Initially, many employers were wary of remote work. A global pandemic of such magnitude brought along with it a fear of the unknown. This took its toll on many businesses, resulting in hiring freezes, layoffs, and grave economic problems. It also spurred the big move to remote work, which impacted several key elements of the workplace, such as onboarding, productivity, and engagement.
Businesses have made headway against some of the most daunting aspects of working remotely. Tackling these challenges is difficult, but negotiating them can result in stronger remote work culture.
Here, we talk about the six essential elements needed to build a great remote work culture.
1. Employer Brand
Your employer brand is essential for connecting with potential candidates. This makes your employer branding strategy a critical factor in attracting and retaining talent. It should first define what your brand is, and secondly, convey it in a way that reaches and resonates with as many people as possible.
“An employer brand can only ever be as successful as the company culture that it represents. The purpose of the brand is to both accurately reflect that company culture while amplifying it”, says Jason Nazar, CEO of Comparably.
At its core, the process of creating a great remote work culture is a feedback loop. Companies have to do the internal work of building great company culture and once that foundation is set, employer brand and recruitment marketing activities enhance a company’s employer image.
Companies must actively manage their perception as employers on platforms such as Comparably, which are used by candidates to research company culture regardless of whether their job search is active or passive.
2. Remote Onboarding
The success of a remote work culture relies heavily on a well-executed onboarding process for new employees. The people who joined a company before the pandemic might remember what the culture was like before. But with the average person in the United States changing jobs every 4 years, the reality is that people have become accustomed to the remote hiring experience.
The process of searching for a job or candidates has never been more simple or automatable. Once a candidate has been identified and shows interest, a remote interview, and selection process is conducted, and the hiring cycle is completed. A new employee receives their laptop and begins the remote onboarding process. This is a critical point at which a company has the opportunity to build a strong understanding of the company’s culture.
“Key experiences, like joining an organization, and peak moments in the first few days and weeks almost wholly define how new hires view the organization. The process must authentically convey the products, the work environment, their team, their manager, and just about every other employee engagement variable. An exceptional onboarding experience creates real believers and campaigners for the organization and elevates retention almost twofold,” says John Gilleeny, senior director of talent and learning at ZoomInfo.
The more well-thought-out a remote work onboarding process is, the more impact it can have on recruiting metrics and KPIs by boosting remote employee performance, engagement, and ultimately, employee retention.
One of the most widely discussed concerns about remote work is employee productivity. A study by Great Place to Work found that productivity increased sharply at the start of the pandemic in 2020.
Source: Great Place To Work
The initially sharp increase in productivity at the start of the pandemic might be attributed to the fear of layoffs and oncoming economic turmoil. Reaching all-time highs in May, productivity levels fell just as sharply over that summer.
As people became more accustomed to working from home over the course of the year, productivity eventually landed at 3% above pre-pandemic levels. Overall, the talent market seems to have adjusted well to the idea of working from home for at least part of the time.
Innovation is another issue that often comes up in the discussion of remote work culture. Survey results published by McKinsey in June 2020 found that innovation decreased across industries as companies dealt with the COVID-19 crisis, with the obvious exception being the medical and pharma industries.
Exactly two years later, McKinsey reported that innovators have come to embrace new working models as a part of increased innovation, citing several major indicators:
- There were 5.38 million new business applications in 2021 — 50% more than pre-pandemic 2019.
- World Intellectual Property Indicators from WIPO showed that cumulative global IP filing activity grew across 150 authorities in 2020.
- Venture capital flows boomed in 2021, more than doubling from 2020.
With times of crisis come new innovations to overcome new problems. While innovation initially suffered, it has since adjusted.
5. Employee Engagement and Advocacy
There is a strong relationship between employee engagement at work and their well-being. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health proposes this 5C’s model:
Remote working and flexibility became recognized as an important factor in allowing people to reconcile work and home life.
Businesses that build out development schemes for employees within a remote framework allow people to excel while working remotely.
Faith that a business values the health and safety of employees while demonstrating hands-on leadership fortifies employee engagement.
Going beyond the basics of benefits and compensation, by covering additional costs of difficult times helps employees feel more engaged at work.
Getting employees to participate by creating a constructive feedback loop between employees and management also engenders employees to remain engaged.
While this five-part framework was first devised when COVID-19 started, it has since transcended the crisis and has become a necessary consideration in managing organizational health.
Engaged employees who respect your company culture, believe in your company vision, and have the aptitude to share their positive remote work experiences with their peers on professional networking sites are highly valuable and can be powerful employee advocates. Word of mouth is still the most powerful form of marketing. It’s critical to engage remote employees with your company culture.
6. Quality of Life
Employees in a hybrid or remote workplace experience other benefits alongside increased productivity. In a study published by Forbes, more than half of employees who became accustomed to a hybrid workplace model experienced better mental health, work-life balance, and increased physical activity.
Other benefits included:
- More job satisfaction
- Customized work environments
- Employers upgrading wellness programs
HR Leads the Way in Building Strong Remote Work Culture
The task of building a strong remote work culture must be prioritized by the HR function of today’s companies. In a highly competitive talent market now facing a possible recession, companies must convey clear expectations about their work model and the environment — and follow through with onboarding, documentation, and communication practices that foster good remote work culture.