in the comments of Zitron’s article that companies like Google have sunk so much money into their campuses that they are seeking justification for filling them up again.)

The new class

It’s also being defined as creating a new class system–defining team members as “in the office” or “remote.”

“They are deliberately creating a class system within their companies, both in the division of who is and who is not in the office and who makes the most money and one has to wonder if elder Googler Urs Hölzle will take a 25%+ pay cut now that he lives in New Zealand,” adds author Ed Zitron.

The back-and-forth rationale of this topic can be quite thought-provoking. However, it still just doesn’t seem fair to me. And what about the sustainable nature of non-commuting? Saving gas, energy, and precious time are often hailed as “wins.”

Suddenly those are forgotten benefits because someone decided they want bodies in seats again. Hmmm.

We are not past pay inequality.

Pay inequality has long been a hot topic. Very recent research indicates that it still needs to be top of mind. I obviously can’t address pay inequality all in one go, but it’s important to look at the big picture.

According to the Pew Research Center, “In 2020, women earned 84% of what men earned, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers. Based on this estimate, it would take an extra 42 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2020.”

An article posted by SHRM states, “PayScale analyzed differences in earnings between white men and men of color using data from a sample of 1.8 million employees surveyed between January 2017 and February 2019.”

“On average, black men earned 87 cents for every dollar a white man earned. Hispanic workers had the next largest gap, earning 91 cents for every dollar earned by white men. On the other side of the earnings spectrum, Asian men typically earned $1.15 for every dollar earned by a white male worker.”

“Cost of living”

I found a very informational piece by NoHQ on how to pay remote workers, which explained some critical economic factors that play a role in remote workers being paid less. One was Compensating Differentials.

“’Compensating differentials’ is a term in labor economics that refers to the relation of wage rates and the tolerance of undesirable conditions of a job. For example, some countries or cities are naturally more desirable (or undesirable) than others–due to weather conditions, real estate prices, local culture and diversity, and infrastructure.

“The likeability of an area will impact a worker’s pay tolerance to live there. When it comes to remote working, compensating differentials may have less influence on wage rates, as remote workers can move wherever they like. Exceptions apply when remote workers can only move within a certain geographical zone in order to work remotely.”

They also pointed out that while it may be cost-effective to adjust salaries, it could appear discriminatory and unjust. This can result in poor employee morale and weaker loyalty–something to watch out for!

Key takeaways

It’s a significant challenge to measure the “cost of living.” Yes, there are governmental and research resources, but it’s very personal and ever-changing. Have you seen the real estate spikes in places like the Denver metro and Miami? I wonder if everyone there is getting a pay raise. Hmmm.

I genuinely hope enormous, powerful companies set the right precedent. They should pay remote workers equally because other companies will use them as an example. It is inevitable.

 

The Near Future of Work: What’s Next for the Office?

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic first upended work and life, business owners, HR leaders, and workers are continuing to adjust to an ever-evolving situation.

Now, as offices reopen and vaccinated workers are brought back into a centralized workplace, the big question is:

What can we expect from the near future of work?

Is it “back to normal?”

Some organizations, such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, are steadfastly going back to their pre-2020 normal.

Other companies are bringing employees back to the office on a part-time basis, while some are going full-time remote. One example is Quora, which announced early during the pandemic that it was switching to a remote-first culture for good.

What’s the best way forward?

The clear answer is that it depends on the individual company. More importantly, it depends on the individuals within your company.

Think about it this way:

We have lived alongside coronavirus for more than 18 months. Employees have been expected to upend their daily routines and find a way to work from home productively while adapting to the terrifying enormity of the health crisis.

It took a great deal of coping, adjusting, and compromising.

As a result, our perception of “normal” has shifted. And the expectations and needs of workers have changed, too.

Unsurprisingly, many people aren’t happy to go “back to normal.”

“The great resignation”

One study found that nearly three in 10 employees (29 percent) would quit their jobs if they were told they were no longer allowed to work remotely.

That’s why the current situation is being dubbed “the great resignation” or “the resignation boom.

Even now, amid continuing uncertainty, people are willing to leave their place of employment in favor of greater flexibility.

Ignoring employees’ needs will only risk demotivating staff, eroding company culture, and increasing turnover.

Is WFH here to stay?

Although working from home is far from perfect, it’s impossible to ignore the benefits of remote work.

Trusting employees to work remotely is empowering.

This leads to motivation, loyalty, and productivity. In fact, studies show that people who worked from home during the pandemic maintained, or exceeded, productivity levels.

The real question is, do your people actually want to work from home?

One study found that 89 percent of people want to work from home at least some of the time after the crisis ends.

However, the same research found that it is actually flexibility that most workers are interested in, not a wholesale rejection of the traditional office model.

Only a relatively small proportion of workers–one in four–would switch to a completely remote work model if they could.

Remember that these are general studies. What happens in your company depends on your own research.

As noted in a recent TalentCulture blog by HR specialist Cheryl Halverson: “It’s imperative to understand employees’ needs and hopes for this new world of work. You can achieve this through active listening via focus groups, ongoing employee pulse surveys, employee advisory groups, and honest discussions between managers and direct reports.”

Armed with these insights, Halverson recommends using them to co-create “an envisioned future.”

This is a future where employees are involved in the development, understanding, and communication of that future so they can adopt, advocate for, and believe in it.

Moving forward, flexibly

For those companies that choose a flexible future, this can manifest itself in various ways.

Hybrid work

Considered the best of both worlds, a hybrid model combines two or three days each week working from home with the rest of the time in the office. This provides plenty of in-person collaboration with the benefits of a reduced commute and home-based flexibility. Some studies show that the sweet spot is two days of remote work each week.

Hub and spoke

Rather than bringing workers back to a central office, employers can utilize coworking spaces or other branch offices to provide a workplace that’s near their employees’ homes. By decentralizing, workers can still enjoy a reduced commute but are free from any home-based distractions.

Full-time remote work

Some companies have shifted to a full-time remote work policy. It’s an extreme move, but after more than a year of working from home, these employers have had plenty of time to fine-tune their strategy.

Alternative options

Some companies that continue to work remotely may want to keep a central office, mainly as a collaboration hub for team meetings or simply to “keep up appearances.”

However, retaining an office lease for the primary reason of keeping a physical presence is an expensive option.

As an alternative, some companies are now switching to a virtual office solution.

A virtual office provides companies with a head office address, a place to receive mail, and access to on-site meeting rooms and private offices when required.

However, the cost is considerably lower because the company doesn’t rent physical office space full-time. Instead, they only rent the address.

When physical space is required, it’s available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

This way, companies can keep an active presence in a specific location without the cost of maintaining a physical office.

The virtual office model has been around for decades, but in response to the pandemic, the popularity of virtual office centers has grown considerably.

The near future of work

Going forward, we can expect to see a medley of workplace models and trends.

Rather than a dominating trend, the future of work is a sliding scale.

At one end is the full-time corporate office, at the other is home-based remote work, and somewhere in the middle is the hybrid work option: the happy medium.

Various strategies accompany this sliding scale, including the use of virtual offices and on-demand meeting room rentals.

What’s absolutely clear is that, following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the future of work is being influenced by those who really matter: your people.

You have the opportunity to co-create a new, positive culture and a stronger future for your company.

What comes next depends on your individual organization and the individuals you employ within your organization. Finally, the choice is where it belongs: in the hands of the people.

 

This post is sponsored by Alliance Virtual.

Trends That Define the Post-Pandemic Workforce [Podcast]

The pandemic taught us a lot about ourselves. Like how many of us don’t need to go into an office to be productive. That flexibility and benefits are more valuable to employees than a pay raise. How talent management doesn’t actually have to happen in person, but that HR can bridge the remote work management gap with technology.

While it can be difficult to predict what else we’ll learn in a post-pandemic world, facts like these require businesses to adjust and grow right now. As we watch a new work landscape unfold before our eyes, HR professionals are readying themselves to traverse it as best they can. They’re tracking post-pandemic workforce trends and supporting their organizations as they navigate changes and prepare for the future.

Our Guest: HR Analyst and Content Expert Brian Westfall

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Brian Westfall, principal HR analyst at Capterra. He covers the latest trends in HR and recruiting software, supporting Capterra’s mission to help business clients find the right software for them. He is a thought-leader in his field, and his research has been published in Forbes, SHRM, TechRepublic, and TIME.

What have we ultimately learned from the pandemic? For one, Brian says, we’ve learned that work doesn’t have to look like it always has: wake up, get ready, drive to the office, come back home. Remote work can get the job done too–sometimes even better than in-office.

“This past year, a lot of businesses were thrown into the deep end with remote work. And I think they realized the water’s not so bad,” Brian says. “I think we’re going to look back at the pandemic as one of those moments where we reassessed all those sacred cows of talent management. Employees don’t have to be in the office to work effectively.”

With the understanding that employees can be productive while remote, there’s also been a surge in HR tech for managing remote workers–and recruiting them. In fact, HR technology has been a driving force in DEI efforts over the last year.

“When HR leaders were asked what they were doing to make their organizations more diverse and inclusive, DNI software tools came in as the second most cited program or initiative they were going to incorporate–only behind hiring quotas,” Brain says. “Organizations now have access to job description tools to remove biased language. They have candidate assessment tools that offer blind hiring modes. Tech is extremely useful for bringing in diverse candidates to create a more inclusive workforce.” 

Burnout and Skills Development: The Focus of Post-Pandemic Workplaces

Of course, while the pandemic showed that we can optimize tech and increase productivity, it didn’t eliminate other issues, like burnout.

“Seventy-seven percent of small business employees in the U.S. experienced at least some burnout last year. For those aged 18 to 25, that number jumps to 92 percent,” Brian says. “Worse, only seven percent of employees reached out to their manager or HR to let them know they were experiencing burnout. Because of this, I think we’ll see companies being more proactive about mental health resources.” 

While productivity among some employees increased while working from home during the pandemic, that doesn’t mean their skills increased too. In fact, according to Brian, 49 percent of small business employees have not developed any new skills during COVID. Fortunately, there are easy ways to implement development programs and manage these issues in a post-pandemic workforce.

“Workers are behind in skill development. And as roles get more complex, businesses are going to hunker down on skills development programs,” Brian says. “Because of tech, it has never been easier for businesses to set up formalized, complex learning and development programs. The tools are there. The content is there. I think it’s only going to make more sense over time.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about post-pandemic workforce trends and HR future predictions by connecting with Brian Westfall on LinkedIn.

