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Workplace Thought Leadership

Accountability and Acceptance for Remote Employees

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer & Co-Founder
SpaceIQ

Remote work is increasing in popularity, capitalizing on an independent workforce that wants to be trusted and own their work. But the rise of out-of-office work doesn’t mean employees are any less interested in camaraderie and collaboration. With remote options comes a new remote employee management challenge: making remote workers accountable and feeling accepted by colleagues.

Connected communication

A 2016 Gallup poll revealed that 43% of the workforce telecommutes at least some of the time—a 4% increase since 2012—and that number is rising. Studies show remote workers are more productive and less likely to quit than in-office employees. Managers need to adapt their leadership styles to help virtual employees achieve their goals.

Any great leadership style starts and ends with communication. The blossoming office Internet of Things (IoT) makes it easy to stay connected with remote employees across town or across several time zones. Cloud storage options allows instant access to digital files and information regardless of time and day. No more waiting for files to be updated and emailed to co-workers for further revisions.

Collaborative information sharing isn’t the only IoT tool for connected communication. Voice and video meeting systems like Zoom and GoToMeeting provide personal connection between remote workers, their teammates, and managers. A Forbes/Zoom study found that half of executives surveyed found video conferencing improves understanding of information and issues. Among high-growth companies, 73% of leaders agreed that virtual connectivity increases communication quality.

But beware of over-communicating with remote employees. Just because you don’t physically see someone doesn’t mean following up on every task via phone, email, and IM is acceptable. A Harvard Business Review article calls this “digital dominance, a relentless and uncomfortable form of harassment.” Many companies create remote communication norms that use acronyms (NNTR for no need to respond) to streamline messaging and reduce unnecessary back and forth.

Create a virtual water cooler

Video conferences aren’t just for meetings. Some offices host a continuous video livestream to create links between offices in different cities. SpaceIQ has a portal between its Mountain View, Calif., and Salt Lake City, Utah, workplaces. These “virtual water coolers” provide a channel for remote workers to engage in idle chatter, share ideas, or simply say “Hi!” to colleagues. If a rolling live feed isn’t workable, carve out time for “online social hours” using a tool like Zoom. Remote workers connect via a webcam and join peers to talk about family, the latest movie, or  what’s happening in the world. To keep things equitable, rotate connection times between time zones. While the cameras are off, encourage employees to use tools like Slack channels to stay in touch.

Not just email, but real mail

Someone in the office celebrating a birthday? There’s no slice of cake for remote workers. Did an off-site employee land a huge account? They won’t hear an office-wide round of applause. Video conferencing is one way to make those connections, but you can’t shove birthday cake through the Internet. Or can you?

There’s nothing stopping a great manager from using delivery services to send a birthday cake or present to a remote employee’s home. Coordinate the delivery with a video celebration to make the most of the moment.

In addition to a “Happy Birthday!” singalong, studies show regularly recognizing a person’s achievements is a critical component of team building and employee engagement. Sending remote employees real mail—even a handwritten note—goes a long way in reinforcing a person’s worth to the company.

SpaceIQ makes an effort to bring all of its employees together twice a year for team-building exercises, financial updates, and product overviews. It’s a cost well worth the connection it creates between team members who may only engage through email or chat. We also hold a quarterly “Gong Ceremony” via our portal to celebrate new business wins.

Ultimately, the way to make remote employees accountable and accepted is to treat them as you would any other worker. However, the steps you need to ensure they’re treated the same requires consistent oversight, scheduling, and personal diligence. The extra effort can result in improved productivity and happy employees.

Keep Reading: spotlight: slack for work-life and real-life

 

Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

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Workplace Thought Leadership

Generation Gap: Workplace Needs of Millennials and Gen Z

By Nai Kanell
Marketing Director
SpaceIQ

It’s common to conflate the professional needs and goals of Millennials vs Gen Z. Both groups make up the youngest and, combined, largest portion of today’s workforce. Both were introduced to technology at a far earlier age than Gen X and the Baby Boomers and both crave meaningful work.

