Optimizing the work from home experience
Businesses around the world are debating how—and whether—to properly implement a distributed workforce if WFH becomes a long-term possibility following the COVID-19 outbreak. To assist growing companies in making an impactful data-backed business decision, we’ve recently enlisted the insight of our partners at Culture Amp, Gong, Slack, and Zoom to share their remote work best practices in a helpful WFH eGuide. We looked at collaboration tools, approaches to sustainable work-life balance, and new ideas for how companies could continue to grow in the new working environment, and came up with the following eight tactical takeaways.
1. Decide how you will be remembered during this time
Don’t just grin and bear it. This is a learning opportunity. Absorb, adapt, develop, and create. Maintain communication, and prioritize employee and customer well-being. Demonstrate leadership in decision-making and daily interactions. Use empathy when adjusting to a work-at-home reality, and understand that the coronavirus pandemic will take a toll on team members' professional and personal lives. On a company level, focus on support and retention rather than selling through the hard times. Become a concierge, and help customers solve their problems, regardless of whether it’s with your product. Confirm that your offering is still aligned with your stakeholders’ evolving priorities, and proactively communicate with customers to ensure you’re addressing their needs.
2. Communicate often and with purpose
Decide which communication channels serve different company needs. Consider urgency, posterity, and discoverability when making this decision, and determine whether face time is necessary to communicate your message effectively. Help your teams resist bingeing on crisis news by distilling relevant information into high-quality sound bites with context for what it means for the business. Good leaders act as a filter that keeps people focused on what they can control. Separate work time from personal time, allow space for creativity and individuality, and schedule time outside of work for people to connect.
3. Use collaboration tools deliberately to connect
Maximize time with video conferencing tools like Zoom. Enable video calls to enhance nonverbal communication and human connection, use breakout rooms to manage large audiences, and provide time to decompress between conference calls. Foster a sense of community among virtual teams through chat platforms like Slack. Optimize integrations to share daily customer feedback, training, and best practices. Provide company analytics in real time using recording tools like Gong, and use recorded interactions to keep a regular pulse on customer health, provide immediate insight into which value props are resonating, and allow for rapid company pivots as needed.
4. Set personal boundaries, prioritizing physical and mental health
Empower remote workers to set and enforce boundaries in the current work environment. Adopt flexible WFH schedules, and motivate employees to drink plenty of water, maintain a nutritious diet, and exercise. Suggest replacing commutes with mindfulness rituals and routines, silencing chat notifications after work hours, and blocking out personal time in calendars. Offer perks and creative ways of setting and maintaining goals and boundaries, like integrating Google Calendar with your Slack account, using extra time to stretch between calls, and using apps like Calm to remain grounded during the work day. Encourage employees to clearly define work mode versus personal mode, and leave nonessential items for the next day. Help employees create a suitable home office environment with a dedicated workspace away from family members that allows them to work in quiet and privacy, with reliable WiFi. Provide headsets or other office space amenities that will help your team thrive while telecommuting.
5. Reward performance, and remove barriers to professional growth
Full-time remote work evens the promotional playing field. Employees who relied on extroverted personalities and informal power networks to advance their careers suddenly have to put time on people’s calendars, just like everyone else. And in the same way, executives are now more accessible than ever. What used to take weeks of scheduling and conference room bookings now takes a ping on LinkedIn and a quick video call. The days of coffee shops and water coolers are over, but this change in dynamic might lead to more egalitarian professional development. Focus on rewarding performance, and aim for more meritocratic advancement.
6. Provide time for culture and connectedness
Schedule remote team events. Cook or order in, and share a meal over Zoom or company social media. Present employee introductions before calls, and highlight newly onboarded remote employees. Play games virtually, and keep a running leaderboard to encourage continued engagement. Now, more than ever, culture should be at the forefront of every company’s mind, and top of their to-do list. The rules have changed, but the culture game is no less important. Make culture-building in the new remote landscape one of the year’s top priorities, and come out of the WFH experience more connected than when you went in.
7. Listen to your customers and give them what they need
Schedule calls and check-ins with customers. Lead round tables, and share learnings with the entire company. 73% of employees find their jobs more meaningful when they feel connected at work. Record and analyze customer calls as an ongoing part of project management. Gong shares customer calls with its teams to help them pivot quickly, using analytics to power content and marketing strategy and product design. Identify your customers’ needs, and then build a product that delivers.
8. Revisit productivity, and define the metrics used to measure it
A successful measurement framework includes clear metrics optimized for automated data access, and the ability to seamlessly cascade from leadership to individual contributors across teams. Everyone should know their key performance indicators, and those metrics should roll up to the company’s top objectives. Develop a North Star Metric against which to measure company performance, and integrate it into the overall culture. Set clear expectations.
In the coming months, and possibly years, businesses will be making tough decisions about returning to the office or remaining remote. Implementing policies to support those decisions will require thoughtful strategy about communication, culture, customer service, and employee well-being. And in the midst of an economic downturn, considerations must also reflect stringent financial planning. It’s unclear how long the present conditions will last, or what the ultimate implications will look like, but with the help of its partners, Brex is committed now, more than ever, to helping growing companies realize their full potential.