Freshen Up Remote Culture for Work and Play [Podcast]

Eighty percent of employees say they want to work from home at least part-time. And three in four consider remote work the “new normal.” In an attempt to stay competitive, organizations everywhere are offering totally remote and hybrid work options to current and potential employees.

While it’s great that companies are accommodating employee needs, a new issue is arising: How do we maintain a remote culture that keeps employees engaged, even from afar?

Our Guest: Creative Entrepreneur Jeremy Parker

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I chatted with Jeremy Parker. He’s an entrepreneur who was named to Crain’s Class of 2020 NY 40 under 40 list. Jeremy formed the Creative Promotional Product Division under MV Sport. He also helped start Vowch Commonwealth and is currently co-founder and CEO of Swag.com, a swag distribution company that supports a healthy remote culture.

Jeremy understands that who you work with is just as important as what you’re working on, especially in the case of startups. According to Jeremy, a great remote culture starts with the recruiting process and finding the right people for what your business needs right now.

“When onboarding new hires, it’s important to find the right culture fit, especially for startups. Different employees are required for different stages of a business life cycle,” Jeremy says. 

And of course, he adds, before offering someone a role, you have to consider the candidate as a person, and determine if they will be truly happy at the company and empowered by the work.

“I think the most important thing across the board is making sure the people you hire really care about what they’re doing. That they’re willing to work hard. They need to feel passionate about the work and feel ownership over it,” Jeremy says.

Bring Remote Workers Together with Pocket Offices and Swag

Once the right remote employees are hired, how do you make them feel connected even when they’re far away? One strategy: Offer them swag.

“If you see somebody wearing a shirt representing your favorite sports team or college, you have an instant connection. It’s the same thing within a company,” Jeremy says. “If you’re wearing the same things, it brings people together around a shared purpose and mission.” 

Also, getting creative with events for remote workers is crucial. While employees may be located all over the world, it’s still possible to offer in-person opportunities for bonding.

“Instead of having one central hub and making employees drive two hours each way, find little pocket offices in different locations. So even if remote employees can’t meet everybody at the company in person, people can get out of the house and collaborate with others,” Jeremy says. “Everyone’s feeling isolated (especially with COVID). So whatever you can do to bring people together and create unity is important.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about fostering employee connections in a remote culture by reaching out to Jeremy Parker on LinkedIn.

HR in a Post-Pandemic World: Where Are We Headed?

As a human resources professional, you’re no stranger to thinking on your feet and solving complex problems. You never quite know what you’re going to get on a given day in the office. An employee complaint? Someone putting in their two-week notice? News of a budding office romance? These are run-of-the-mill challenges. But no one could have predicted what happened in 2020 and 2021. Or what will happen for HR in a post-pandemic world.

When COVID hit, HR professionals had a lot to figure out, from navigating the shift to remote work to managing furloughs and layoffs. Clients left, offices shut down, and employees struggled with their mental health the longer quarantines dragged on. A lot of unforeseen situations cropped up, and HR rose to the occasion.

In addition to solving the pandemic’s logistical challenges, HR departments answered the call to build more inclusive and diverse workforces as the U.S. became more aware of ongoing racial violence. Quite a few professionals felt like they needed to do more to help their industries and companies focus on representation and accessibility. So, they juggled their day-to-day responsibilities and developed companywide diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

The role of HR is evolving. Today’s professionals are talent managers, counselors, and advisors. As we enter the era of the post-pandemic world, it will be critical for everyone to embrace these changes. Here’s what you can expect to do going forward.

1. Renew your company’s focus on diversity and inclusion.

As the world reopens, HR professionals are renewing their focus on finding diverse talent for their firms. If you’re in this position, take the time to search for candidates with diverse backgrounds. Try posting your job listings on several platforms for a set amount of time to ensure that various applicants can find you. This will help you widen the voices and perspectives at your company. It will also demonstrate to your current employees that this is a priority, which 86 percent of employees strongly value, according to the Citrix Talent Accelerator report.

Another way to improve diversity and inclusion in a post-pandemic world is to consider your internal development and internship programs. How does your company handle promotions? Without an explicit selection or application process, unconscious bias can creep in. Where do you look for interns? For instance, if you’re an agency, you might usually bring on marketing students from a local university. But if you only recruit from that university, you limit your candidate pool to its demographics. Try advertising your internships through organizations that reach BIPOC folks.

2. Create and enforce new work-from-home policies.

When the world shut down in 2020, HR professionals sprung into action to create updated work-from-home policies. In the past, they may have allowed people in specific roles to work from home occasionally or on certain days. Suddenly, they had to find ways to make everyone’s jobs remote.

That alone was an accomplishment, but it also created countless questions about the future of work. People are accustomed to working from home now, and they hope to telecommute a day or two a week after the pandemic is over. According to the same Citrix report discussed above, about 88 percent of workers say complete flexibility in hours and location will be an important consideration in future job searches. As an HR professional, it is your responsibility to decide what’s best for your employees and create policies accordingly.

3. Address mental health concerns.

Mental health was a significant concern during the pandemic—and for a good reason. People were completely isolated from family, friends, and co-workers for months on end. They had to deal with unprecedented obstacles in their work and personal lives, and they had to give up many of their routines and hobbies without warning. This affected many individuals’ mental health in significant ways.

With this in mind, it will be essential to help employees set boundaries for turning off their laptops and taking time away from the office. As an HR professional, the best thing you can do is lead by example. Don’t answer emails after a particular time of day, and communicate your boundaries with employees. While you’re at it, tap into any resources you recommend to your workforce. And if you’re one of the 61 percent of employers that offer mental health benefits, be sure to communicate what’s available to everyone in the company.

The past year or so has been one for the books. HR professionals had to deal with a seemingly endless list of unforeseen challenges, but there was a silver lining. These issues challenged HR departments to revisit their cultures and policies, helping them understand the importance of prioritizing diversity and inclusion, flexibility, and employee mental health. In a post-pandemic world, it will be important to embrace these responsibilities and usher in a new future for HR.

How to Be a 2021 Leader: Help Bring Employees Back on Their Terms

Just when everyone got the hang of working from home, employers are bringing whole departments back to working in office settings.

According to CNBC reporting, Google and Bloomberg are among the 70 percent of companies that intend to put an end to mass telecommuting within the coming few months. Yet not all teleworking employees are eager to change their daily habits once again.

Some people had a chance to discover how they truly worked best. Many found that working from home allowed them to spend more time with family, eat dinner at normal times, exercise during the day, and wake up on their own terms. Pew Research Center insights show that more than one-third of remote workers say they can now balance all their familial and professional responsibilities. Similarly, about half are enjoying the freedom to choose how they divvy up their hours.

How to Be a 2021 Leader

This puts a high degree of pressure on corporate talent managers and leaders like you. On one hand, you want to get your operations back to pre-pandemic norms. On the other hand, you can’t ignore the sweeping effects that the pandemic has had on people’s daily routines. The flexibility to structure one’s day in a more balanced way has been refreshing, and lots of employees learned that remote work could be highly beneficial (and quite productive).

What’s the bottom line? Above all else, you have to understand that telework may feel isolating to some, but not to all. A good number of your employees won’t immediately forget the advantages they enjoyed by avoiding hairy commutes—or the need to dress up beyond throwing on a “Zoom shirt” now and then. And most won’t love paying once again for fuel, daycare, or expensive lunches.

This doesn’t mean that employees will launch walkouts (or perhaps home work-ins?) en masse. Most understand that getting everyone back into the office setting can be advantageous. At the same time, if a company is working to bring employees back, workers expect and welcome patience, creativity, flexibility, and empathetic leadership from their managers. Begin by taking measures to support an environment of collaboration and connection.

1. Allow flexibility for telecommuters returning to “home base”

Even as organizations bring employees back to work, some workers may want additional flexibility to deal with the transition. Support your people by enabling them to potentially switch working hours or even try hybrid workweek solutions.

Can’t offer a hybrid option long-term? Float one in the interim just to ease everyone’s tensions. Let’s say you have employees who can’t quite make the transition seamlessly within a week or two. Maybe they have to line up babysitters, or perhaps they are still caring for sick relatives, or simply need the time to adapt to the change. Seek out ways to gradually bring employees back at a pace that works for everyone.

2. Continue to overcommunicate with your team

During COVID, you probably began to communicate more often with your team members to fill in the interaction and collaboration gaps. Now isn’t the time to scale back on initiating conversations or sending emails. Instead, keep up with consistent dialogues and informational flow. Set up routine check-ins too. Ask employees how they’re doing, what you can do to support them, and whether they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Overall, make transparency and open dialogue your guiding motto and mantra. Even though the office may seem “normal,” it’s not. Workers are hungry for information they didn’t think about before 2020.

3. Focus on your employees’ safety needs

Many workers, including ones who are vaccinated, remain wary about coming back to an environment where they see colleagues—and maybe clients or vendors—in person. Ease their fears about their health and well-being by sharing the safety measures your company has put in place.

These could include building enhancements, workstation rearrangements, or cleaning protocols. Again, it’s not possible for you to overemphasize what your organization is doing to keep everyone as protected as possible.

4. Anticipate people’s psychological needs

Although you can’t predict how each worker will react when you bring employees back to the office, you can plan for some emotional ups and downs. Many employees re-established their top personal priorities during the pandemic. This means they might need different types of emotional support than they did before.

For instance, a team member who experienced extreme stress or anxiety over the course of the past year may need to transition more slowly into pre-COVID workflows. Stay attuned to each person’s responses. As Gallup has noted, leaders likely will have to face some hard, deep conversations. Your talks may make you uncomfortable or take you outside your element. Need help? Lean on your trusted human resources representative or employee assistance vendor for guidance.

It can be tempting to just bring your whole staff back into the fold at once and be done with it. But you can’t pretend that the past year didn’t happen. Instead of moving suddenly, take some small steps toward the next norm. Your people will appreciate your concern for their well-being.

5 Strategies for Onboarding New Hires Virtually

It is imperative to establish a robust onboarding procedure for building a productive, engaged, and cohesive workforce. However, a small portion of new employees agree that their company does a great job onboarding new employees. Some organizations see a 50 percent employee turnover in the first 18 months of employment.

Onboarding is significant for engaging and retaining your employees for a longer stint. The onboarding process is even more critical for remote or virtual employees. This is because they do not have the advantage of developing relationships with other members of staff. Here are some tips for onboarding new hires virtually.

