“When I first went remote, I kept my schedule open in case someone needed to meet with me,” says Chrissy Damasco, Full-Cycle Recruiter. “I didn’t block time for lunches or breaks. After a few weeks of not eating, I told my boss, who showed me how to block my schedule off.”
Hiring remote workers can positively impact a business’ financial performance and employee satisfaction. According to Global Workplace Analytics, if employees worked from home part time, a business could save an average of $11,000 per employee every year. Workers in turn can recapture commute time, and use flexible work schedules to build more meaningful lives.
However, transitioning to remote work comes with stressors that can affect an employee’s mental health. This is especially true for workers who may have come from companies where the culture is less than supportive. “Each new person I train feels pressure to show their boss that they’re working,” affirms Ms. Damasco. “That fear causes them to forget to take time for themselves and they get bogged down and overwhelmed.”
In a physical office, a new hire can compare a company’s stated cultural values against what happens day to day to see if they align. She can observe if workers take lunch breaks, or if they are expected to eat while working. She can see if employees arrive early and stay late.
Remote workers have fewer opportunities to learn through observation. You may have an outstanding culture, but do you display it where your remote workers can see it? Doing so can help alleviate the stress of trying to fit in while learning a new role.
Simon Sinek once said that “customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” You want your employees to love your company, but will going remote shatter the romance? Use these three tips to build a remote work culture that employees will love.
1. Mix the personal with the professional.
Jaclyn, a Senior Accounts Manager, did not tell her employer that she had children when she was first hired. She didn’t feel comfortable doing so until she heard her boss’s baby crying in another room. “I think women tend to be more guarded about their parenthood status when they start a new position.They want to be taken seriously as professionals and not have their parenthood status play into any negative perception of their ability to give their job their all.”
Leaders can signal that it’s safe to bring one’s whole self to work by doing so themselves. Place photos of your family or hobbies where they can be seen during video meetings with your remote workers. Consider investing in an instant messaging app so all employees can contribute to impromptu discussions. If you need to leave early to pick up a sick child, mention that in the virtual group chat. In this way, you demonstrate a supportive company culture where remote workers can observe it.
2. Use the buddy system.
“When I train a new person now,” says Ms. Damasco, “The first thing I do is show them how to block off breaks in their schedule.” Pair new remote hires with veteran remote workers. This can be an informal way for a new hire to learn about company norms that they may feel too intimidated to discuss with a supervisor. Give the veteran a list of topics to cover, including breaks, flexible schedules, and pets or children making appearances on video calls. As a bonus, the new hire will now have someone to turn to for advice as they settle into their new remote role.
3. Create a remote-specific resource sheet.
“The same remote concerns exist everywhere,” says Ms. Damasco, who has worked for different remote companies. “It’s all about that need for instant trust and the fear that people think you’re not working. It’s really universal.”
The universality of remote issues means businesses can help new employees get ahead of them. Create a resource sheet and add it to your onboarding materials. Include tips on what to do if the power goes out, how to talk to family about interruptions during work hours, and when to reach out if they’re feeling isolated. If you have the budget, consider adding a small stipend to cover the cost of a beverage at a local coffee shop. That can come in handy on the days when the walls of one’s home office start closing in.
Remote work provides an opportunity for employers to lower overhead while enabling employees to build a bespoke life. Display your company culture where remote employees can see it. Provide them with support from more seasoned colleagues. Give them resources to shorten their learning curve. You will soon find that your remote employees rave about you in their personal and professional lives.
Teresa Douglas is the co-author of “Working Remotely: Secrets to Success for Employees on Distributed Teams.” Douglas has worked remotely since 2010 in a variety of management-level roles. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College and an MBA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Based in Vancouver, Canada, she specializes in strategic analysis and operations management.