6 Winning Strategies to Improve the Remote Employee Experience
Remote or hybrid work is here to stay. According to the UK Office for National Statistics, the proportion of people planning to spend most of their working hours at home has only risen in 2022, despite guidance to work from home because the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was no longer in place in Great Britain.
So with increasing numbers of companies implementing permanent remote or hybrid work policies moving forward, figuring out how to build a positive employee experience for remote workers is more than just a nice-to-have. It’s essential.
However, a remote working policy is not about do’s and don’ts. It is about awareness of how employees feel and what they need while being away from the office. Rightly so. According to a study by Deloitte University Press, remote employees with a positive experience are 28% more productive and 46% more engaged. As follows from that, companies that provide high remote employee experience have 25% higher profit and 37% lower turnover.
In this article, we’ll break down the components of a great remote employee experience and how to create it in your organization, drawing from our experiences as a remote-first company. We’ve
What Is Remote Employee Experience?
The remote employee experience roughly translates to the experience that an employee goes through while working remotely, from their first to their last day at a company. It encompasses a complete set of factors that make up the experience — from remote work tools and communication policies to building team connections and facilitating wellness programs.
According to Slack’s Remote Employee Experience Index, these are the five factors that need to be considered when designing a remote-first employee experience.
- Productivity: The ability to complete tasks efficiently while delivering a high quality of work
- Work-life balance: the fluidity between priorities in work and personal life
- Managing work-related stress and anxiety: the ability to manage pressure and worry in the virtual workplace
- Sense of belonging: a measure of whether knowledge workers feel accepted and valued by others on their work team
- Satisfaction with the working arrangement: the perception of the infrastructure and support that underpins their remote work experience
We’ll touch on all of the above factors below, with some practical tips on how to make sure they’re covered, as well as some info on what we’ve tried (and often adjusted) as a team.
Understanding The Benefits & Challenges of Remote Work
While we’re quick to talk about the benefits of working from home, we must also acknowledge the challenges that come with the territory
According to Escalla, some of the biggest challenges to working remotely are:
- longer working hours,
- overlapping work and personal life,
- work intensification,
- strain on teams,
- and isolation.
Knowing that these challenges are part and parcel of the remote-first working landscape makes it easier to identify them when they crop up and then combat them.
Building Positive Employee Experiences for Remote Workers
Here are some specific ways to create a positive employee experience for remote workers.
1. Optimise Onboarding – Expectations and Gaps
First things first, if you want to create a great remote employee experience, start at the beginning. Onboarding is a crucial part of the process and not just for the obvious reasons of setting them up for success and making sure they have everything they need to do the job. The onboarding process sets the tone for the rest of the experience at your company. Effective onboarding can make employees feel 18 times more committed to their organisation. If it starts off rocky then you can’t really expect anyone to be invested.
When you are setting up an onboarding process, it’s helpful to map out all the relevant touchpoints for the new employee. Consider who the first person they may encounter might be and how that interaction will feed into the next. Management is key here. In a study on how remote work has affected Microsoft employees, new employees were 3.5 times more likely to say they were satisfied with their onboarding experience if their managers were actively involved in the process. Regular one-on-ones aren’t just important at this stage, but after the onboarding as well.
Each person they come into contact with during onboarding will shape the way they see the company and how they ultimately fit into it. These introductions should be planned strategically to happen at the right time in the process. It might seem like the best thing to do is introduce everyone in the first couple of days, but you don’t want to bombard the newcomer with too many names and faces to remember.
Pairing up new employees with a mentor or buddy who can offer peer-to-peer support can help answer some of the questions that inevitably arise in new jobs. This is something we try to do at Move and have found that it quickly eases new employees, especially younger ones who might feel hesitant to reach out to management at first.
2. Connect Your Employees to The Mission and EVP You Put Forward
When employees feel aligned with their organization’s mission, vision, and core company values, they’ll be more productive and will feel fulfilled by their work.
Find a way to have them connect with the mission and understand their own contributions. This gives employees’ work a purpose that ultimately increases engagement and success. At Move, we have symbols and mission statements for each team. We talk about them often and, during hangouts, will often ask other teams to understand what another team does and means to the business – cross-pollinating an overall understanding of the goals.