1. Develop their setup beforehand.

Before your new staff member begins, you need to lay the groundwork for successful integration. Keep in mind that remote workers will not have access to normal company resources such as desks, dedicated workspaces, and computers. Communicate with the new hires to find out their needs and any resources they are missing. Get the new hires to set up the right software, hardware, and access required for performing their duties. You can get help from PRO services for hiring and onboarding new hires virtually. Some of them have employee relocation and global mobility services that are helpful.

2. Adapt current onboarding material for their virtual learning.

If you have never performed onboarding for remote employees before, you may have to adapt the current process for virtual access and training. For instance, convert all contracts, hard copy training manuals, employee handbooks, procedures, and policy packets into normal digital files. Then, give virtual access to those files to the remote employees. Also, you can develop training videos and other learning modules that can be completed by employees independently and track their progress. If possible, maintain all the onboarding material at an accessible location that will allow employees to easily find all the information they need.

3. Complete virtual introductions.

In on-site office settings, you can take new hires around the office to introduce them to colleagues. When onboarding new hires virtually, this isn’t possible. To still encourage social interaction and bonding, set up team-building activities during breaks. Team-building interactions are also significant for the integration of virtual employees. In their first week, you can set up introductory calls with team members. You may have virtual happy hours or coffee breaks for getting new employees to know their colleagues casually. Having the new employees build relationships early can set a foundation for long-term success.

4. Communicate frequently by using one-on-one meetings.

It is critical to have frequent and intentional communication during the onboarding process. This helps remote employees develop a connection with their team and organization. There are several ways of connecting formally or informally with newer hires. For example, get the managers to block time every week to make sure that employees check in. Additionally, ask them to use video conferencing to make these meetings more personal and encourage better team connections. HR leaders and managers need to check in regularly with new remote hires. Keep in mind that remote work means less organic interaction.

5. Have a feedback loop.

Having feedback is an easy yet effective method for uncovering the needs of your employees. It is an important component of employee development and training. Develop a strong feedback culture because it can be crucial during uncertain times. You cannot always predict how these staff members will react or what they may require every day. Ensure that feedback is a part of your culture from their first day at work by including it in the onboarding process.

Conclusion

There are some unique challenges involved in onboarding new hires virtually. You are required to stay ahead of the curve by being aware of various requirements ahead of time and concentrating on feedback, training, and communication. You need to provide them the necessary support and tools required.

The Future of Work is Already Here: 4 Ways to Find and Keep Top Talent

Across all sectors in the second half of 2021, corporate America is bullish on rapid growth. Offices and manufacturing plants are re-opening. Job recruitment is already ahead of pre-pandemic levels. The online job search website Indeed.com reported in early April that the number of available positions posted on its platform was 17.9 percent above its pre-pandemic baseline back in February 2020.

Large firms are not alone in seeking top talent in a resurgent economy. According to The Economist’s April 10, 2021 report on the future of work, 2020 was a record year for new company formation in the United States. In fact, more than 1.5 million new firms launched last year. Many of these startups are ramping up talent recruitment to help meet an expected surge of consumer and business demand. Adding fuel to the current competition for high-demand technical and management talent, a record-breaking $69 billion in venture investment flowed into both newly hatched and more mature startup firms in the first quarter of 2021.

Employer and Employee Expectations Out of Sync

Clearly, office doors are–or will be–wide open. Financial incentives are on the table. But will that be enough to bring top talent back to their former workday routines?

Based on recent workforce surveys and trend analysis, the answer is a resounding “No.” This is especially true for the technical and professional workers who are most in demand. It turns out that executive and investor views of the future of work are out of sync with employee expectations generated during the pandemic.

Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index outlines the findings from a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries. The study includes workers of all ages and experts in workforce engagement and recruiting. One of its blunt conclusions:

“Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call.”

A striking data point:

“41 percent of the global workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year. This number is even higher for Gen Z (54 percent). At the same time, 46 percent are planning to make a major pivot or career transition.”

A Defining Workforce Trend: YOLO

One explanation for such widespread workforce restlessness is the YOLO (You Only Live Once) spirit. In a recent New York Times article, the authors characterized YOLO as “the year’s defining workforce trend.”

With the future of work suddenly upon them, and close to half of their current employees at risk of decamping, corporate HR departments are not just competing with other established firms in finding and keeping top talent. They are up against an unprecedented combination of post-pandemic force fields. There’s the lure of startup unicorns, a deep determination among workers to live life to the fullest, and a growing sense that personal fulfillment is most attainable outside the confines of a traditional office.

How Should Employers Respond?

First, it’s time to acknowledge that hybrid work schedules are no longer innovative. Yes, this includes the flexibility to work from home on a regular basis.

Instead, they are intrinsic to the future of work. Even employees who miss face-to-face discussions with colleagues and other aspects of the physical workplace want remote work options to be available as part of their work-life going forward. Flexibility is no longer a differentiator in attracting talent–except as a strong disincentive to join a company that doesn’t provide that now must-have benefit.

Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Top Talent in 2021

If hybrid work isn’t enough, what is needed to retain and recruit top talent in 2021 successfully? Companies must embrace several innovative and interconnected strategies to create a workforce culture that matches the future-of-work reality. A forward-looking workforce recruitment strategy should start with the following four components:

1. Purpose and positive social impact as a corporate priority

Employees care deeply about the impact that their company has on the environment. They also care about their communities and social issues such as diversity, racial justice, and economic equality. Studies over the past decade report that companies prioritizing corporate social responsibility enjoy an advantage in attracting and retaining top talent of all ages. But high-minded mission statements and CEO declarations no longer suffice. In this age of critical scrutiny, results must measure up to stated social impact goals. Companies must lead with purpose; they must also prepare to follow up with transparency in reporting impact.

2. Opportunities for growth across the entire workforce

Opportunity for personal and professional growth is essential for recruiting and retaining talented workers. Traditional support for professional development needs to transcend the scope of narrow productivity goals. It must encompass learning and applying new skills in contexts that support all stakeholders. The future of work will demand that development and growth opportunities previously reserved for professional levels are available across the workforce.

3. Multi-directional mentoring

The long-standing tradition of workplace mentoring strongly correlates with increases in employee productivity, job satisfaction, and also retention. In addition to benefiting those who receive mentoring at work, studies show that the mentors report increased personal fulfillment and organizational commitment. And yet, today’s mentoring programs are too often limited in scope. They remain stuck in a seniority-based one-to-one framework. Intergenerational, peer-to-peer, and group mentoring programs can be a powerful force in overcoming workplace silos and building a culture of mutual learning and support.

4. Empowered teams

Employers must reinvent the omnipresent project team to function effectively in the world of hybrid work. They must empower team managers and members to redefine roles and balance both group and individual accountability. They must allow experimentation with different modes of collaboration and communication. After all, collaborative, empowered teams will remain an essential foundation for future workforce engagement.

The future of work is already here. And to find and keep top talent during what is already an ultra-competitive job market, companies must be ready. As they chart their course for the months ahead, companies must remember that YOLO also applies to them–and they may only have one shot at getting this right.

How to Prevent (or Defeat) WFH Burnout and Zoom Fatigue

When the COVID pandemic swept through the country last year, companies rapidly transitioned employees to remote working. However, this shift led to growing challenges, including WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue. As we transition from pandemic to post-pandemic life, many companies are adopting hybrid models, where some workers come into the office part-time only while others remain fully remote. That model means our burnout and fatigue issues will remain relevant for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, organizations treat these issues as simply day-to-day challenges. They fail to recognize their systematic, long-term nature; they don’t address them strategically. At heart, these problems stem from organizations transposing their “office culture” norms of interaction to working from home. Over time, we’ve learned that just doesn’t work well. We now know: Virtual communication, collaboration, and relationships function very differently than they do when we share a workspace.

To survive and thrive in the post-COVID world and within hybrid working environments, organizations must make a strategic shift. Specifically, they need to focus on best practices for those employees working from home–part-time and full-time.

Defeating WFH Burnout and Zoom Fatigue: A Strategic Approach

Take these steps to establish effective work-from-home best practices for the long term:

Gather information from employees

Talk to employees about their virtual work challenges. Not enough time to connect with everyone? Try conducting surveys, do focus groups, or organize one-on-one interviews with key personnel. Be sure to collect quantitative and qualitative data on the virtual work issues in your organization.

Develop metrics and determine a baseline

Structure surveys so that you can use the quantitative results to establish clear metrics on challenges to prevent WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue. Do follow-up interviews to gather qualitative data. Prior to beginning the interventions listed next, use both forms of data to develop a baseline.

Educate your employees about needs-deprivations

Human nature dictates that we don’t recognize a large component of what we perceive as WFH burnout. We don’t recognize the deprivation of our basic human needs; specifically, our connection to each other. So early intervention involves educating employees on this topic.

Cultivate a sense of meaning among employees

Withing the virtual workplace, help employees intentionally develop a sense of meaning. That includes using an evaluative tool to establish a baseline of purpose. Use self-reflective activities on identity as tied to one’s work. The goal: To connect work to something bigger than yourself.

Create mutual connections using native virtual formats

We want to connect. But compared to in-person meetings, our emotions just don’t process little squares during a video conference as truly connecting. The mismatch between expectations and reality leads to drain and dissatisfaction. So focus on creating human connection and a sense of trust, perhaps by replacing bonding opportunities from an in-office culture with innovative virtual bonding activities.

Provide remote-specific professional development

Intentionally focus on employee and team development highly relevant to virtual or blended work teams. Effective communication, collaboration, and remote relationship building are just a few of the development areas the best organizations will target in hybrid working environments.

Initiate formal virtual mentorship relationships

Ask your senior staff to actively mentor junior team members in business areas and ask junior staff to mentor senior staff in other areas, like tech. This approach to bonding, in addition to the guidance it provides, also helps address the lack of social connection in virtual workplaces.

Establish times for informal digital co-working

Ask each employee to spend an hour or more per day coworking digitally with their colleagues. Create a sense of presence by joining a videoconference call without an agenda. Turn your speakers on but microphones off (unless you want to ask a question or make a comment or simply chat, of course). Next, simply work on your own tasks.

Digital coworking replicates the positive aspects of being in shared cubicle spaces with your team members, even while doing your own work. Benefits include mutual bonding through chatting and collaboration, being able to ask and answer quick clarifying questions, and being able to provide guidance and informal mentorship.

Fund effective remote work environments

Since the pandemic began, many companies have identified inequalities within remote working environments. For example, some employees have high-speed internet and quiet workspaces at home, while others do not. Address any inequity by investing in the work environments of remote employees.

