Working from home has completely transformed the employee experience for millions of workers over the past year. Companies have found it challenging to create and maintain productive work environments in the absence of once common workplace norms like face-to-face meetings and team events.
However, COVID-19 is not entirely to blame. The issue was simmering long before the pandemic arrived. According to a 2019 Forrester report, less than a third of companies regularly conduct regular employee experience analyses to check engagement and overall satisfaction.
Our working world looks very different than it did two years ago, but the employee experience is more important now than ever. So, how can employers redefine the employee experience in an increasingly remote workplace?
Embrace a Remote-First Culture
Organizations all over the world have had to adapt to fully remote work environments. For some, the change has set the tone for long-term policy overhauls, with companies like Dropbox and Twitter among the many that have made working from home a permanent option for their employees.
Other organizations — like my company, Nitro — are choosing a hybrid approach once pandemic restrictions are lifted and the world returns to some semblance of “normal.” While many employers recognize the benefits and flexibility of working from home, they also understand that many people value and appreciate in-person time for activities like team meetings, planning sessions, and social events.
Whether you have a fully or partially remote workforce, any employee working remotely needs an optimal work-from-home setup. After a year of telecommuting, many still use stacked books as laptop stands and their kitchen tables as desks. Consider helping your employees create functional work-from-home environments by reimbursing them for office equipment and related resources. Your team members will be able to create more comfortable and productive remote offices, which leads to a better employee experience when working from home.
Optimize Communication and Onboarding
Consistent and open communication can have a huge impact on your employee experience, and communication is especially critical in today’s remote work environment. The lack of in-person communication has been challenging, and many employees feel disconnected or out of the loop. Regular, transparent internal communications around what’s happening across the organization can help employees plug back in and reengage with their work. In fact, research conducted by O.C. Tanner found that companies that have increased transparency since the start of the pandemic have seen an 85 percent increase in employee engagement and a 72 percent increase in employee satisfaction.
Consider setting up biweekly or monthly town halls to share key company updates and openly address employees’ concerns and questions. Regular engagement surveys are another great way to understand how your employees are feeling and what you can do to make improvements.
Communication is especially crucial when it comes to new hires. With the onboarding experience now completely online, overcommunicating is key. Starting a new job remotely can be overwhelming, and constantly communicating with new hires throughout the onboarding process will help them feel more supported, prepared, and welcomed.
Establish an initial onboarding schedule for new employees outlining the virtual meetings and training sessions they’ll participate in. That way, your new hires will know what to expect and feel involved in the day-to-day from the get-go. Companies should also consider digitizing onboarding paperwork so that remote employees don’t have to go through the hassle of printing, scanning, or faxing important documents.
Automate More Workflows
Research we conducted at Nitro found nearly 40 percent of employees think more automated processes and workflows would make their jobs easier and ultimately improve their organizations. Companies that automate areas of their business not only become more efficient but also minimize some of the inherent overhead of repetitive daily tasks.
One easy way to start automating is to take a look at your key document workflows. Did you know the average knowledge worker prints 10,000 sheets of paper every year and spends four hours every week on paper-based processes? Over time, that can take a major toll on both resources and the employee experience. No one wants to waste that much time pushing paper, chasing down signatures, and filling out forms. By automating these document workflows instead, employees can spend less time on administrative to-dos and more time on important initiatives, leading to a better overall employee experience.
Even in this remote work world, employees have high expectations for their employers. With working from home here to stay in some form or another, now is the time to make the digital employee experience a priority.
Gina O’Reilly is COO of Nitro.