While the similarities between the two generations are numerous, Gen Z came of age during a time of action, the Obama era of hope and change. Millennials, however, had just entered the workforce or had been working for a few years under the accustomed business standards of the time. Both Gen Z and Millennials experienced the same societal tragedies and innovations at a younger age, but what they made of them is where the views on working and workplaces differ.

Gen Z is the generation of real improvement. As middle and high school students, they watched as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Affordable Care Act were signed into law. To them, the legislation promised a fairer, more equitable society was within reach. They witnessed their parents struggle under the weight of the Great Recession. Gen Z’ers graduated high school and college as the #MeToo movement erupted and women began demanding equal pay by disclosing their own earnings. All of this dictates what Gen Z prioritizes in the workplace: financial stability; pay transparency and equity; safe, harassment-free careers; healthcare benefits; regular, in-person feedback; and loyalty.

Most of the same can be said of Millennials’ priorities, except loyalty. This is, perhaps, due in part to Gen Z witnessing massive layoffs, foreclosures, and financial collapse during their formative years. They’ll work harder to advance within the same company and move up the ladder, but aren’t as discouraged as Millennials when advancement doesn’t happen as quickly as they’d like. In fact, a 2018 Gallup poll showed that 60% of Millennials “were open to new job opportunities,” the turnover of which costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually.

One explanation for their divergent attitudes toward financial stability and professional loyalty is that, while Millennials grew up, the U.S. economy flourished and Gen Z, still living at-home, were first-hand witnesses to financial insecurity. Millennials are less humble when it comes to accepting a job offer because, as much as they want a substantial paycheck, they want status. One study found that 64% of Millennials wouldn’t work in construction, even for a $100,000 annual salary. Leisure and hospitality industries are among the most popular and lowest paying positions sought by Millennials (read more on Millennials in the workplace). what For Gen Z, having a steady paycheck is more of a priority than a high-status job. In this regard, they’re more like baby-boomers, who are loyal and prefer monetary rewards to symbolic ones, than millennials.

Another common misconception of Gen Z’ers, who practically grew up tethered to their smartphones, is that they’re tech-obsessed and require a screen to interact with other humans.  While their personal lives may include a lot of Snapchat and Bitmojis, Gen Z actually prefers in-person socialization in the workplace—a preference that may also explain their preference for working in corporate or co-working environments over remote offices. Contrary to many assumptions, Millennials also favor an office setting over working remotely. According to a survey compiled by Randstad, 39% of Millennials and Gen Z believe in-person communication with their colleagues is more effective than email, phone, social media, instant messages, video conferences, text messaging, and a “company communication portal”.

Though these groups may have different opinions on long-term tenure and ways to advance, both say communication is the top quality sought in their leaders, based on Randstad’s findings; support with work came in second. A key point to remember is both generations were children who received “participation trophies” for athletic and scholastic involvement. For them, the workplace is no different. Regardless of outcome, Millennials and Gen Z want managers to nurture and listen to them, as an expression of their value to the company. Although each generation wants to feel supported, Gen Z is more likely to return that support when promoted to leadership positions, making pay increases their highest priority.

Generally, Gen Z’ers are more focused on pay parity and disclosure—a likely reflection of their candor about their personal lives, views on gender and sexual orientation, and left-leaning political affiliations. They are the generation that put both fairness and hard work on the same playing field, while wondering how long it will be until robots steal their jobs.

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Workplace Thought Leadership

What Does Your Workplace Say About Your Company?

By Laura Woodard
Real Estate Executive (Ret.)
Google

They say a home tells you everything you need to know about a person. The same can—or, perhaps, should—be said of a company and its workplace.

As part of the interview process, many job seekers place a premium on company culture. We typically associate culture with less tangible elements: how people behave and their interactions with one another, a person or company’s mission and goals, etc. However, someone’s first impression of your business develops around structural design. In other words, your workplace influences opinions of your business.