Reduce unnecessary meetings

Zoom fatigue is real. So don’t schedule meetings unless you need to make a decision or get clarification on something that requires synchronous discussion. And make the best possible use of time when a meeting is required by staying focused on the task at hand.

Conduct weekly check-ins

The most effective leaders check in with employees regularly. Not just to determine progress being made on work-related tasks, but to also determine the team members’ well-being. So check-ins don’t add to Zoom fatigue, keep check-ins to weekly 15-30 minute video conferences.

Support work/life boundaries

Too many leaders expect employees to work after hours, then refuse employee requests for flexibility. Some employees, scared for their jobs, voluntarily take on too much work. To reduce burnout, leaders must reinforce boundaries. Whenever possible, they must also encourage and welcome flexible working schedules.

Take things step by step

Start with education about basic needs. Next, use the data from your conversations and internal surveys to pursue the actions that seem to make the most sense. Resist the temptation to fix everything at once by focusing on the issues that seem to have the highest sense of urgency.

A Change in Mindset

To prevent or defeat WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue, reframe your company culture and policies.

As you initiate this strategic shift, be sure to consistently support your employees. If you do this, your partnership with them will enable your organization to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic world.

The Hybrid Model Coming Our Way: What We Can and Can’t Anticipate

For the past year, we’ve lived through a worldwide experiment about work from away (WFA)—whether the away was home, a second home or vacation spot, or crashing with friends and family. As we look ahead to the hybrid model coming our way, we’ve learned some fundamental lessons:

  • Many organizations pivoted to WFA at breakneck speed successfully.
  • People can perform many types of work remotely.
  • Many types of work can, in theory, be at least as productive remotely as in-office.
  • People working remotely often worked more than if they were in the office.
  • Organizations can hire and onboard people remotely.

For employers and employees, this is great news.

NOT a True Test of Work From Away

We must also accept that WFA during a worldwide pandemic is not an actual test of “normal” WFA. Rather, for the past 12-15 months, our children have been at home. Right beside us, they’ve been learning remotely (or not learning so much). We couldn’t, or didn’t, see friends and family in person. And our usual coping strategies (e.g., going to the gym, having a drink with friends) weren’t available to us. In the end, our mental health suffered, and we discovered the ways we missed being in the office.

We missed the small micro-interactions that we didn’t realize mattered to our relationships, work, and mental health.

Specifically, many of us have missed:

  • The shared moments in the coffee area
  • Being able to read each other’s moods at a glance while walking by or looking up from our work area
  • The ability to get questions answered quickly by simply walking up to the person without having to schedule time
  • Being able to have any non-textual interaction (without scheduling it)
  • Collaborating in person (It just isn’t the same remotely.)

What Do Employees Want?

As organizations are thinking about the hybrid model coming our way when it comes to working style, many are asking employees about their preferences, as they should.

A caveat about the data: decades of research by psychologists has found that people’s attitudes, what they tell you they think or feel or prefer, don’t always align with their behavior. So, we need to take those surveys with a grain of salt. This is especially true now because we don’t know what it will be like to work remotely without COVID-19. And we also don’t know what it will be like to go back to the office.

Nonetheless, the virtues of minimal or no commutes, wearing sweat pants on weekdays, being able to sleep a bit later (for those who don’t have to get children off to school) are powerful. So undoubtedly, many people will want to work from or near home at least part-time.

Predictions About Hybrid Work

Here’s what we can predict about the hybrid model coming our way in general:

Disadvantages Based on Work Location

People who are in the office the least will likely be at a disadvantage in terms of collaboration, promotion opportunities, getting quick answers to quick questions, feeling as much a part of the team (i.e., engagement, belonging, commitment to the organization, a sense of “team-ness”).

Unconscious Bias

Managers and leaders may have an unconscious bias toward employees they “see” more often: giving them feedback (essential for professional development), inviting them to meetings (especially spontaneous ones), feeling more positively (or negatively) toward them simply because of seeing them more often in informal, casual moments that bind relationships.

Lack of Culture Clarity

Employees who were hired and onboarded during the pandemic may initially seem a bit lost when coming to the office. It may take a while for them to understand the “culture” once people are back in the office.

Disadvantage: Digital Natives

Younger employees may be at a disadvantage. Research indicates that the current cohort of younger employees, many of whom are digital natives and have spent less time interacting in person than previous cohorts, may be less skilled at navigating challenging interpersonal situations. As a result, issues such as tension with a colleague or not meeting a deadline may prove difficult.

WFA Inequity

People have made do during the pandemic, sometimes taking calls in a closet or bathroom because it was the only private or quiet space. Before we became more conscious about our video call backgrounds, we got a glimpse of our colleagues’ home lives. While work from away will likely continue in some form in the hybrid model, the inequity of WFA environments will likely persist.

For instance, have, and will, all employees have equal access to fast internet speed? To ergonomically designed workspaces and decent lighting for calls? Did they benefit from a quiet work environment? Did your organization make financial contributions to mitigate some of these inequities? If not, employees with poor WFA environments may choose to go to the office full time out of necessity.

What To Do?

If we can reliably and accurately predict some of the pitfalls of the hybrid work coming our way, we can mitigate them.

Connect Intentionally

The mere exposure effect indicates that we are more likely to prefer things—and people—we’ve become more familiar with. Thus, all other things being equal, we are more likely to prefer colleagues we see more often, which may be colleagues who are in the office more. So intentionally touch base with and even praise your remote colleagues, particularly if they are less senior.

Build Unbiased Relationships

Managers and leaders will need to work to reduce a natural bias to favor employees with whom they have more positive interactions. In this case, those micro-interactions of casual, informal contact are a glue that binds people to each other. They will need to make a conscious effort to create those virtually with remote employees. Note: For some employees, more in-person contact may not lead to more positive micro-interactions.

Create Meeting Equity

Create equity in meetings and communication. For instance, when even one person attending a meeting is remote, everyone should participate in the discussion via their computer to equalize the dynamic of the meeting.

Clearly Set Expectations

Clear communication of expectations and responsibilities is crucial. Remember that with video-chatting or phone calls, many of the non-verbal cues that we use to help us understand the “message” are not available to us with non-in-person communication.

Invest in Visibility

Consider using an always-on video portal, like Sneek, Sidekick, or Tandem. Such platforms allow coworkers to see each other onscreen during the day. They also make it quick and easy to have micro-interactions remotely.

However your organization chooses to craft its hybrid model, soon we’ll all be participating in a new experiment. Along the way, we’ll learn how best to make remote and in-office work successful for all.

Pixabay

The Typical Work Week: Always On, Always Meeting

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. So goes the saying. For American professionals, however, the work week — and work itself — tends to be all-consuming. We tend to be running from meeting to meeting. So why not make those meetings more productive?

The United States, as a nation, has become synonymous with a culture of overworking.

According to the ILO, Americans work 260 more hours per year than British workers and 499 more hours per year than French workers. That is almost 10 extra hours each work week. And while at least 134 countries have laws in place to limit the number of working hours each week, the United States has no such laws.

This coincides with the findings of Doodle’s Q2 2020 State of Meetings report. The report was based on analysis of more than 30 million meetings booked worldwide during Q2 2020. The findings: There is no time in the workday when Americans are less likely to have meetings. The one exception: At noon when there was a slight dip to 9 percent (from 10 percent at 11 a.m.). But then, the percentage of meetings jumped up to 13% just one hour later at 1 p.m. This shows a clear pattern: Americans are ‘always on and always meeting.’

The Typical Work Week: No Productivity Flow

Making themselves available (and accepting meeting request after request) non-stop throughout the workday might seem like they’re being collaborative and open to feedback. But in reality, it’s interrupting their productivity ‘flow.’ Over-scheduling their workdays with too many meetings could also impact their ability to get work done, cause delays in larger projects, and affect their individual performance.

Interestingly, just a little more than 7% of American meetings in Q2 2020 took place between the evening hours of 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. While this might seem surprising to some, I believe this may actually contribute to the country’s overworking culture. Here’s why.

Because Americans are scheduling so many meetings during the actual workday (between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.), they are likely using their evening time to catch up on work they couldn’t finish due to the excessive number of meetings booked during the workday. Essentially, they’re making up for ‘lost time’ by completing work outside of business hours. That leads them right back to being overworked, stressed and burned out. And worse yet, this meeting overload can be a major drain on employees’ energy and lead to exhaustion, stress and burnout. That’s certainly not what anyone wants or needs right now.

The Pandemics’ Impact on Scheduled Meetings

The pandemic certainly has also had a huge impact on how American employees are meeting with their teams, colleagues and customers. For one, time management has become much more difficult and complicated than before the pandemic. Employees are juggling working from home, while managing their families, taking care of their children and making sure their children are also getting an education. So the distractions have quadrupled from what they were for employees who worked in office environments before COVID-19.

This has led to a massive spike in the number of virtual meetings over the last few months. For example, virtual group meetings jumped up 109% compared to the previous quarter. Meanwhile virtual one-to-one meetings grew by 136% in Q2 2020, compared to the previous quarter. When you look at both of these statistics, one thing comes to the top of my mind: Zoom fatigue.

Having to be present with the video on — let alone engaging and dynamic in online meetings, is a lot to ask of employees right now. And it’s incredibly draining and exhausting, both mentally and physically.

Meetings Don’t Have to Be 60 Minutes

It’s even more draining when people choose one hour as the default duration of every meeting. People choose one hour as their default meeting duration for a few reasons. For instance, they may not want to rush participants through the meeting. If a meeting is larger in size and includes both internal and external stakeholders, they might want to give everyone involved ample time and opportunity to share their ideas and provide feedback. And then there’s the simpler reason — they want to safeguard against a shorter meeting running too long and cutting into other meetings scheduled after.

But as Doodle’s Q2 2020 State of Meetings report reveals, shorter is better. In fact, the most popular meeting duration in Q2 2020 was 30 minutes (36%), followed by 15 minutes (31%). One-hour meetings came in third place. Limiting the length of meetings to 30 minutes or less can be vital in fending off Zoom fatigue. It can help keep the discussion more focused, prevent participants from veering off-track and result in better outcomes.

Let’s face it — no one likes sitting in a long meeting that’s poorly organized, lacks a clear focus and results in confusion. Those meetings are the worst and usually require having to set up more meetings to get clarity and direction that should have been provided during the original meeting. That’s more time wasted and less productivity for you. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Keep Meetings Productive

To ensure your meetings each work week are as focused, productive and worthwhile as possible, I have a few recommendations. First, don’t invite everyone to meetings. It’s ok to be selective. Only those people who will directly contribute and make an impact are essential. Inviting people just to make them feel included is a common problem and it hinders the focus and effectiveness of meetings. Second, don’t use one hour as your default meeting duration. If you can, keep meetings shorter (no longer than 30 minutes).

