If your organization didn’t support remote workers prior to the pandemic, it probably does now! Over 42% of US workers are currently working remotely, and even when the pandemic has ended, the majority of employers plan to continue offering some form of remote work post-pandemic. Employees appreciate eliminated commute times and added flexibility, and they report increased productivity and sense of wellbeing, which, happily, can result in them staying at their jobs longer! There are, of course, downsides to the digitized workplace, including isolation, perceived lack of oversight or support, disengagement and digital security. The fact remains: the workforce will continue to become increasingly digitized. Here’s how to embrace the challenges of a digital workplace for a happier, more productive, and empowered workforce.
As organizations shift to a digitized workplace, here are some top tips for protecting and supporting employees for optimized performance, productivity, and both personal and professional satisfaction.
Creating a healthy digitized workplace starts by really stepping back and considering the way your organization works as a whole and making a fundamental commitment to upholding your responsibility to remote workers in your culture, policies, and tools. It also requires thinking of your employees as whole-people, not as their role. Millennials, especially, seek to work within organizations that reflect their values, where their passion and dedication will be fostered and developed. Some questions to ask as you develop your approach: Who are your employees? What specifically are you trying to improve for them (mental health support, professional development opportunities, etc)? And how will you measure your results so you can continue to refine and improve?
Because you don’t have as many employees and managers interacting and connecting on site or in the traditional workplace environment, it becomes even more critical for leaders in your organization to set an example for their team members. Remote employees can struggle with the perception that they need to be “on” all of the time, with work days bleeding into off-hours, and the insatiable need to reply to an email at any time of day or night. Organizations need to set firm guidelines in place to support remote workers and adhere to them. Yes, that means if you set a “no emails after 8pm” policy, not even the CEO can send an email after 8pm!
Company leadership should make an effort to publicly engage with the organization’s efforts to connect their team members, encouraging their team members to take advantage of support services, social opportunities and sharing vulnerabilities with them, too.
Digital problems require digital solutions! We need to make an effort to digitize our organizations, providing our workforce with digital versions of what they’ve come to love and expect from our brick and mortar offices. What does this look like in practice? It may be offering digital avenues for team bonding or brainstorming, or offering digital tools designed to deepen engagement. For example, some companies began offering employees classes and resources like exercise classes, cooking and nutrition lessons and entertainment for children of employees. Here at Vector Solutions, we held a virtual pizza party and comedy show for the entire company.
Digital tools can also provide helpful data companies can use to improve their support of employees, but it’s important that this not be perceived as tracking or nanny-state monitoring. The goal is not to punish or spy on employees, but instead to see where the company could step up to better support them.
Training is, in our opinion, always critical, but especially when it comes to a digitized workplace. Employees need access to high-quality, impactful training that helps them develop and refresh their skills and elevates their career opportunities in the future. Likewise, managers need training on how to support their employees in their roles, as well as their mental wellbeing. Traditional management training has to be augmented with specific courses designed for the digital office. When you consider that 70% of a team’s engagement depends on their manager, it’s even more apparent how necessary it is to invest in this area.
Employees have a hard enough time speaking up about their stress levels or mental health in an office environment; managers must take an active role to ensure there is an open dialogue and that employees know about and participate in support services. To do that, they have to be trained.
Training in a digitized workplace needs to be executed differently than a traditional in-office training. From breaking up the training blocks, to making them available to employees on their own timetable, to incorporating digital tools like chat functions, polls and breakout rooms, there are so many options at our disposal that can make training more impactful for your remote workers.
An increasingly digitized workplace means increased opportunity for hackers and cybercrime. It’s important for every organization to take steps to improve their cybersecurity posture through providing the right tech to employees, training them appropriately, and communicating best practices or changes in protocol. This includes training employees on how to use technology in a secure way, ensuring two-way communication if they need support (to avoid them using insecure alternatives out of desperation to do their jobs) and regularly checking in to make necessary changes. For more on how we approach cybersecurity at Vector, check out our interview with our Chief Information Security Officer, Greg Surla.
The workplace may be becoming ever-more digital, but we’re all still human. We have to keep people at the center of our digitalization, ensuring that our culture, policies and practices are centered around their professional and personal wellbeing. The training, resources and even home office equipment we provide to our employees have a direct impact on their productivity and satisfaction – in work and in life, which is critical to nurturing leaders from within your organization. First things first, your teams need the technology to work seamlessly with each other despite no longer being together in a physical space.