As we turned our calendars from 2020 to 2021, we hoped we could leave the past in the past and start new. Unfortunately, this page turn has not shifted us immediately into the pre-pandemic days but the “new normal” is certainly upon us. Our home dining table offices and schoolrooms will continue on for the near future, but our ability as employees and employers to adapt has increased exponentially. When the pandemic hit, remote work was not a new concept for our business, or many businesses with the ever-increasing shift over the last five years to help foster a better work life balance. In fact, since 2005, remote work has increased 140%.
We were lucky that many of our teams were already working outside of the office, but we didn’t fully realize how to support a remote team until we all were forced to work in complete isolation. It became a question of and challenge to our crisis management across the board as we leaned into the new normal adapting and evolving to the obstacles of remote work and moving a company forward seamlessly. Over 2020, we learned what the fundamental tools of remote work were and how to support them in order to make the transition as easy as possible.
Let Communication Be Your Guide
It’s a surprise to no one that the key to our success has been communication. Employees based in headquarters got tips from our remote teams and it forced everyone to examine how they engage with each other, collaborate and get work done. In a lot of ways, the change to a remote-first footing has actually made the company more efficient and effective and it has definitely enabled our teams outside of headquarters to operate on a more equal footing. For example, our business was prepared with guides for how to work with remote teams, but we didn’t have guides for those working remotely. This was something we had to scramble to put together early on and we leaned heavily on our remote employees for guidance.
The Right Tools for the Job
Technology obviously plays a big role in the remote work success story, but we surprisingly didn’t deploy new technologies, we made better use of the technologies we already had in place. Everyone in the company was required to quickly become Zoom experts and we rely much more on communication tools like Slack. We also saw the impact of the project management tools that were in place previously in different departments, from JIRA to Asana, all were being used much more effectively because the old ways of informal communication aren’t as effective.
The Social Network
Additionally, maintaining the social connections without actually seeing each other was one area that immediately concerned us. We started hosting Zoom happy hours and rolled out our I5OS program (“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”) that enables any employee to schedule time with another employee and expense their drink or food. This was important as we made an effort to tackle the implications of “Zoom burnout” for our employees. We understood that, although productivity is increased by remote work, our teams were also juggling a lack of social interaction and increased time working online. It was important to show them that we value their time and give back in some way.
We had been using Lessonly for internal training and during Covid we have expanded this to additional departments and ensured that new hire onboarding is more reliant on structured training through this tool because we understand more unstructured training is harder to accomplish. Through online onboarding, we have streamlined the hiring and upskilling process in a time where this interaction is much harder.
Overall, we realized that in order to succeed in this new workforce, we had to adapt, evolve and put our employees first. We had to make upskilling and communication tools accessible to all as well as work to foster an open-door environment to allow for the best possible real-time human interactions across the company. Looking into 2021, these tools and skills will become old hat and we will continue to evolve to newer more efficient processes with the new future of work.