Now beyond that, give people sufficient notice ahead of booking meetings. If possible, aim for 5 days’ notice, at minimum. Try to avoid scheduling last-minute meetings with less than 24 hours’ notice. That isn’t respectful of other people’s time, their workload, and their priorities.

More importantly, don’t set the meeting and forget it. As the organizer, take ownership and hold yourself accountable for the success of your meetings. Do the prep work and make sure participants have also been briefed on the overall goals, key discussion points and expectations. This will provide structure to the meeting and prevent the meeting from going off-track.

Finally, since the work week is packed with meetings anyway, make better use of time during meetings. If critical information (background, perspectives, data) is needed ahead of a meeting, then ask these questions before the meeting takes place. And if you don’t get those responses before the meeting? Chances are that the meeting will be unproductive, go off-track and be a waste of everyone’s time. And if you can include those critical pre-meeting questions in the meeting invite itself? That’s even better. And means less waste of everyone’s time.

 

 

Photo: Vlada Parkovich

4 Proven Ways to Improve Recruiting and Remote Hiring

To say COVID-19 has changed the recruiting and remote hiring would be an understatement. For a start, it’s likely you’re relying more heavily on the expertise of the rest of your HR team, your recruiter, or business leaders while navigating the interview and remote onboarding process. To help you improve the remote hiring process, we’ve put together our top four tips for interviewing virtually, including how to answer some tough questions from candidates.

1. Decide on the Remote Hiring Process 

Before you do anything else, decide on the steps involved in the remote hiring process. Make sure everyone understands the types of interviews and stages the candidates will have to go through. This also allows an opportunity to offer candidates an outline of what to expect. This will be an unfamiliar situation for most, so planning and preparation are key. For example: The free version of Zoom limits meetings to 40 minutes. So, ensure everyone understands the rigid time frame.

If you’re using an agency to help you? Be sure to allow for scheduled follow-up calls with the agency. This will help to keep the process you’ve decided on to move more efficiently.

2. Produce an Information Pack for Candidates 

A great employer branding tool, an information pack can be prepared by and sent to the candidates before the interview/s. The pack can include: 

  • Background information about the company
  • What they should expect from each stage of the interview process 
  • What you’re looking for in an ideal candidate 
  • The technology and login details required (for example: Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc.)
  • Point of contact details throughout the interview process 

Sending this information to the candidate will help them have a great candidate experience. It will also allay some of their anxiety while enabling them to prepare to the best of their ability.

3. Encourage Managers to Use a Scorecard

A job interview in person is hard enough. Throw in video technology, and the degree of difficulty increases. When it comes to video interviews, keep your job as simple as possible. That way, you can focus more on making a fair assessment of each candidate. One way to do this: Produce a scorecard unique to the position the candidates are interviewing for. By isolating the top skills or qualities and giving them each a score out of 5, 10 or 20 (depending on the weighting of each), it allows you to quantify where a candidate sits. The scorecard can also help eliminate unconscious biases. After all, managers will only score in relation to the candidates’ demonstrated skills.

4. Prepare for Tough Questions from Candidates 

During the remote hiring process, chances are there will be questions you and the hiring manager may not know how to answer. So prepare ahead of time for some of the most common candidate questions. Below are a few of these questions with tips on how to prepare for them. 

What’s the workplace culture like? 

As the majority of candidates going through the remote interview process won’t have been to your offices, you should explain what it’s like for a newcomer. Things to mention include virtual social activities, daily/weekly catch-ups and the technology you use to keep your staff connected. 

Once hired, what should I expect from the onboarding process? 

The minute details are not helpful here. Instead, provide a high-level overview of the virtual onboarding process. Mention any hardware that would be sent to the new starter’s home and give an outline of the first week of induction/training sessions. It may also be worth mentioning if your workplace organizes a work buddy for new starters and who would be responsible for leading the onboarding process, whether it’s someone from the HR team or the new starter’s line manager. 

How well is the company working remotely?

This question is a good opportunity to mention any wins or challenges the company has faced. Assure the interviewee a remote onboarding process exists. You can also mention how regularly the company meets online and the other ways everyone keeps in touch – whether by Slack, Zoom, emails or phone calls. 

What has your company learned from the transition to working from home? 

Similar to the above, think about any learning curves the company has faced while working from home, whether they have had to do with systems, communication or staff surveys. A candidate may also want to know if the company now recognizes the value in working from home if this wasn’t already in place.  

What types of measures are you looking at to return to the office safely?

While you’re probably still figuring out the details of the policy that will allow a safe return to the office, you should be able to mention the aspects you’re considering. These could include staggered start times, transport options, an increase in remote working or providing PPE. 

Tell me about your flexible working policies?

The answer to this question is likely something all candidates will want to know. If you aren’t already aware, talk to management to find out the company’s thoughts. In some cases, work practices aren’t affected or will not be reduced. In that case, then simply explain why the company has taken this stance. 

The remote hiring process is new for many of us. Which makes this is a great time to learn new hiring methods. Put these tips to work, and hire the best candidates!

Bali

6 Reasons to Do Away With the Nine-to-Five Workday

Is the nine-to-five workday still feasible? For some companies and some people, sure.

But at an accelerated pace, COVID-19 has altered how, where and when we work. It has also proven why the end of the nine-to-five workday may work better for companies and their employees in our climate — and beyond.

Here are six reasons your company should consider doing away with 9 to 5:

There’s Flexibility Like Never Before

Many organizations had no choice but to shift a remote workforce. That in itself shows the power of agility. Since then, employers have become more aware of the mounting responsibilities (and uncertainties) that working from home amid a pandemic brings. And therefore, they have become more accommodating of changing work schedules. They get it. They must accommodate the needs of their employees’ as well as their families.

There’s Productivity Like Never Before

According to a Citrix study, in April 2020 more than half of all countries worldwide said their productivity levels were the same or higher. That number includes more than two-thirds of the U.S. (69 percent). Employees are working more frequently in the morning and evening hours, as well as weekends — well outside the 9 to 5 bubble.

There’s Autonomy Like Never Before

We’ve all enjoying working without a manager ‘seeing’ our every move. This doesn’t mean you work less. It does not mean you put in less effort.

But it does mean you can take charge in how you operate when working from home. It means you can do so without feeling like someone is watching or micromanaging. And underscores you can have agency — and still be productive. This autonomy helps build better working relationships between managers and employees. Most importantly, it builds trust.

There’s Technology Like Never Before

We are using emojis as shorthand communications tools. We’re learning how to communicate virtually through Zoom. Seemingly each day, we’re exploring different tech and communication channels. In real-time, we’re building a remote culture while learning new skills.

And with each passing day, we’re only getting better at it.

There’s Empathy Like Never Before

According to Microsoft, 62% surveyed for its latest Work Trend Index Report said they now feel more empathetic toward their colleagues. The key factor: They now have a better view of life at home via video calls.

From the natural interruptions of WFH to the issues of internet connectivity or bandwidth, we are working together differently. We’re getting to know each other even better. Because we’re human, we’re even bring fun into the workday. Children and pets interrupt video calls. We take calls in our pajamas. And colorful filters and a picture in the video frame are common occurrences in Zoom meetings.

There’s Perspective Like Never Before

The nine-to-five workday isn’t everything anymore. Why? Because there’s more to just staying stuck inside an office. There’s a new freedom in thinking about how we want to approach work where work-life balance is possible. Sharper focus. Less commute/travel time. More exercise. Family time.

Life — not just work.

Maybe the Nine-to-Five Workday is Done

And likely, there will continue to be a blend of remote with on-site work. After all, for many members of the workforce the nine-to-five workday just won’t cut it anymore.

That’s more than a good HR strategy. It’s a great plan for our next normal. And a better life.

 

 

Photo: Anika Huizinga

How to Stay Productive During the COVID-19 Crisis

Remote work isn’t new. In fact, working from home been on the rise since 2010. But this new decade brought with it COVID-19, triggering a complete paradigm shift for remote work, school and life — worldwide. As a result, how we communicate, learn, teach, and conduct business has changed. And staying productive has become a challenge all it’s own.

Back in April, FlexJobs reported more than half of all Americans were working from home. Since then, 65% said their productivity increasedIn June, Stanford reported that 42% of the U.S. labor force was working from home full-time, signaling a return to the office for many. But in July, COVID-19 cases soared by more than a million globally. More than half of all states in the U.S. that reopened (or planned to), closed in an effort to curb the virus. Given this ever-evolving context and data, we soon knew it would be a tough summer. 

How Do We Stay Productive?

Now that we roll into the fall, families and students grapple with how to return not just to school, but to some sense of normalcy. At the same time, organizations struggle with re-entry to the workplace. While Twitter says they’ll begin reintegrating employees into their offices soon, major companies like Amazon have decided to remain remote until the end of 2020. Google and Facebook have announce their employees will work remotely until mid-2021. 

So amid this ongoing crisis and uncertainty, how exactly do we keep stay productive? In the workplace, how can we find the balance between completely safe and fully engaged?

For many leaders, these seven strategies now serve as a roadmap that helps teams stay productive during the COVID-19 pandemic…

1. Focus on Priorities

Location shouldn’t matter as long as the work gets done, especially now. Employees should think about what work needs to get done, in what order, and how they should tackle that work. Managers, on the other hand, should think about the work that must be produced today while keeping an eye on what’s on the horizon. Combined, this strategy helps set realistic priorities while reducing stress and burnout.

2. Boost Communication

For a remote workforce to be successful, strong communication is key. So managers must integrate communications technology like Slack, Trello, Basecamp, and Zoom. By leveraging these tools effectively and in a balanced manner (no Zoom calls at 6:15am!), managers can easily check-in with employees – perhaps even more often than they did when sharing an office. The win-win: this boost in communication builds even stronger working relationships across the organization.

3. Adopt New Approaches

As the world of work changes, managers must change their approach. True, we’re no longer in the same office. But that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to build mutually-beneficial, one-on-one relationships. One example is making remote work feel more human. Other approaches range from more informal meetings (just to connect), to co-created checklists and to-do lists (to build autonomy). Bottom line: The same rigid approaches to work we used to rely on may not work well now.

