Amity's VP Head of People, Katie Wan, shares how you can maximize Eko’s platform to retain a strong sense of value and belonging for employees despite being dispersed.
With workforces dispersed to work from home in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, advice on how to stay productive is at its brim. While many are rushing to share tips on transitioning operations and ensuring business continuity in a remote working environment, what seems to be less prevalent is the focus on how to inject resilience into the company’s community. Yet at Amity, we believe there are multiple benefits to having a trusting and united organization, including reduced employee turnover and increased engagement. With an indefinite move to work from home across our global offices, it is a daily consideration on how we can foster a virtual workplace embodied by trust and inclusion. Here are some of my recommendations to other teams out there also using Eko to enable this:
Providing frequent streams of communication reminds employees that they are part of a team. But with teams working from home, messages can become tedious and they may get lost amongst everything else. Being creative and varying the style of communication can ensure key messages land and that staff engage in the content. Why not try setting up an Eko Banner to share the link to your next team meeting agenda, or set up a Card to align project expectations and share tasks with your remote team members? For important communications, such as major organizational announcements, we recommend using several channels to maximise coverage. For example, in just the past week, we’ve combined Banners with one-way Broadcasts and held a global ‘WFH All Hands’ call all within our Eko hub!
An interesting observation shared by our management team was the blurred line between work and personal time now that home and the workplace have morphed into one place. Although many organizations worry about reduced performance, what we saw was actually a tendency to overwork, leading us to be concerned about burnout and a negative tip on work life balance. It seems that we’re not alone in this, with a recent Bloomberg article reporting that remote workers in the UK, France, Canada and the US are all reporting upwards of a two hour extension on their work day since moving to remote work to slow the spread of the virus. So how can we ensure employees don’t over do it? Simple ideas that we implemented include respecting lunch hours and using Eko to set working hours, a feature which ensures you don’t receive notifications outside of those times. Beyond practical implementation, simply emphasizing the company’s stance on these points reiterates to employees that they are both trusted to work from home and their wellbeing is a priority to the company. These gestures go a long way in developing resilience within the company’s community.
Keeping lines of communication open with employees and empowering them to share their feedback openly is a challenge in a virtual workplace. With no physical contact, it’s even easier to let thoughts brush under the carpet. So, how can managers and team leads promote a culture of talking proactively? Much as we know people have different learning styles (holistic, kinesthetic etc.) employees have preferences in how they share their feedback and communicate. Here, we suggest providing up to 2-3 feedback channels. Here are some examples: schedule online coffee chats for 30 minutes focused solely on feedback, create a survey with Eko Forms to capture detailed feedback and set up polls for immediate employee opinions. As an example, one of the polls we released in the very early days of COVID-19 was, ‘How soon do you think we should move to work from home?’. Having these mediums for employees to share their opinion enables us to quickly collate bottoms up feedback and demonstrates employee voice truly counts.
In a physical workplace, desk based banter, chitchats over coffee and work drinks are the norm, providing valuable moments that promote warm relations. These exchanges can create organizational friendships that should not be underestimated. Positive impact includes facilitating work collaborations through developing interpersonal trust and increasing workplace satisfaction. Since shifting to work from home, we have been able to leverage our chat forums in the Eko App to provide a virtual alternative for small talk. “Pantry” topics across our office chat groups enable staff to pivot away from work for a quick break and our Discover feed, driven by employee content, builds a community of support. Our most recent topic that trended was ‘how to stay positive when working from home’. The stream of comments showed a high level of user engagement and people were able to share their personal experiences directly from their homes. If you’re looking for more ways to socialize with each other while remote, check out our blog on the topic here.
Keeping an undercurrent of core values and expectations rippling through a workforce helps the organization stay aligned. With work from home in place, we had to re-think our new-starter onboarding to ensure they were well integrated and socialized into our company culture. To this end, try re-structuring your onboarding content to online learning resources in our Eko Library. At Amity, we have company OKRs and mission/vision resources readily available as well as fun quizzes to test new-starter knowledge. We don’t want anyone missing their data protection and compliance training...!! :) Additionally, making friends as a new hire can be daunting, so imagine being new and also remote from Day 1. To help, we set up new starter chat groups to facilitate a buddy system, and each new starter gets an online ‘Welcome’ in the Company Pantry chat group to introduce them to the company.
A shift to work from home would be a major challenge if we had not adjusted our mindset to a virtual workplace. With Eko’s capabilities and features, we were fortunately able to adapt quickly to support remote working with the primary objective of employees retaining a strong sense of being valued and belonging to the Amity community. Above all else, these features have helped us retain a ‘people-first’ culture, despite the extraordinary circumstances.
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