In the same breath, as a company, it’s important to align the employee experience with the EVP you initially put forward. You can essentially turn your EVP into a checklist of factors to consider when you create an excellent employee experience, because those things that attracted them, in the beginning, will be key to making them stick around and happier to be there.
3. Engage and Often
Let’s get into the measurable stuff: employee engagement.
Typically the best way to get feedback from your employees is with a simple survey done around the same time each month, quarter, or year. Scores from 1 to 5, short-form or multiple-choice questions… They’ll yield you quantifiable feedback, but you might not be getting all of the information you need.
Opening up other channels for feedback could get you far more detail. This is something that Forbes refers to as an “agile communication toolbox”. All this is means is that you shouldn’t be limiting your options to collect feedback. One-on-ones, for example, could be a great way to find out what individuals are struggling with ore what they’d like to see more of.
Keep it simple, transparent, and regular.
4. Prioritise Mental Health
Mental health should always be a top consideration when it comes to the employee experience for remote workers. Because we don’t get facetime, it becomes harder to spot when someone is having a difficult time, experiencing burnout or struggling with loneliness. While we must all take charge of our mental health, some of the onus falls on employers.
In a recent survey highlighted by Employee Benefits, more than three-quarters (79%) of UK workers have experienced burnout, with 35% reporting high or extreme levels, according to new research. And, 76% say that workplace stress affects their mental health. Employers need to make sure their benefits meet the mental health needs of all staff members, and managers should be alert to signs of chronic stress on their teams.
Wellness webinars and mental health resources can go a long way to alleviate stress. At Move, we work with Spill to offer mental health resources to our employees, accessible via Slack!
5. Build a Connected Company Culture
As much as we want to deny it, there is a tangible disconnect between coworkers in a lot of remote companies. To try and combat this and foster a real connection, consider hosting a weekly online hangout for the team. This can include any form of game, presentation, or activity that will work for your whole team. Consider getting help from a few key members to help plan it. It’ll give you greater insight into them as people and helps you gauge what the team might be needing at that point in time. We typically have our team hangouts on a Friday at 4 pm. Think of these as the release valve for any building pressure to dissipate.
Instead of birthday or anniversary celebrations in a shared room, send shout-outs via Slack or another company communication tool and have flowers or a gift card sent to your employee’s home. To replace water cooler chats, organize online coffee breaks that enable employees to connect with one another “outside” of work.
Slack really is your friend here. There are so many integrations that facilitate engagement across the company. One example of this is Donut, an app that helps connect teams serendipitously for virtual coffee. This works within a dedicated Donut channel, so anyone who doesn’t want to be prompted to schedule random meetings with a coworker can opt-out.
Speaking of dedicated channels, you should consider them as smaller niche spaces. At Move, we have a #petsofmove channel, for example. This is where we share cute pictures of our pets, swap anecdotes, and even provide advice. You can set up a channel for any niche in a similar way.
Custom emojis that speak to your team culture also go a long way in fostering a sense of camaraderie and sparking conversations. Sometimes the simply the best way to respond to a meeting is with a Kermit face or an outdated meme.
6. Provide Clear Paths for Development and Success
As employees have moved to work from home, there’s been an increased emphasis on productivity as companies evaluate whether or not remote work fits the bill. However, that’s not only what matters to employees. Research by Middlesex University for Work Based Learning found that 74% – of 4,300 workers surveyed – felt they weren’t achieving their full potential due to a lack of development opportunities at work.
In a remote work environment, it can be easy for employers to focus on the here and now and neglect planning for the long-term employee experience. Employers need to commit to providing their staff with professional growth and career development opportunities, along with supporting resources. Offering regular coaching, feedback, check-ins, and online learning methods (e-learning, training tools, and courses) ensures that your employees have something to look forward to as their career progresses.
Move provides its staff with a learning and development budget that they can use towards upskilling. This can include things like certifications, short courses, or even events in their area of study. To facilitate this, employees are also encouraged to set aside time each week dedicated to this learning. Aiming for at least an hour, they get to block out time in their calendars, especially for self-study.
Crafting the best remote employee experience isn’t all about the physicality of having to adapt to working from home. It largely has to do with the social aspects of work — the connection — and so it’s important to make sure that employees feel seen and heard, even if it is through a screen.