4. Set Clear Expectations

Clearly stating expectations and setting common goals is more important now than ever. Just as vital: A clear of understanding of how work will be measured. This will help ensure everyone understands what productivity looks like. At this time, being autocratic may not be the right answer. So welcome input and questions. After all, when managers encourage curiosity it naturally empowers each of us to do good work.

5. Offer Respectful Radical Candor

Managers and leaders must lead by example. So, no more excuses to others — or ourselves — as to why we can’t get work done. To excel, we must be honest about why we can’t be efficient during these times. Let’s accept responsibility and ditch the lies to hack productivity. Let’s consistently offer respectful radical candor. We can then co-create solutions to the challenges we face. By working together, we can overcome whatever keeps us from being productive.

6. Use Stress to Your Advantage

Not all stress is bad stress. Some stressors actually motivate us to better maintain our focus, stimulating a better work performance with goals and deadlines at the forefront. Of course, sometimes stress becomes too overwhelming. When that happens, take a deep breath. Refocus on the highest priorities. Where possible, reset expectations. By focusing on an employees strengths rather than what feels like a weakness during stressful moments, managers can help reduce the bad kinds of stress. And use the good for good.

7. Employ Empathy

Remote work has always meant a flexible work location, work schedule and dress code. But now, empathy plays a role in flexibility. Today, many of us must think about the pressures of working from home. We must integrate family responsibilities, distance or hybrid learning for children, and other life commitments. Showing empathy, and specifically knowing what each of us might be going through during the COVID-19 crisis, helps maintain – and even improves – our work culture.

Leverage these seven strategies. Help team members and leaders stay productive. Enable a positive company culture. Do it well, and you’ll help everyone feel more at ease during a complex time.

Photo: Danielle MacInnes

10 Tips to Stabilize Employee Experience During the Pandemic

In an outlook where the future looks bleak, only true leaders guide their team through the storm and come out stronger on the other side. And only the best leaders will focus on employee experience during that storm.

That leader needs to be you.

During an unprecedented crisis such as COVID-19, your leadership becomes even more valuable. With so much uncertainty, your employees will look to you now more than ever for stability.

How Can You Maintain a Positive Employee Experience?

Here’s how you can provide stability for employees while keeping your business operating at maximum efficiency…

1. Foster Transparent Communications

During times of crisis, transparency becomes essential. If your employees think your business is in trouble, they’ll feel anxious.

As the person in charge, you need to keep everyone in the loop. That means sending regular updates about how the business is doing, what problems you’re running into, what you’re doing to deal with them, and more.

2. Keep Communications Positive and Hopeful

Since employees will be expecting to hear from you often, make sure any communications you send out don’t make your employees feel anxious any further.

For example, if you have daily or weekly meetings, start them off by talking about successes within the company. After all, recognizing your employees’ efforts becomes even more important during times of turbulence. And those people and teams recognized will certainly appreciate being recognized, a key aspect in improving overall employee experience.

3. Offer Ways for Your Employees to Relieve Stress

Since the lines between the office and home have become blurred, it can be a smart move to provide your team with ways to relieve stress such as:

  • Providing your employees with additional time off and breaks if needed.
  • Setting up team virtual game nights or remote “after-office” clubs. (That said, make sure to be considerate of parents and others who may not have the same flexibility with evening get-togethers.)
  • Encouraging your team to talk to each other about how they’re handling all the changes. Make it easier to share how colleagues in similar positions are managing — what’s working, what’s not.

Happy employees tend to be better at their jobs. Helping your team relieve stress shows them you care, and it can foster in-office ties.

4. Adjust Your Internal Processes to the “New Normal”

Nothing is the same as it was months ago, so the internal processes that help you deliver products/services and accomplish tasks also need to adapt to the new normal.

For example, now might not be the best time for performance reviews as few people may be thriving during the pandemic.

5. Be Empathetic and Patient with Your Team

The pandemic and near-global quarantines have had a massive impact on most people’s mental health. One of the key reasons is that a lot of employees don’t know if they’ll have a job in a month or two.

On top of being transparent about how things are going within the business, you also need to be patient with your team. Few people are performing at 100% now, so empathy is key.

Don’t simply assume you have empathy. Chat with three to five trusted people for their honest feedback and ask if they perceive a sincere effort to accommodate the team.

6. Ramp Up Employee Feedback

Although you may know your industry inside and out, your team probably has insights that you might not have considered.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, encourage everyone who works for you to come forward with any feedback they might have. The best way to do that is to provide multiple channels for inbound feedback.

7. Set Up New Channels for Inbound Feedback

Some examples of the types of channels you can set up to encourage employee feedback include:

By providing multiple channels, you increase the chance employees will share concerns and also information about protocol violations.

8. Promote New Safety Protocols

If part of your team isn’t working remotely, then it’s your job to enforce security protocols.

That means giving your team all the information they need to perform their job safely without adding to their stress levels.

So don’t make it sterile and forgettable. Promote your safety protocols in a fun way that’s “on-brand” and will click with your employees.

9. Help Your Team Recalibrate Expectations

Although it’s your job to ensure that employees don’t feel anxious, you also need to be forthcoming about what the pandemic might mean for the employee experience now and in the future.

Some companies are putting off raises others are cutting hours, and more. Being transparent about what the business is going through will help your team keep their expectations in line.

Your team will have the confidence to adjust if they see a transparent management that is doing everything to keep the ship afloat. And that confidence will become a huge element in their employee experience.

10. Recognize the Small Things

Now more than ever, your employees need to know that you recognize the work and effort they’re putting in.

Without people showing up to work every day (even if it’s from their living room) your company wouldn’t survive. By fostering an environment where hard work is recognized and praised, you can help your team weather the storm.

Your Leadership Can Make the Biggest Difference

No industry is coming out of the pandemic unscathed. So how good your footing is after everything is said and done will depend on the level of stability instilled into your employee experience during these times.

By fostering transparency, encouraging employee engagement, and by being more empathetic, you can ensure that your team knows you’re on their side.

#WorkTrends: Sexual Harassment In Virtual Workplaces

An ill-suited conversation. A moment of innuendo. Or a comment targeted at our gender, wardrobe choices, and even our hairstyles. Each, depending on context, are considered sexually harassing messages. And yet, especially in a remote working environment, identifying harassment often comes down to a feeling you get rather than something you can prove. You feel the other person’s behavior or comment was inappropriate. But was it sexual harassment?

Don’t miss a single episode of #WorkTrends… subscribe to the podcast now!

Under any circumstances, this is not an easy topic. Now, with many employees working from home, the degree of difficulty has only increased. After all, sexual harassment does not always occur face-to-face or by touch; video conferences, emails and texts, and collaboration platforms like Slack are also delivery methods.

The Uncomfortable Conversation: Sexual Harassment

I invited Sarah Beaulieu, co-founder of The Uncomfortable Conversation and author of the book Breaking the Silence Habit: A Practical Guide to Uncomfortable Conversations in the #MeToo Workplace, to join me on #WorkTrends℠. In a frank discussion, we dove into the nuances of socially distanced forms of sexual harassment. I quickly learned this is an issue Sarah deeply cares about, and has since her first discussion on the subject: “In that moment, and in the conversations that followed, I learned about the power of a single conversation.”

Sarah emphasized that work cultures are work cultures, face-to-face or not – and harassment is harassment. Regardless of our working environment, she said we need to set our own personal boundaries, and organizations must set them as well. “Individually and organizationally – collectively – we’re responsible for holding the line,” Sarah said. “When we hold that line together, and in service of our work culture, it’s less likely sexual harassment takes place.”

The Role Silence Plays

During our conversation, I was particularly struck by the role silence plays in enabling sexual harassment — and how, over time, that silence can be so damaging to workplace culture. Sarah agrees, and astutely adds: Silence is a choice – and culture is the conversations we choose to have, or not have, together.”

Yes, sexual harassment is a difficult topic. And yet I’m so glad we started this discussion. Please, listen to the entire podcast. In our time together, Sarah shares so much of herself and her work. And every word will help us start the uncomfortable – but absolutely necessary – conversations.

Find Sarah on Linkedin and Twitter.

 

(Editor’s note: Soon, we’re announcing upcoming changes to #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats. To learn about these changes as they unfold, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.)

 

Photo: Pixabay

5 Ways COVID-19 Will Continue to Change HR

Many companies and job titles will go through drastic changes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The HR sector and the people working in it will undoubtedly experience some of them. Here are five things people can anticipate regarding HR after COVID-19 — as well as during it:

1. Companies Will Show Employee Appreciation Differently

Even while people love working from home, many find it difficult to get through their days without the fist bumps, handshakes and pats on the back that often accompanied their most productive, successful days in offices. These changes mean HR departments may need to find alternative ways to thank employees for their hard work. 

Hani Goldstein is the co-founder and CEO of Snappy Gifts, a company specializing in employee recognition products. She noted, “Working from home can be an isolating and disorienting experience for most of today’s workforce who are used to seeing their peers every day at the office.”

It’s also more challenging for employees to strike that all-important work-life balance. “Hours that were once dedicated to fun activities have been replaced with more work and increased responsibilities,” Goldstein explained. These things mean employers need to show their gratitude differently. Whether that means having team appreciation parties over virtual platforms or sending workers online gift cards, HR representatives must figure out safe, effective ways to express thanks. 

2. Remote Hiring and Recruitment Practices Will Gain Momentum

Some analysts predicted remote methods would change hiring and recruitment methods long before COVID-19 impacted the world. They were right to some extent, especially as HR professionals realized doing things remotely cut out potential hassles like travel arrangements. Remote platforms let companies extend their hiring and recruitment reach instead of only looking for candidates in the immediate area. 

HR after COVID-19 will likely prominently feature remote platforms and approaches. Suppose a human resources professional or recruitment expert can gauge a person’s candidacy for a role via a teleconferencing platform. That method saves time compared to bringing a person into the office. 

Some remote interviews are for work-at-home jobs. However, if a person gets hired for a position at a physical location, companies may require that the new hire tests negative for the novel coronavirus before arriving. 

3. Contracts Will Include COVID-19-Related Specifications More Often

As professionals navigate this new normal and ponder what it means for the future of HR, they should consider how the pandemic might impact their employment contracts. For example, a company might remove a line that guarantees the worker a certain number of hours per week to work, especially if the industry will experience the effects of the pandemic for the foreseeable future. 

