The COVID-19 pandemic upended the world of work and pushed enterprises to embrace the Future of Work, in the present. What we initially anticipated to be a temporary arrangement turned out to be the world’s largest ‘work from home’ experiment. Today, it is clear that remote work will be an indelible part of our lives at least for the foreseeable future. Re-organizing the workplace culture and resetting it to create a virtual workplace culture has been on the priority list of most forward-thinking organizations.
Research shows that the initial days of the pandemic, the consequent uncertainty, and pressures to adjust to this new normal and zoom fatigue led to employee burnout. When the world is faced with a crisis of this scale, the organizational responsibilities towards their associates become manifold. The organization has to create the proper channels that drive productivity and work. But along with that, it has to also create the right mechanisms and processes to keep these remote teams engaged and happy.
The need to change old processes and patterns to accommodate the new world of work was one of our top priorities too when the pandemic struck. We did have remote work policies in place and a mature workforce that could manage work, productivity, and KPIs remotely. However, we felt that it was an organizational responsibility to give more importance to our employee engagement and employee management strategies to ensure that associate well-being is never compromised.
Here is what we did to manage our remote teams and keep them highly engaged:
Onboarding, a critical part of the hiring process, is even more crucial for remote associates. Onboarding is more than an introductory program. It is a process that gives the new hire an insight into the organizational culture and values and helps them identify the sources and pathways necessary for a successful run. This meant that a simple onboarding video that the new associate would view at her leisure was simply not enough.
In the absence of physical interactions, it became our organizational and HR prerogative to redesign the existing onboarding process to optimize them for a remote setup.
Our new onboarding plans leveraged technology to help associates settle into their new workplace comfortably. Video sessions, clear process directions, mentors, and buddies became an organic part of our onboarding process to deliver connection and enablement when the new associate needed it.
While helping new members settle in was one part of the HR challenge, keeping existing team members engaged and productive was the other. With no face time and informal conversations, no physical proximity, and no water cooler talk, keeping the workplace environment light meant hard work for the HR team.
While managing fully remote teams can feel daunting at first, we made sure that the lack of physical proximity doesn’t impact the team bonds.
We used the power of social media and actively used it to share associate information and photos. This helped new associates feel at home and more connected to their peers since they could put a face to the name.
Re-evaluating team management styles, helping managers and training them to become virtual leaders from remote managers, setting up coaching and mentoring networks within the organization was the first step. We made sure that the technology set up and the tools ecosystem was optimized to help our associates work conveniently. Team and associate check-ins, focusing on the mental health of our associates, delivering help and enablement when they need it, and having more frequent one-on-ones became a prerogative at an organizational, leadership, and managerial level.
We had to let our associates know that they are not alone at a time like this and that their well-being is our concern and priority.
Most scenario planning at the organizational level during exigent situations revolve around creating the right operational responses to ensure business continuity. While we did follow this, we also made sure that we extended scenario planning to team activities also to drive engagement wherever our associates are by being locationally agnostic.
This meant realigning activities that teams usually partook in and reframing them to suit today’s modern-day narrative. So, we made sure we had the right platforms and the initiatives in place that would help associates stay connected with each other and the workplace.
We started, for example, having informal get-togethers where the teams would meet to just connect over an online lunch or coffee session. The objective was to promote that ‘water cooler’ or cafeteria vibe where associates gathered to simply catch up and connect over things other than work. The personal banter worked wonderfully to build emotional connections and contribute towards team spirit and camaraderie. Engaged associates became natural outcomes of these efforts.
While we ensured that individual teams met regularly, we also had to make sure that the associates remained connected at an organizational level. For this, we had to create more opportunities to interact and engage by making sure that the entire organization connected together for the quarterly all-hands meets.
These meets also became more exhaustive where HOD’s shared quarterly milestones and achievements and also covered professional achievements and personal milestones of their team members. The meets became the portal that gave clear insights into organizational progress. Introducing new associates to the whole organization, announcements of weddings and childbirth or news of them purchasing new homes, etc. became a part of these meets and further contributed to the feeling of kinship amongst the associates.
Where there is curiosity there is competition. Where there is competition, there is progress. Where there is progress, there is engagement.
Our workforce has always been curious. And we have always maintained a fun and competitive vibe in our workplace that our associates love. That we had to enable the same for a remote set-up was a no-brainer.
To drive this, we started a Verinite Fun Club, a secure platform where we conducted a plethora of fun activities to keep the teams curious and competitive. From hackathons and coding challenges to push-up and family picture challenges, we hosted many activities that witnessed overwhelming participation from our entire workforce.
Our associates used this platform to come up with challenges of their own like the one where they had to share their work from home set up. Funny photos and various memes made this one entertaining and hilarious challenge!
While the scale of remote work is likely to reduce in the near future, remote work will remain a part of the world of work. It becomes even more essential to create the right networks and pathways that enable associates to stay on their path of success as we move into a hybrid world of work.
We understand that organizational success is directly proportional to associate success hence keeping the internal customers (our associates) satisfied and engaged is an ongoing process…one that is tweaked and changed in alignment with the demands of the time and the needs of the associates