Do Your Employees Have What They Need to Succeed in the Remote Work World?

By Annie Ly
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The coronavirus epidemic has been a defining moment for all business leaders. How you respond in such a time will have a lasting impact on your employees beyond the crisis itself and well into the future. For better or worse, their productivity and commitment to your company will be forever changed.

Apart from the necessary technological and equipment needs for working remotely, there are deeper psychological and emotional implications to acknowledge and address. Uncertainty over the future and job security conspire to heighten feelings of isolation, anxiety and frustration.

A recent Mercer study put a bright light on the situation. It revealed that 9 out of every 10 employees are concerned about the current situation, while 40 percent voiced anxieties about the longer-term impact of remote work on culture and collaboration. Further, the study revealed that only 12 percent of organizations have reached out to employees about possible concerns with COVID-19 related issues.

Culture is fragile. Now is the time to act. While ensuring employees have the virtual tools they need to successfully work from home and connect with co-workers, it is, more critically, time to survey them and really listen to their perceptions, sentiments and emotional health.

Results from the survey will help highlight areas of concern and prioritize actions.

What are the benefits of doing an employee pulse survey now?

It is generally agreed that a company’s number one asset is its people. If you believe this, then concern for their safety and well-being should be a top priority.

Give employees a platform to openly voice their worries, ask questions and pitch innovative ideas for how to work together virtually. While conversations naturally occur between employees and their managers, this is an opportunity for employees to push their thoughts to leadership and across the organization. Every voice counts in helping to shape how the organization is set up for work now and into the future.

Business leaders are already reimagining their business model, their offerings and the value they can deliver to customers now and in the future. Looking internally, company leaders will also need to reimagine a new way of working and how to preserve the company culture in a fragmented work environment.

Some of these may be your top priorities to maintain a positive employee experience:

  • Understand employee concerns
  • Maintain engagement and productivity
  • Understand if your employees feel that they are getting the communications they need from you
  • Preserve your culture in the new world of work
  • Promote the well-being of your workforce

An employee survey can help you understand how you’re performing against these key priorities.

Four simple steps to guide your employee pulse survey

The key is to conduct research that is actionable. Your employee survey needs to be customized to today’s environment, streamlined for quick deployment and highly actionable. Keep the survey specific and focused to a limited set of questions. Use this as an opportunity to get a pulse check. This helps to keep the survey short so that employees can respond quickly and teams can act swiftly. Each question should have a clear purpose and lead to something that can be addressed through an action or response to improve the employee experience or culture. Below are best practices for adapting your employee survey to make it relevant and easy to take action against.

STEP 1: LISTEN

Empathy starts with listening to understand your employees’ concerns. Focus your survey on how your employees are doing and how you can help. Understand employee needs, identify critical gaps and prioritize areas to take action. Create a culture and environment where team members feel free speaking up.

Possible questions to ask:

  • What are your challenges with working virtually? How can we help address these challenges?
  • How connected do you feel with the company and your team mates? What can we do to make you feel more connected?
  • How satisfied are you with the level of communications you’re getting from the company?
  • Are you clear about the values and priorities of the company?
  • Do you feel that we as a company are living the values of the company through our actions?
  • Do you feel that you are able to continue living the values of the company? If not, how can we empower you to take action?
  • What other concerns or questions do you have?

Tailor the questions to your company’s situation and the employee experience or cultural dimensions you wish to assess yourself on. You can pose these questions in the form of a rating scale, and follow up with an open-ended question to gather qualitative input.

STEP 2: UNDERSTAND

By asking questions like the ones listed above, you will find out the health and readiness of your workforce to work from home and highlight priority areas to address. You’ll get the responses you need to begin to understand:

  • Do we need to be more transparent or increase communications across the organization?
  • What additional resources and technology is needed to enhance collaboration in a virtual world?
  • What is needed to foster community and social connection through virtual collaboration, including virtual events focused on social, not just work-related?
  • Do our employees understand the company’s values? Are we as a company continuing to live up to our values?
  • What are creative ideas for how to keep the culture alive and stay connected while we’re apart?

Based on what the survey data tells you, you will understand what the priority areas are, as well as any discrepancies that need to be addressed (e.g., you think you’ve done a fine job communicating during this time, but your employees feel that there’s not enough communications). Prioritize and map out a plan for how to address employee’s feedback.

STEP 3: RESPOND 

Share the results of the survey. Communicate how you will take action and when. The easiest way to entice employees to complete the survey is with a promise to share survey results along with an outline of what actions will be taken based on their feedback. This also promotes transparency, which is extremely critical in times of crisis. There is no playbook for how to navigate these tough times. View this as an opportunity for you and your employees to work together to shape your future and culture. 

STEP 4: REPEAT

Check in frequently. In these uncertain times, things are changing every day. It’s uncertain how long work from home will continue. It may be weeks. Most likely it will be months. Continue to evolve the survey and check in with your employees on a regular basis to monitor change and to maintain a positive employee experience and culture.

This is not just a moment in time – this ‘new normal’ is forcing us to change the way we work and how we stay connected. What this new reality has shown us is that you don’t need everyone physically together to stay connected and create a strong culture. But what you do need is an organizational plan in place to openly communicate, the infrastructure and tools to enable people to stay connected, and a steadfast commitment to your company’s values.