One emerging trend — especially seen in the construction sector — concerns the addition of force majeure clauses related to the pandemic in contracts. Those cover the natural and unavoidable disasters preventing a party from fulfilling a contract’s terms. However, it is not sufficient for that entity to claim it was inconvenient to meet the contract’s terms. Courts look at several variables, including whether the conditions made working impossible.

Contracts may also state that workers must report their COVID-19 risk or agree to get screened. Drug screenings are already commonplace, and the same could become true for coronavirus tests. Legal experts and HR representatives are still working out the specifics of contracts in light of the global health crisis. However, people should expect to see some noticeable changes in contractual language soon. 

4. HR Representatives May Need to Reserve More Time for Training

The pandemic forced workplaces to adjust rapidly to new procedures to keep people safe. Cleaning happens more thoroughly and frequently, and many companies reduce or eliminate the time employees spend in close quarters. Customer-facing businesses also must adopt new procedures for keeping guests safe. 

Human resources professionals regularly schedule training sessions. However, they may need to do that more often or for larger workforce segments due to COVID-19. Some businesses invested in robots to help workers or wearable gadgets to ensure that people stay far enough apart while on the job. It could take a while for some workers to adjust to those things, although dedicated training efforts could help. 

If all or most of a workforce shifts to remote working, HR representatives may deem it necessary to plan training sessions that spell out safe practices online and give people tips for staying productive. Many employees now have to work in ways they hadn’t imagined. HR professionals cannot remove all the obstacles, but taking the time to educate the workers about what’s new could relieve the stresses they feel. 

5. Businesses Will Adjust Their Time-Off Policies According to Government Guidance

The need to isolate confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases poses challenges for HR professionals who may already face workplace shortages for other reasons. However, following government guidance on that matter remains crucial. Workplace leaders must also stay abreast of recent changes.

For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated the guidance about workers caring for themselves at home after symptom onset. The most recent recommendation is that people can come back to work if at least 10 days pass since symptoms began and they stay fever-free for at least 24 hours after their body temperatures initially return to normal without medication. Their non-fever symptoms must also improve. 

The CDC previously set the fever-resolution component of that three-prong test at 72 hours, so the change represents a significant reduction. These specifics mean companies may begin implementing time-off periods that people can use specifically for reasons connected to the virus. Doing that keeps people safer by minimizing the likelihood that they feel tempted to work while feeling unwell. 

The Evolving Future of HR

No one knows the pandemic’s time frame, so it’s impossible to say for sure how things will change. However, the five things mentioned here are solid predictions, especially since some workplaces have already adopted the changes.

Photo: Mariya Pampova

#WorkTrends: Hiring Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants (VA) offer young brands the flexibility to focus on other areas of the business.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode.

From multitasking between meetings and meal prep to the issues of internet and noise levels, many of us are still trying to adjust to this new normal. But we don’t have to do it alone. Big and small companies are hiring helpers to come to the rescue. These virtual assistants (VAs) and freelancers can take on the tasks that give employees a break and keep the business going.  

Nathan Hirsch, co-founder of Outsource School, came to #WorkTrends to talk about this new trend. For entrepreneurs and leaders he’s got one rule of thumb: bring in help before you’re in dire straits early. “When you can’t walk away from your business for a week, a moment — that’s usually a good indication that you need to hire followers” — as he calls VAs.

The same approach applies as with bringing in any outside help: make sure everyone is on the same page and onboard well. Outsource School uses an onboarding process called SICC: Schedule, Issues, Communication and Culture. VAs also receive standard operating procedures for their first week at work and are tasked with not just reading them, but asking questions. A quiz determines whether they need more training or not — and at that point, if the fit isn’t right, each party may decide to part ways. “That’s how you protect your time, protect your investment and build trust,” he noted. 

For managers, Nathan advises “making sure you set those communication channels up front” to get the process aligned — whether that includes emails, Slack, WhatsApp, Viber or all of them. Then coach VAs on which to use when. For VAs, asking for support when needed is critical. And I predict that we’re going to see more VAs coming onboard now and into the future, so this is an option I’d take seriously. 

We covered a lot of ground in this discussion, so I encourage you to have a listen for yourself. Got feedback? Feel free to weigh in on Twitter or on LinkedIn. (And make sure to add the #WorkTrends℠ hashtag so others in the TalentCulture community can follow along.)

Find Nathan Hirsh on Linkedin and Twitter

(Editor’s note: This month, we’re announcing upcoming changes to #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats. To learn about these changes as they unfold, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.)

Photo: Christina @ wocintechchat.com

WFH Employees: How to Keep Them Safe

In some countries, as lockdown measures continue to ease, businesses are opening and employees are heading back to work. But some of us are still working from home — a policy that has become the ‘new normal‘ and may continue for millions of people, even in the wake of the pandemic.

Companies need to make sure their employees still feel safe and connected at home to avoid WFH burnout. Here are some effective ways to make physical and mental safety and employee well-being a top priority:

Let’s dive in!

1. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

When it comes to working remotely or working from home, communication is key. According to a Buffer survey, 20% of remote workers struggle with communication.

Providing several communication channels can enable the company and employees to stay in touch. An HR manager can run conference calls (both video or audio) to help bring teams together and keep them aligned on projects. One-on-one calls are more personal and can give employees a way to reveal any struggles or concerns.

Not only does communicating make employees feel safe and connected, but it also helps them feel valued — even when they can’t draw on the support of an office or workplace environment.

2. Adjust Company Policies

With the pandemic still raging, we’re not quite at “business as usual” yet. So, it’s crucial to adjust or revise company policies and continuity plans to better protect your employees and meet their needs. Flexibility is key: more than two-thirds of employees say at a loss of flexibility would convince them to find another job. WFH security guidelines can ensure that employees can use their own devices without worrying about their data getting leaked or hacked.

As you anticipate your business demands, use workforce management software to unlock your workforce’s potential and keep employees from feeling overwhelmed. Adjust your policies regarding benefits, pay, sick leave, and paid time off to fit the circumstances.

3. Provide Team Building Activities

Since working from home isn’t the easiest task for some employees, it’s important to help them manage stress levels and feel connected to each other. One effective approach is to strengthen teamwork at the same time with team building activities, such as icebreaker or informal video conference calls. Consider movie nights, or get-togethers to just talk about life.

 Such activities can help employees not only decompress, but build their sense of personal connection and trust. 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very crucial” to strengthen employees’ work relationships and overall efficiency.

4. Promote Fair Workplace Practices

Make sure your WFH policy aligns with the company’s principles and maintains fair treatment for all employees. 54% of employees rank fair treatment as the second most valuable employer attribute, a strong factor in a decision to stay or leave.

Double-check that all employees have equal access to the company’s services, such as the devices they need to work remotely, such as laptops, internet connection, and cybersecurity. And extend sick or paid leave policies to employees even when they’re working from home. 

5. Reward and Recognize Employees

When remote employees feel valued and safe, they are free to be productive, and get their projects done effectively and efficiently. They may be working remotely, but they feel appreciated and acknowledged. Over 79% of employees who feel under-appreciated consider quitting their job — and this is going to extend to employees working from home as well. 

Build employee engagement with rewards and recognition — even just a note recognizing their efforts can go a long way.  

Whether your employees work from home occasionally or exclusively, it’s always important to make them feel safe. Support them, engage them, and you’ll see the results.

Photo: Anete Lūsiņa

Five Takeaways During COVID-19 As a Working-Mom-CEO


I’m the founder and CEO of a 40+ person HR consulting business. My husband is a preschool teacher, and I have two kids — one going into her sophomore year of high school and my son who’s leaving for college soon. With offices and schools still closed, we’re doing all we can to navigate the uncertainty and make the most of our time together. 

Keeping Kids Engaged

My daughter recently learned that her high school is going completely virtual. When her school moved online in March, she loved day one, and was exhausted by day two. Then my husband and son’s schools both closed. Suddenly our family of four was all working from home. We’re fortunate that we have plenty of space. When I’m upstairs my daughter takes over the living room. Sometimes we trade for a change of scenery.

My son’s school struggled to organize online classes, and he ended up with little to do from the time COVID-19 hit until he graduated in June. Friends made up for the lack of a formal graduation by hosting a socially distant ceremony in their backyard. With no school work, we found chores to keep him busy and got him volunteering at our neighborhood food bank. 

Feeding a family of four — all of their meals from home has been a new experience since we used to leave the house at different times, and grab lunch at work or school. I’m keeping lots of healthy food and snacks in the pantry. We’re also cooking together more. Yesterday I made granola bars, while my daughter experimented with funfetti cake pops. Teenagers may disagree, but I’ve enjoyed slowing down and spending more time together.

Self-Care Helps Manage Uncertainty

In order to be there for your family, you’ve got to take care of yourself. Think about the instructions you get when you fly: put on your oxygen mask first, before helping others. I started 2020 with a new year’s resolution to do morning meditation and have experimented with affirmations too. Some mornings, I take a brisk walk to clear my head. 

A big part of my business is leadership development. When the pandemic hit, I had no idea if or when people would invest in training. Would this part of the business fail? Obviously no one was going to join a live workshop anytime soon. Fortunately, virtual workshops quickly became the norm. My worst case scenario did not come true. Nonetheless, periods of worry and uncertainty combined with constant change are exhausting. 

Routines keep us grounded, and no routines are more basic than eating, sleeping, and exercise. My number of steps dropped when I stopped commuting so now I’m intentionally walking once or twice a day. I’ve also given myself permission to be more flexible and less productive than usual. You can’t expect as much from yourself or others while the world is in turmoil, so give everyone some grace.  

Gratitude Makes You Feel Better

There’s research that gratitude can actually change your brain over time. Practicing gratitude makes us more appreciative of what we have. Start small by making a list of things you’re grateful for each night before bed. Or have each family member share what one thing they’re thankful for when you sit down for dinner. It can be as simple as fresh air, a new puppy, or your health. There are many ways to practice gratitude

My colleague from Milan and his wife were quarantined in different Italian cities during lockdown. All non-essential businesses were shut down, and there was no social life whatsoever. I commiserated with how hard that must be. He responded by saying that his grandfather had a much more difficult life during the war, so he never feels unlucky. What an amazing example of gratitude.  

Wait! I’m Still a CEO

With my family continuously readjusting to new routines, I’ve had to think creatively about what my team clients need right now. They’re looking for guidance on remote work and virtual meetings, clear communications, and tips to stay connected and engaged. People are also grappling with how to engage in anti-racist work following the killing of George Floyd. Leaders want to be empathetic while struggling to manage their own anxiety. Working parents need strategies to function while keeping kids safe and occupied. 

