Key Questions To Ask Remote Employers

As we recover from the pandemic and some companies make the move towards establishing remote work on a permanent basis, candidates will likely see a lot more opportunities for teleworking roles. While it may not be an ideal fit for everyone, remote jobs provide greater flexibility, less constraints around location, and a more technology dependent working environment.

In order to assess whether the remote role you’re applying for is well supported by the organization that’s offering it, consider asking these 3 questions at the interview:

1. Can you describe your company’s remote culture?
Some companies might have an established remote workforce while others might be new to this. Because remote employees can feel disconnected, it’s important for organizations to bring everyone together, encourage frequent collaboration, and have a check-in system in place. Get a sense of how frequently the teams communicate and by what method, whether there are any virtual team events in place, or what their policies are for creating an inclusive culture that address the challenges of distance work.

2. What technologies do you have in place to support remote work?
There are many different technologies on the market that allow for collaboration and communication between team members, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Slack. You want to ensure that the company will provide such resources so you can get to know everyone at the company and have an established method of communication with your team. It is also key to determine how easily you’ll be able to share and access files. Is the company working from a cloud environment? What type of IT support will be provided? Make sure that you are comfortable or open to learning their tech stack.

3. How do you track productivity of remote employees?
Productivity tracking is done differently across organizations and even teams within one company. Some roles require closer monitoring than others. Companies can track work by using technologies such as ActivTrak or opt for an honour system. It’s important to find out what the process and expectations are around the role you’re applying for. Are you expected to work during certain hours or is there room for flexibility? Does this job have frequent deadlines and a defined reporting structure? Get as much clarity on expectations as you can.

When you interview for a remote role, ask the right questions to gauge your fit. Companies that have a well-thought-out remote work support system in place will add to your and their success.

Return to Work Anxiety: How to Help Your Employees

As governments loosen restrictions, many employers have begun developing plans to ensure that employees are brought back to an office setting safely. This includes operational and logistical considerations, setting up employee schedules, elevator usage policies and much more. But it’s important to also address and plan for how to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety around the return to work.

These uncertain times have taken a toll on the mental health of many employees, affecting future productivity and engagement levels. According to a survey conducted by KRC Research and Weber Shandwick, 45 per cent of employees are afraid that their employer will bring them back to the office before it is safe. Additionally, only 34 per cent of employees feel safe returning to work when there is a vaccine or treatment and 52 per cent of employees have growing concerns about the future of their company and their role.

Here are few tips that can help employers strategize for the new normal and address return-to work anxiety:

1. Communicate transparently and regularly
Consistent two-way communication is key to managing employee anxiety. Ensure that your teams receive regular updates about company performance, ongoing initiatives and any business-related information. Keep employees abreast of information that is critical to their role and to the success of your organization. Endorse transparency and engage teams to be a part of the growing conversation.

2. Implement Recommended Public Health Measures
Employees need to be aware of how the company is implementing, monitoring and enforcing government recommended public health measures. CDC provides a comprehensive guideline to help businesses and employers respond to COVID19 within the workplace. Provide your employees with assurance that preventive steps are being taken, closely monitor developments and update protocols as the situation evolves.

3. Provide training to leadership teams
Employees will depend on their managers and leaders to ensure a smooth back to work transition. Organize virtual training sessions that focus on managing a hybrid workforce, developing emotional intelligence and building a collaborative work culture. Arm your leaders with the necessary resources and tools to effectively address employee anxiety over return to work and provide healthy ways to cope with it.

4. Be Flexible
If your company has implemented remote work, consider surveying your employees to see how they feel about continuing that arrangement for a definitive period of time. Gauge the success of your remote work experiment by monitoring the productivity and engagement levels. Employees will expect flexibility, particularly if they are looking after children and parents. For employees that thrive better in an office setting, evaluate and plan for hybrid working arrangements.

Remote Onboarding: How to Better Integrate New Hires

When we bring on a new employee, we go the extra mile to make them feel welcomed. We like to leave a special note on their desk with a motivational message. There are lots of introductions and friendly handshakes. Maybe a special lunch event organized. But alas, not anymore. Remote onboarding has proven to be a totally different experience.

