Companies offering remote and hybrid working environments have been struggling to find the right balance between the needs of their employees and the control they want over their team. Companies are still struggling to find the right balance between return to the office campaigns and the demand from their teams for more work from home flexibility.
During The Omnis online event, Freddie Laker, Founding Partner at Chameleon Collective, discussed how there is still very little guidance on how to lead an organization with a completely remote workforce. He emphatically stated, “Remote companies have the best culture.” However, he agrees there is still a way to go before all companies can do this effectively and keeping their employees in a state of well-being.
He said, “It is imperative to over-communicate in a remote culture. In the absence of the passive cues you may pick up in a traditional environment, remote leaders and workers must compensate by over-communicating to ensure everyone feels connected, informed, and aligned.”
“Over-communication means keeping your messaging simple and short. It’s important to keep things simple and easy to access. In the absence of being able to see each other, it’s important to make people feel that they’re around.
Tayyaba Jordan Exec Health & Wellness Coach at Wellness with Me, and The Omnis Outstanding Culture & Communications sponsor, focused on the importance of employee well-being.
She said: “There are a lot of nuances in communication. With remote work, one of the things we need work on is those nuances. Communication between employees helps with the dilution of worries. The watercooler talk, or inconsequential banter, help dilute the things that cause stress in the workplace. So, it’s important to understand how people like to communicate to help relieve that stress. By understanding those nuances, you help your team to help fill those gaps and nuances.”
Laker also said: “By working more closely with my colleagues and taking the time to connect with them on a one on one basis over video I've not only built stronger personal and professional relationships, but I've ensured that I had a strong pulse on their personal well being as they discover new ways to work and live their personal lives.”
Dealing With Technology Fatigue
For companies and teams finding themselves with video meeting fatigue, Laker said, “Embrace video - and do it well. Humans communicate with more than their voices. So, deeper, more meaningful connections are built when you can see each other. I feel strongly that in a remote workforce, you should all be on video. Video helps to read the subtle cues and passing things along that can get lost on email or telephone. This is why we went to meetings and met with clients in the past, to connect with people.
“All meetings should have everyone on video to show they're engaged and present. Teams should be assisted (by the company) to have the best video experience possible - from good lighting, to the best camera possible, to a presentable background. When team members have great video experiences it reduces friction and makes people feel like they're in person (or better).”
The Omnis Winner: Willow Innovations
During the Outstanding Culture & Communications Omnis event, on November 18, 2021, Omnipresent announced Willow Innovations from Mountain View, California, as the winner of the global remote work category. She explained how they managed to create a systemic approach to listening to their employees while they were all working from home and how it helped create a stronger corporate culture as a result.
Dana Lanier, VP of People, said, “When COVID hit, and we sent all our employees home, I scheduled one-on-one meetings with every one of our employees to really understand what was going on. We wanted to know what people were experiencing, how they were impacted by COVID, and how we could better help them throughout those sets of challenges.
“What I learned through listening to these folks is that we really had to meet people where they are and where they are, is lots of very different places. Some were parents of adult children while a lot of employees who were living in cramped multi-roommate situations and feeling trapped in their little bedrooms in San Francisco, or elsewhere. There was no one strategy; there was no one-size-fits-all approach to it.
“One of the things that we really were very clear, we needed to do was enable company top-down connections as well as one on one connections. Like many other companies had been doing: a classical big quarterly all-hands or smaller monthly all-hands meetings. And it was clear that that was just not gonna cut it.
There were no water cooler hallway conversations for the transfer of information. So what we did very early on is starting a weekly “huddle.” They’re between 45 minutes to an hour every week and we optimized our use of that time, in a lot of different ways. We can formally share information that employees needed to get their jobs done, but also to feel like part of our bigger mission and objectives.
“We also decided we wanted to create Core Behaviors instead of Core Values. Because values are what you think and what goes on inside your head, behaviors are how you act on a day-to-day basis. Your colleagues can see your behaviors every single day, day in and day out.
“We started to build out what our Core Behaviors were and we ended up with seven of them. They ended up really driving everything we do, including hiring decisions, development discussions, performance management discussions, team dynamic discussions, recognition and feedback. Everything roots back to that.”
In terms of advice for other business leaders trying to adjust to the new remote work norm, Lanier said:
“Don't hesitate to try a lot of different things and take multiple approaches. We are fortunate that we are not (yet) an enormous company so things can move quickly and we can be nimble. Taking a multi-pronged approach really helped us meet people where they are. Don’t assume everyone wants to chit-chat with someone they don't know over a Zoom breakout room but they might appreciate something else.”
The Omnis: Supporting Employers of Choice
The Omnis is helping provide guidance to businesses still navigating through the new norms of remote work. The program also helps to set new best practices in the industry and celebrates the people and companies doing outstanding work.
“You can look at what other companies are doing,” said Harry Lee Bennett, Head of Marketing at PerchPeek. “The things we’ve found is taking baby steps, little litmus tests of what initiatives might look like. We ask questions and come back with little strategies they can act on. Every company is different and no one company has figured it out yet.”
For The Omnis winner, Willow Innovations, Lanier said, “This award is amazing. It is enormously helpful to us in the sense that we're still little, even though there are lots of moms out there who are aware of us, there are millions more in the world who have never heard of a hands-free, in-bra breast pump. So, as an employer, we'll take every bit of help we can get to spread the word of what an amazing employer we are to work for and get people knocking on our door to tell us that they would like to help us further our mission.”
The next Omnis events will take place December 2, 9 and 16 starting at 4PM GMT. The online events are free to join and will announce the winners of the last three awards categories: Outstanding Asynchronous & Hybrid Work, Outstanding Benefits & Well-being and Outstanding Rewards & Recognition. Registration is open at omnipresent.com/theomnis. Registrants will also have access to the recordings of previous sessions on-demand.