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How employees can thrive in a remote or hybrid workplace

The Power of Two

This is a column by Andrew McNeil (andrewm@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3789) and Rosario Avila (rosarioa@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3795), senior benefits advisers at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma.

The Bay Area leads the nation in the number of days employees want to work from home.

According to a recent survey conducted by Stanford economics professor Nicolas Bloom, workers want to cut days they spend in the office by more than 53% — and, after seeing what employees were able to accomplish remotely since March of 2020, this makes sense.

We have seen many clients transition to a fully remote or hybrid model (mix of office and home) which, is a great employee attraction and retention tool for the long term. With that said, though, employers who have embraced this new way of working are starting to run into some challenges, especially when dealing with junior employees who still need mentoring.

The challenge

Prior to the pandemic, employees all worked together, and senior level team members were able to teach their teams about the business in a way that can only happen when you’re in the office together.

Learning by osmosis, which so many of us have had the benefit of doing, is starting to suffer as employees prefer a more work-at-home set-up. We need to replicate the environment of shared coaching that our more seasoned colleagues benefited from throughout their early careers. We need to find ways to continue to successfully pass industry knowledge down through the ranks.

An example: One employer we spoke to recently is requiring lower-level employees to be in the office three days a week but letting more tenured employees work from home five days per week as a perk.

This made sense, but now they are seeing some gaps in communication and the business has begun to suffer. The junior level employees are more isolated and not receiving nearly as much real time mentorship, and so are not as up to speed on things as they would normally be if everyone were in the office together discussing client issues, comparing notes, and problem solving together.

Solutions

To be clear, we are not advocating for employers to restructure the new way of working, its benefits are far too valuable. Managed properly, offering remote work is a major employee attraction and retention benefit.

So, how can you overcome these new challenges? Here are suggestions:

Daily check ins. Especially when one is working remotely, it’s important for employees to feel connected to their employer. Gone are the days of regular water cooler banter or drop by the desk check-ins. Check in, and check in often!

Use technology. We’ve become comfortable using technology over the past two years. Services like Microsoft Teams or Zoom which previously may have been looked upon as “big brother” spying on us are now imperative, especially when connecting with remote employees.

Seeing the employee, you are meeting with has been proven to be more effective than just talking on the phone, especially when teaching, mentoring, or most importantly, building rapport with that individual. The value of seeing someone’s face, intonations, and body language is often downplayed in our business culture but it is a huge advantage for better communication and understanding.

Respect basic Zoom/Team meeting etiquette. Everyone keeps the video camera on during a meeting and shut off your own camera view to eliminate the distraction of seeing your own image, make eye contact as much as possible and all participants should avoid any multitasking, and no driving during meetings.

Persona-based management

As individuals, one of our most valuable assets is the capacity for empathy – to identify with the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of others.

According to Gallup, 70% of an employee’s engagement is driven by their manager. To keep motivation and performance levels high, many successful managers have enlisted a persona-based management style to keep employees engaged and to support them.

Leading with empathy is a powerful tool when working with your teams. This method identifies the requirements of different groups of employees.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on all of us, and each employee has very different needs. Consider your team’s personality traits when approaching them:

  • Their generation
  • How long they have been in the workforce
  • Technology use and habits
  • Family status (do they have a spouse/partner or children)
  • Other key information that may affect how they live and work.
  • Leading with empathy – understanding your team member needs - consider: What drives your group of employees? What are their goals? What are their pain points?

Once you’ve determined the answers to these questions, you can strategize ways to best support each member of your team.

Thriving right now is indeed a challenge, our leaders need to be flexible and think way outside-any-box, but, if you can support your employees in the way they need, the result will be better, happier, and bottom line, more productive teams.

The Power of Two

This is a column by Andrew McNeil (andrewm@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3789) and Rosario Avila (rosarioa@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3795), senior benefits advisers at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma.

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