While it’s hard to recreate the enthusiasm that you get from a physical in-person introduction to a group of people in an office, making new employees feel appreciated and welcomed should not be deprioritized during this time. Companies can simply make some adaptations to their regular on-boarding routines and make use of technology in order to continue to make a great impression on new hires.

For this article, we spoke with Mark Nishikawa of HIRE Technologies and Lindsay Carson of ProVision Staffing, both of whom had to be introduced into our work family remotely. They shared tips and experiences to help us craft a guide for a more successful onboarding of remote workers:

Digitize on-boarding documents

On-boarding employees usually involves a lot of paperwork, from signing deposit and tax forms to integrating the new hire into a company-wide benefits plan. Digitizing these documents can translate into meaningful time and cost savings for the employer and employee. HR software such as BambooHR, WorkBright, ClearCompany, Zenefits & ProProfs Knowledge Base automate the on-boarding process. For example, ProProfs Knowledge Base helps managers create a virtual employee handbook to familiarize new hires with company policies, vision, mission etc. “Digitizing the onboarding process frees managers from manual paperwork and allows them to shift their focus on optimizing new hire engagement,” Mark suggested.

Setting up a work-from-home station

Cloud-based technologies make it easy for new employees to hit the ground running even from home. Offer assistance in setting those up and make sure to assign appropriate user permissions to avoid frustrations. “It’s helpful to get an overview of what applications and tools are required for the job and to have the login credentials noted in one place,” Lindsay suggested. Be sure to also ship any required hardware (such as laptops) in advance of the start date, preferably all set up and ready to go.

Communication is key

Good, widespread communication is always important but especially so when everyone is working remotely. Announce the addition of a new employee with a company-wide email briefly outlining their role. Include a short profile with their interests and hobbies to help start conversations among the team. “It helps to feel welcome when your manager reaches out consistently and tries to answer your questions,” Lindsay pointed out.

Use Video Conferencing

Face-to-face interactions through video calls are vital to the success of remote onboarding. “A group call to introduce the members of the company is helpful because you can put a face to a name,” Mark mentioned. Organize regular group video calls, even if brief, for the benefit of helping the new employee interact with their coworkers, rebuild office banter, and help keep your company culture alive.

One-on-one meetings

Don’t forget that new employees need a little bit more attention. You want them to last, you want them to be engaged, and you want them to succeed, after all. In an office it is easy to see when someone is struggling or finding something to be a challenge. But remotely not so much. One-on-one virtual meetings or calls between the new employee and their manager are a good way to provide support, identify struggle points, and nurture a professional relationship.

The Key to Differentiation: Your Employees!

For many companies, finding points of differentiation is a struggle as they compete in a generally oversaturated landscape of similar businesses. Your service offering alone will not get you very far nor will a fancy new, avant-garde website. So how can you crush your competition and be the first-choice company for your customers? Start from within: recognize that your employees and those you hire are key to setting your company apart.   

Think of employees as your brand ambassadors. The more they believe in your mission and the more passionate they are about it, the better they will pitch it and provide more effective customer outreach. Let’s not forget that 93% of customers are more likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service. (Hubspot Research)

Below we share 3 tips to empowering your employees and turning them into exceptional brand ambassadors:   

Communicate and keep communicating: Maintain open lines of communication at all times.  Inclusive communication and feedback build understanding and respect within the workplace while keeping everyone engaged. Employees also need to have the right information to be able to share your brand’s story and deliver a consistent message. 

Recognize and Acknowledge: Boost employee morale, regularly with positive, upbeat messages and company events.  Embrace a culture of self-improvement by supporting professional development initiatives and reward accomplishments with special gestures. Celebrate successes and share losses together as this binds employees and creates a greater sense of belonging. 

Encourage Brand Stewardship – Create opportunities for employees to promote your brand through social media and allow them to be the voice (make sure it’s a positive voice!). Motivate employees to share your story through videos or podcasts, and encourage them to share authentic content that is relevant to your brand.

Treat ALL employees like partners and hire with emphasis on cultural fit and personality.  Show your customers that you’re different through their positive interaction with your staff, something that will impress them a lot more than anything else.