First Impressions Count

By structural design, we mean tangible items that influence how people behave and communicate with one another, which also supports how missions come to fruition, and how individuals meet those goals. For example, respectful and friendly office communication cannot happen in a noisy, open office with zero space for quiet work and collaboration cannot happen without a system to locate and communicate with one’s colleagues. Similarly, if a law firm prides itself on discretion and service tailored to each client’s needs, spreading out teams among different sections or offices, or failing to reserve private conference rooms for client meetings, reflects poorly on this mission.

Company culture is where the physical workplace meets human goals and behavior (also read why workplace culture is important for success). Should you include in your job posts  “private, reservation-only conference rooms” or “real-time employee location tracking”? It’s not nearly as compelling as saying “flexible workspace accommodations” and “collaborative work environment supported by technology tailored to your needs”.

Give Your Company Culture a Reality Check

The tools supporting the culture are what allow companies to retain employees—and you have to be prepared to back up claims made in job descriptions. While employees may be encouraged by the language used in an ad, we live in the age of reviews. Job seekers may contact a company’s current or former employees to hear their personal experience and whether working there is as good as a job post makes it seem. The current workforce, especially Millennials and Gen Z, isn’t swayed by language alone. They need real-life accounts to inform their decisions.

Across generations, employees hold feedback and appreciation in the highest regard; therefore, implementing tools that encourage regular comments and acknowledgement is necessary. Some companies rely on gamification, which combines feedback and rewards by ranking employees or teams based on achievement of their goals, all while encouraging productivity. However, leaderboards—like an open office or remote-work—don’t work with every industry. A software company, for instance, may see gamification in the workplace as the most useful way to keep sales teams motivated and engaged. However, an architecture firm likely wouldn’t reap the same benefits.

Who Knows How Well Your Office Works Better Than Your Team?

It’s not just enough, or even appropriate, to make your office look good and enforce what you perceive as the company’s culture or employee needs. You need to assess whether particular design or technology elements touted by other successful businesses work for yours and, when possible, ask your teams to weigh in.

A study from the Workforce Institute @ Kronos shows that employees believe they are what defines workplace culture, or—at least part of it. Utilizing the same processes for benchmarking company goals and achievements, you can get feedback on how well your workplace connects to the desired culture and what, if anything, can be done to improve it. You might find your goal of a laid-back and hip office is actually hindered by noise, an inability to locate colleagues, and aggressive art and color choices.

You can’t assess company culture or how your workplace contributes to it without feedback. One starting point, as Ivana Taylor, a DIY marketing expert, suggests, is to list your company’s values. Define them, and then ask your team to define them as well. How do executives rank these values vs. entry-level employees? This exercise illuminates how the boots on the ground, so to speak, view the company as opposed to what executives think they see.

Small, structural elements can create drastic shifts in culture for the better. Using sensors to detect when printer ink is low may reduce stress for an employee who needs to print hundreds of documents in one sitting. Introducing elements from nature with biophilic design in quiet spaces and human resource offices can calm employees, allowing them to focus or feel at ease in an otherwise stressful situation. Adding shades to glass-walled conference rooms offers another layer of privacy while raising them ensures the company’s democratic, collaborative values are on display (literally or not).

A Little is A LotMake Changes That Count

Employee perks, such as flexible work hours, should be supported by the workplace. Say your business doesn’t enforce a strict 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. schedule, but lights go off and cleaning crews show up at 6 p.m. Such timing discourages workers from arriving and staying later or breaking their day into blocks to balance work and life needs. Similarly, if employees are encouraged to work remotely and the office, as a result, doesn’t have a desk for everyone, you may not realize that remote-work is only being utilized because of the lack of desks. Employees may actually prefer to be in the office; implementing a hot-desking policy allows managers to see how many people want to work in the office vs. how many actually are.

Every aspect of the workplace serves a purpose, down to the flooring in the office. And it all affects how your company’s culture is shaped and perceived. Does your physical office align with the values or your organization?  Or does it subtly contradict those values? Understanding how your physical space dictates the tone of your business is critical to supporting—and retaining—a productive, happy workforce.

