In a recent webinar on How to Manage Disruption, several HR leaders told us they had no work from home policy in place before Coronavirus.
At Outmatch, we’re now fully remote, but before the global heath crisis, we had about 50% of employees working from home on a regular basis. For those of you who are new to working remote and managing a remote workforce, we’re happy to share some things that have worked for us.
Turn them on! This can be uncomfortable at first, but as more people do it, it becomes the new normal. Our IT team, which is widely dispersed, has been doing this for years, and we rolled it out company-wide about a year ago. It’s a small change that makes a BIG difference in keeping people connected. We communicate better when we can see reactions and body language, and we don’t talk over each other like we do on ‘blind’ calls. Get your leaders in the habit of turning on cameras, and with some gentle nudges, you can have everyone doing it in no time.
This one’s pretty straightforward: if you attend a meeting, be present. It’s hard not to multitask, especially when you don’t have anyone’s physical presence to keep you accountable (friendly reminders help here; so do cameras). We have a no-pressure policy where employees are free to decline meetings that aren’t essential for them to be in. If you find yourself in a meeting and your attention is being pulled away, simply let people know you’re going to drop off.
We moved away from set schedules a few years ago, which made sense for us culturally. We have people across all US time zones and a few in other countries, so time is relative. In our current situation, flexibility is key. Kids are home. Routines are off. Everyone is feeling stir crazy. Flexibility gives people the freedom to unplug a few times a day and work during odd hours, if needed. We encourage Outmatchers to find a schedule (or in this case, a new normal) that works for them and their team – and not to stress when they need to care for their families or themselves.
Virtual happy hour
So we don’t become totally socially deprived, we added a non-work meeting to the mix. We started “Find Out Friday” as a way to connect on things that aren’t work-related. Our first edition was “meet your pets.” Other ideas are “what’s your workout?” and “guess who’s childhood photo this is.” Get creative and try to have fun with it. Virtual meetings with no agenda can feel strange at first, but since we can’t chat around the water cooler like usual, it’s a great stand-in.
Weekly company updates
This is another change we made about a year ago. Instead of gathering everyone in our biggest common area (which isn’t an option now anyhow) for a formal quarterly update, we started “Keg of Greg,” which you can probably guess is less formal. Each week, Greg, our CEO, gets on camera for a quick company check-in. People are free to ask questions, voice concerns, and even suggest special topics. By making this a recurring meeting, people are able to stay connected and get regular face time with the CEO.
We’re all out of our comfort zone right now, so making sure to recognize people who are working hard and helping others is a great way to boost morale. This was part of our CulturalDNA already, but it’s important to keep alive in times like these. We call this “Expedition Recognition” because we like the explorer archetype and use this theme to guide our values, which are: Build Bridges, Pack Light Travel Fast, and Sherpa Attitude. When Outmatchers do something that represents one of these values, they’re recognized for it (we use a Teams channel), and then they’re sent a charm as a token of appreciation.
This cross-functional team is dedicated to caring for our culture. Having a big remote population already, Culture Club members talked often about, “How do we keep remote workers connected and engaged? How do we create a sense of community across distance?” Now being 100% remote, these conversations are even more critical. With a team already assembled, we’re able to bring together creative minds from across the company, advocate for each other, and keep our culture strong, even in a time of crisis.
We know in the HR community, your #1 priority is caring for your employees. But don’t forget to care for yourself. What we’re dealing with right now is heavy. It’s emotionally exhausting, and you’re probably missing meals and sleep to try and meet the needs of others. Deborah Schwarz, HR Vice President at Cousins Properties said this about self-care:
“Don’t dismiss the weight we’re carrying. We’re taking care of people who are taking care of their families, and that is a lot. If you’re feeling heavy or down, you have a good reason. But address it and find a way to take care of yourself so that you’re able to take care of everyone else.”
For more advice from HR leaders, watch How to Manage Disruption (And Not Lose Your Mind).