As a leader, I know it’s important to stay resilient and provide my team a sense of safety. We’re talking more often, checking in with each other. We’re inviting our kids and pets to online meetings, and hosting a Zoom celebration in place of our summer picnic. 

Perspective Taking

I’m staying focused on how I can help myself, my family, my team, clients, and community stay strong and get through this. I’m grateful that my loved ones are healthy and my company has so far weathered the storm. I’m encouraged because everyday I see people taking care of those in need ranging from small businesses to kids who won’t have meals while schools are closed. I know eventually this will pass and I think about how it’s going to make us stronger, more flexible, and more appreciative.

Photo: Aleks Marinkovic

#WorkTrends: Aligning Around Performance Management: New Findings

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss an episode.

How, where, and when we work may have changed, but there still needs to be a way to manage performance. But do employees want that right now? Amid the uncertainty, the answer is yes. Employees are yearning for continuous feedback, according to a 2020 performance management benchmark report by Reflektive, which surveyed over 1,000 HR practitioners, business leaders, and employees. And the feedback process is bolstering the relationship between managers and employers. 

I invited Jennifer Toton, Chief Marketing Officer at Reflektive to #WorkTrends to shed light on this benchmark study and dig into some of the trends it reveals. But as Jennifer pointed out, what was surprising was what didn’t change. The formal process of performance management and the number of reviews are still intact, but the way we give and receive feedback has really evolved. “We saw a 90% increase in employees who want more formal feedback conversations on a monthly or more frequent basis.”  

Also compelling, to me, is that even in these times, employees have retained a sense of optimism. Many believe that six months from the time of the survey, business will remain as usual. A quarter believed they would learn more skills. Another quarter said they would feel proud of the work they accomplished, and about a fifth said that they will feel more productive. “Our employees are resilient and they’re adapting to the change,” added Jennifer. 

Much is up to the managers, though. They must be transparent in their communication, said Jennifer, particularly around salary freezes and pay cuts, as honesty feeds trust. In addition, 80% of employees said they were having regular meetings with their managers, and that they found the format was not only positive, but productive. 

We covered a lot of ground in this discussion, so I encourage you to have a listen for yourself. Got feedback? Feel free to weigh in on Twitter or on LinkedIn. (And make sure to add the #WorkTrends hashtag so others in the TalentCulture community can follow along.)

 Twitter Chat Questions
Q1: Why do organizations struggle with performance management? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can help improve performance management? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders refocus performance management for better results?  #WorkTrends

Find Jennifer Toton on Linkedin and Twitter

This podcast is sponsored by Reflektive.

(Editor’s note: This month, we’re announcing upcoming changes to #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats. To learn about these changes as they unfold, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.)

Photo: Bill Oxford

5 Ways To Foster Belonging At Work

What’s the worst thing an employee can say on any given day? How about, “I don’t belong here?” The schism that takes place when an employee doesn’t feel connected with the work culture can have wide-ranging impacts across engagement, performance, team dynamics and the bottom line. Companies need to ensure they cultivate a workplace where employees feel a sense of belonging, whether that workplace is in-office or remote. As much as we talk about the power of employee experience and the dynamics of employee engagement, we first have to address the primary need to belong. That sense of true connection is the foundation for how we feel about work — and indeed, how we work.

I’ve been having some really insightful conversations with Iain Moffat, Chief Global Officer of MHR International, about belonging. It feels right for the times we’re in right now. Some employees have been rapidly sprung out of the tangible community of the workplace and are now working from home. And some workforces are still in the physical workplace, but under increasing pressure as we continue to endure the pandemic and its fallout. But building a sense of belonging isn’t just a fix for now. It’s a powerful talent strategy that has long-term outcomes.

Iain and I agreed that building a sense of belonging needs to be part of any serious endeavor to build an exceptional work culture. We also both noted that while some organizations are surprised by how comfortable employees are working from home, it may be, ironically, because they’re home. So how can businesses provide employees with that same sense of being in the right place?

First, five key points on belonging and businesses:

  • Given the push-pull of working from home or working through the turbulence and challenges of COVID-19, belonging bolsters our realization that we’re in it together, no matter where we are. It’s been linked to improved retention and a far more successful employer brand. Employees who feel like they belong tend to invite others to experience that as well. 
  • We all need to feel like we belong — and when we do, there’s a marked increase in our engagement, overall happiness and health. In that sense, belonging is a benefit that should be part of the employer’s offering to employees: working with us, you will feel like you belong, and we will be intentional about that. 
  • In our consumer-driven society, belonging is more than just a feel-good. It’s a strong driver of brand alignment. When we feel comfortable with a brand, we tend to stay with it. We feel like it speaks to our values, our sensibilities. That loyalty easily translates into the workplace context: employees want to stay with their employer because they believe in the brand and are comfortable with its values and purpose. 
  • Belonging isn’t just a social component. It should be seen as a business strategy that considers and addresses the real needs of your employees in terms of safety, career growth, feeling a part of a work community, and balancing work and life.
  • A culture of belonging doesn’t aim to homogenize everyone into a shared identity, but rather fosters diversity and inclusion as a way of improving and enhancing a shared culture. There’s a big difference. You don’t need to steamroll over differences to find the common ground, particularly in the workplace.

Marshmallows, Spaghetti, and Teamwork   

That said, what does a culture of belonging look like? Iain provided a telling example of the complex dynamics of belonging in action: the marshmallow challenge, originally created by Peter Skillman — and the subject of a great TED Talk by Tom Wujec. In this collaborative training exercise, teams of four have a fixed amount of time to build a tower out of spaghetti and tape that can support a marshmallow. The team with the highest tower wins.

“What’s interesting about the challenge is the pattern of consistently high-performing and low-performing teams,” when you compare kindergarteners and business school graduates, he said. What I found interesting as well is that in general, the five-year-olds outdid the business school grads. 

The children walked into the challenge with no training or preconceived notion of how to work together. So they just did — “in short bursts of collaborative effort, prototyping to find the best solution,” as Iain described. “They have no pre-fixed view of how they should act in the group and no hierarchy. Instead, they just focused on how to solve the problem.” They worked inclusively, unconcerned with status or protocols. 

 But the business school grads got hung up on who would be in charge, wasting valuable time jockeying for position. “They acted in a way they think they should behave given their lengthy investment in an advanced education,” Iain said. “They focused on trying to come up with a single solution rather than collaborating, prototyping, trying and doing. They were held back by a set of assumptions of how they should behave.” Often they ran out of time, or built a tower that collapsed.

We’re not building spaghetti towers, to be sure. But we do tend to walk into work with a sense of hierarchy and how we’re supposed to behave. If, instead, we’re free to abandon our certain assumptions on status and protocols and just work together, we forge a new kind of teamwork that’s far more productive. A team in a culture of belonging can simply focus on the task and the output, and is comfortable enough to be open to each others’ ideas and relish the collaborative process. The overarching attitude is: “Let’s try it, if it doesn’t work, let’s try something else.” Without anyone in charge, there’s no agenda besides tackling the problem. Instead of being driven by ego, the team is driven by the energy of working together. Instead of feeling pressure to arrive at a perfect solution, the team has the freedom and confidence to prototype until they get it. 

Two factors changed the outcome for the business school grads, Iain said: “First, when someone with facilitation skills joined the business school graduates, they often performed better, as the group was organized around the task.” Second, “If the group received feedback on their performance, and had the time to reflect and then perform the task again, they outperformed by several hundred percent.” 

We have a remarkable opportunity right now to foster a sense of belonging within our workplaces. So many of us have taken the veneer off: we’re meeting from kitchens, we’re video conferencing with children in the background; we’re seeing each others’ lives. We’re seeing how important it is to protect employees working on the front lines or out in public, and how to include their perspectives in how we better safeguard our workforce. 

The climate of working during a pandemic has removed so many of the assumptions we bring into the workplace, and replaced them with a basic understanding that on a fundamental level we are people, working together. When you can build on that understanding by meeting one of our most fundamental needs — to feel that sense of belonging – it drives peace of mind, focus, productivity, collaboration and performance. In so doing, it fosters everyone’s success — that of the business, and that of its workforce. If you want to see how cohesive and collaborative your work culture really is, break out the spaghetti and the marshmallows. Then build on that until those towers are as high as they can be.

This post is sponsored by MHR International.

Photo: Chris Montgomery

#WorkTrends: Navigating the Obstacles of Remote Work

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss an episode.

Working from home has been a learning experience for many of us. Maria Orozova and Scott Thomas, co-founders of MODintelechy, joined me on #WorkTrends to share their perspective on how to navigate the many obstacles of WFH, from kids to focus to time management — and how to reap the benefits of remote work. 

Maria and Scott are veterans of working from home — their strategies have proven invaluable for their hectic days. And full disclosure: they not only work together, they share a family and a home as well. They’ve learned to stagger work hours so they can spell each other on the day-to-day. And instead of video calls all the time, they decided it depends on the client. What a relief to balance “strategic video versus no video time on Zoom calls,” said Maria. Scott swears by “simple stuff,” like taking a quick swim or walk to stay sane. I can relate.

Of course it’s not just about the leaders and managers. It’s about employees. One way this power couple keeps their employees engaged and balanced now is by “really being conscious” of how and when to show their human side. They know when to keep the camera off, and they stay present for people. Maria talked about the importance of giving people “some grace” for the mundane disruptions that can occur with WFH. After all, we agreed, this isn’t just bringing our whole selves to work. It’s bringing work to our whole lives.

Embrace it, they said. “Sharing your own vulnerability first kind of gives people the task or permission to share,” said Scott. When the Zoom fatigue is real, take the pressure off by just picking up the phone. Is there a bright side to all this? I asked them. Absolutely, they said: WFH enables us to gain new focus and clarity into how we work, and how we can work better together.

We covered so much ground in this discussion, and I encourage you to have a listen for yourself. And feel free to weigh in on Twitter or on LinkedIn with your feedback. (Just make sure to add the #WorkTrends hashtag so others in the TalentCulture community can follow along.)

 Twitter Chat Questions
Q1: How can brands create and drive a positive remote work culture? #WorkTrends
Q2: How can brands help remote workers adjust and be productive? #WorkTrends
Q3: What tactics can remote workers use to maintain their mental well-being?#WorkTrends

Find Maria Orozova on Linkedin and Twitter

Find Scott Thomas on Linkedin and Twitter

(Editor’s note: In August we’ll be announcing upcoming changes to #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats. To learn about these changes as they unfold, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.)