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Workplace Thought Leadership

Space as a Service – A Workplace Competitive Advantage

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer & Co-Founder
SpaceIQ

When considering the benefits package your company offers, it’s likely you don’t include “full-service office with multi-functional rooms and employee tracking”. It’s not common for managers to consider an office space as a service benefit, no matter how hi-tech. Also, not as common today is giving your employees the tools to manage the space on their own.

These tools exist for HR benefits, where employees can manage their health savings accounts (HSA), commuter benefits, review progress reports from their managers, and submit time off requests; but workplace management software is often a delayed investment for companies, making it difficult and time-consuming to repair the broken wheel on a chair or locate a member of the marketing team in another building who can assist on a project. As the workplace becomes more agile and digitized, giving employees the most efficient tools to problem solve and focus on their work is critical.

Out with the old

Offices are cumbersome spaces rife with possibility–and problems. Lights burn out, computers crash, chairs break, and phones need to be programmed. Typically, there is an office or facilities manager who handles these issues but the way in which they’re addressed needs changing. Often, an employee will send an email or speak in-person to request something be repaired or replaced which is highly inefficient and unsatisfying. (seeing the burned out lights for days doesn’t inspire employees)

But emails get lost and in-person forgotten when they’re being delivered en-masse. As a result, your employees direct time away from their own work to troubleshoot these issues on their own or repeatedly request someone else address them. Similarly, when an employee needs to speak with another, they’ll reach for the phone and call their desk. But people are not chained to their desks, so sometimes we need to leave messages or take a quick walk around the floor to find that person. When you treat space as a service, you make it easier for your employees to do their jobs without the need to walk around the office.

Inefficiencies like these were also common in the way businesses administered benefits. In order to get the balance of one’s HSA, they needed to call an 800 number, to request time off or update commuter benefit enrollment, they needed to file a paper form, and to see how much paid time off was accrued, pay stubs needed to be located. None of this was centrally located or easy to process until companies realized these conveniences directly impacted employee satisfaction.

A Better Way

The evolution in the HR industry came when companies like Zenefits introduced a one-stop software for a business’s HR needs. The platform was created with both managers and employees in mind to manage employee benefits efficiently. Managers can input employee reviews, track the time of their hourly employees, send out messages on changes to benefits or reminders for open enrollment, and more. On the employee side, they can submit requests for time off, track and manage HSA contributions, review individual development plans, and more. The software can be accessed through a webpage and mobile app without needing to send emails or call administrators.  Today, there are multiple software products like Expensify, that turn mundane HR or administrative chores into simple, and easy-to-use processes that employees consider a benefit.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, “Workplaces That Move People,” the authors focus on both physical space and digital communications. They write “The buildings we go to everyday haven’t changed as much as have the tools we use to get work done. Merging digital communication patterns with physical space can increase the probability of interactions that lead to innovation and productivity.” Rather than treating an office as an edifice we inhabit, we need to integrate the physical space with how a modern workforce operates. We cannot ignore that space as a service is a crucial pain point that must be considered when designing or improving your office.

With that goal in mind, software companies are using the Zenefits model to create a service-oriented workplace that is managed through an app and online. We already see this at play with shared space companies like WeWork, Knotel, and others that manage office space for hundreds of smaller businesses and freelancers. For WeWork, it makes perfect sense to have a central location for members to submit a repair request or a directory for members to seek out one another to help on a project, fostering collaboration among relative strangers. Since they do not house a single business, but rather dozens in each location, this tool is essential to WeWork, but that does not preclude a traditional office space from adopting it.

Since the modern workforce almost exclusively works online and can now manage their health and other benefits online, they should also be able to use an app or website similar to the one used by WeWork to manage their workspace. An employee can use the app to file a work order or check the status of an existing one, use geolocation integrated with Slack to find and communicate with other team members, or reserve a conference room for a presentation, ensuring there will be no scheduling conflicts. This technology empowers employees to problem solve with an assurance their requests won’t get lost in a pile and, for managers, streamlines office services.

Technology has already transformed major aspects of our work. Like HR and benefits, It’s now time companies view their workplace as a strategic asset rather than a cost center.

