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Intentionality Is Key to Navigating New Workplace Realities
One of the biggest challenges every organization has faced over the past two years is creating an efficient virtual workplace. Even functions like finance and human resources that seemed impossible to consider handling virtually just a few years ago were forced to adapt to our changing world. How does a company successfully navigate the new virtual reality? According to Sandra Smith, the chief administrative officer here at Executech, it’s through intentionality that focuses on the needs of employees and company culture.
Adapting to Change
One of the most fundamental steps is to upgrade technology and use a flexible Managed IT services or IT support firm first to ensure that your team can function. Our Finance Department at Executech rapidly moved from desktops to laptops in response to the pandemic, and needed IT solutions were quickly put in place. Determining how to securely handle functions that were commonplace in an office – such as handing reports back and forth across desks – was more of a challenge. Yet, probably because we are an IT company, we rapidly found that the human element of not engaging with coworkers was far more pressing.
As we all know, engagement improves professional interactions. Our team worked around the lack of physically being together by having “Fun Fridays,” where a team member picked an online game or activity that everyone could indulge in to maintain that camaraderie going. That led to morning huddles, where our team talked about what they were doing and could reach out if they needed help. Since it’s often difficult for people to ask for help – and even more so when you can’t do it in person – this open forum makes it easier.
Onboarding is Essential
Since we are fortunately at a time when employees can come into the office when needed, our team favors onboarding in person. That allows new employees to familiarize themselves with the office environment and meet managers face to face; it also makes them feel more a vital part of the team. We intentionally take the time to establish these bonds on the front end so that they feel connected when they are remote.
While you lose some interaction from working remotely, there are undoubtedly some efficiencies you gain, particularly in a department like finance, where intense concentration is required. The ability to work uninterrupted without hearing coworkers’ conversations allows employees to improve their focus. It also allows you to have team members who are restricted by geography. So in our case, we have team members across the country and around the world. It levels the playing field for these geographically remote employees who don’t feel as disconnected since they are not in the office.
Flexibility and Trust
Here at Executech, we asked employees what they wanted as things returned to normalcy, and most preferred a hybrid work situation. It allows them the flexibility to take children to activities, go to doctor’s appointments, etc., without taking time off to do so. Depending on their schedules, they simply skip lunch, start an hour earlier or work later. This flexibility does require a level of trust and open communication between employees and supervisors that leads to a better workplace when handled correctly.
Establishing a company culture that welcomes this begins from the top down. The CEO and leadership team must set core company values and then repeat them at every opportunity in words and by example. These values should then be celebrated when employees demonstrate them. It can be challenging to recognize employee’s contributions when they are not in the office every day. Opportunities to say, “Good point in that meeting,” are more limited when you don’t physically walk down the hall together afterward. When you make an intentional effort to do so, it reinforces the values that you claim. While quarterly or annual awards can help with that, it’s also critical to schedule one-on-time with employees and share feedback – good and bad – regularly.
Technology and Culture Building
One advantage of creative IT solutions in today’s workplace is that technology can connect remote employees, from game days to leadership meetings, companywide conferences, and more. But don’t neglect technology after hours. Employee interactions that used to occur naturally – grabbing lunch together, stopping for a coffee or adult beverage after work, or getting together for dinner, are things that build teams. It might not be possible to get your team together in real life. Still, you can encourage virtual happy hours after work, morning coffees, or even groups surrounding particular interests – from book groups to camping or whatever interests your employees have.
How Can IT help?
Technology that works efficiently is key to making remote work possible and employees’ lives happier. Suppose your team is continually fighting against the limits of your technology instead of being enabled by its possibilities. In that case, it’s time to take a serious look at how you can update it. Likewise, as we move into an era where remote workers are the norm, they judge your company by the technology you give them. That means that if you can’t solve frustrating IT issues, your employees will begin to question the company’s competency in general. Of course, there will be glitches along the way, but how you handle those – quickly and with professionalism or poorly – has a tremendous impact on morale. If you take the time to respond to employees’ needs and intentionally build a culture of support, you can create a remote workforce that functions just as well – if not better – than a traditional in-house team.
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