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Blog

COVID-19 and Employee Fear on Returning to the Workplace

By Nai Kanell
Chief Marketing Officer
SpaceIQ

Between stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines, there’s understandable fear of public places during the COVID-19 pandemic. People don’t want to pick up the virus or risk transmitting it to others if they’re an asymptomatic carrier. Despite their avoidance of public places, many people face the prospect of a return to work soon. It’s cause for anxiety and trepidation. Employers need to make strides to proactively address COVID-19 and employee fear on returning to the workplace.

There are a lot of different opportunities for employers to quell fears about returning to the workplace. Even small reassurances go a long way. Here’s what companies can and should do to help mitigate coronavirus concerns as they welcome employees back to work.

Maintain optional remote work opportunities

Just because your city or state has lifted its stay-at-home order doesn’t mean you necessarily need to usher every employee back into the workplace. If your company has remote work protocols in-place, it’s not a bad idea to extend them—especially if employees demonstrated good productivity over the past weeks and months. Allowing employees to continue to work from home can be a goodwill gesture that shows you care.

For companies eager to bring employees back in-house, a hybrid schedule is a great compromise. Bring back your most essential teams, while allowing peripheral teams to telecommute for an extra week or two. Just be careful not to create division in your workplace. A simple solution is to offer an opt-in remote work policy. Employees with anxiety about a quick return can continue to work from home, while those eager to get back into a routine will gladly come to work.

Ease employees back into the workplace 

For larger workplaces, a slow return to work can mitigate employee anxiety in a big way. There are many ways to stagger a return to in-house work based on the flexibility of your workplace:

  • Bring back one department at a time over a multi-week timeline
  • Implement a hybrid work schedule—three days remote vs. two days in-house, or similar
  • Scale into capacity through a hybrid schedule, adding another in-house day each week
  • Stagger shifts or adopt first and second shift splits to mitigate workplace congestion

Even simple return to work policies can significantly reduce employee fears—for example, scheduling the first shifts back in-house on Thursday or Friday. It’s also smart to coordinate a brief reorientation period, to allow employees to reacclimate without the stress of a full workload.

Make a concerted effort to sanitize

The biggest fear employees have when returning to the workplace is exposure to COVID-19. They want some certainty that reentering a social environment won’t result in a coronavirus diagnosis. While there’s ultimately no guarantee, employers can make a show of sanitizing the workplace.

Create new policies around workplace sanitization and hygiene, and enforce them. Put up signage to remind employees of hand washing and respiratory etiquette. Ensure paper towel, tissue, soap, and hand sanitizer are readily available at key points in the workplace. Encourage employees to disinfect desks and other flat surfaces when they’re done with them.

In addition to these basic sanitization efforts, show employees you’re committed to cleanliness. Inform them of new sanitizing efforts by your janitorial team, or let them know you’ve scheduled more frequent deep cleanings. Employees shouldn’t just feel like they’re working in a clean space, they should know they are.

Open communication channels

Employees have questions and they’ll expect answers. It’s not enough to implement new policies or ease the return to in-house work; companies also need to open the lines of communication. Send out a company-wide memo or host an all-hands meeting and make it clear that your employees have a voice. Some simple suggestions include:

  • Hold a Q&A session where employees can ask questions
  • Provide an online form or portal where employees can voice concerns
  • Host one-on-ones with employees to gauge their feelings
  • Provide weekly emails or memos to keep employees informed

Some companies will opt for an open forum-style approach to communication, while others may offer anonymous feedback channels. Regardless of how your organization welcomes employee feedback, the important thing is that you listen to it and act accordingly.

Be aware of employee concerns and act accordingly

Every person is going to process the return to work differently. Address COVID-19 and employee fear on returning to the workplace on an individual basis as-needed. For some, a return to the workplace means a welcome return to normalcy; for others, it’s extremely stressful. Act in a responsible capacity and make concessions where possible.

A structured, organized return to work will yield best results. Don’t just open the doors and expect things to go back to normal. Make it clear your organization has a plan and execute that plan with an air of confidence and purpose. The smoother the transition, the better the results.

Keep Reading: COVID-19 Workplace Resource Page