Employee experience is finally coming at the front focus, after years of solely focusing on customer experiences. People now have higher expectations for their workplaces and one of the drivers for this focus on employee experience can be found from the rising competition over the best workers. Also, it has been discovered that companies with good employee experiences offer better customer service.
While companies have begun to focus more on employee experience, the current world situation has created new challenges on the matter: how to improve employee experience when people are at home does it still matter? We are already seeing that many companies (such as Salesforce and Spotify) have declared that they will not be returning to the old normal but instead will continue working in more flexible models like full-time at the home office, or hybrid solution. Now is the time to rethink what employee experience means in a work from home world.
In this article I’ll discuss why employee experience matters, even in a work from home world, and how technology can help. I also asked an HR professional, Kaisa Seppälä from HR company Notarec Oy, how to improve employee experience when people are working from home.
Creating connections is what employee experience is all about
Making connections is essential to employee experience. As many feel unconnected to their workplace at home, companies must invest in human connection and the feeling of community. That human connection is what keeps employees engaged, empowered and helps them collaborate.
I asked Kaisa Seppälä, partner and head of talent acquisition services at HR company Notarec Oy, how companies could promote human connection. “One of the simplest things is asking people how they’re doing,” Kaisa says. “We might all get lost in our tasks at home and might find it difficult to reach out to others. When you ask how people are doing, you open the communication lines and might be able to help someone out or get ideas for yourself you didn’t even think of”. Kaisa says.
Technology offers us amazing tools for co-operation and collaboration, and we need to harness technology as an enabler of that missing human connection. This means that all information needs to be easily found and organized, things like people’s availability should be easy to check, and people should find it easy to share their thoughts since one of the biggest things people are missing at their office is the small, ad-hoc conversations over coffee. The technology used in a company needs to have features that enable those discussions at the home office as well and incorporating some informal meetings like coffee sessions and virtual lunches will encourage people to take part in casual talk as well.
Clarify your mission to keep your office culture alive
Clarifying your company’s mission will give a sense of purpose to your employees. In uncertain times, and during big changes, people can easily feel disconnected from their work. Clarifying the company’s mission is a good reminder of why people are doing what they are doing. In other words, demonstrating a sense of purpose during a crisis will set a foundation for employees to get through more difficult times as well and it will keep the office culture alive even when people work from home and not from the physical office.
Integrating new people is more challenging than ever
While many companies have been struggling throught the year of COVID-19, some have managed to grow. Onboarding new people to the company when remote working is no easy task. To integrate new people into your company, you need to optimize the onboarding process down to every little step, and then make sure the process works in the virtual world.
Like with every step of the employee experience, communication needs to be very efficient when new people are joining the company. They need to know all there is to know about your company, about the team and what their tasks are. Having good tools is important in this process.
Good employee experience means good work-life balance
According to research, employees work longer hours at home than at the office. While at first, this sounds like an ideal situation for employers, in the long run, not having any boundaries between home and work life can lead to anxiety and unnecessary pressure to always be available. Burnouts can happen just as easily at home as they do in the office. This is why companies should promote a healthy work-life balance to keep their employee experience high and their employees happy.
To help people maintain a work-life balance when working from home, things like keeping separate areas for work and play, not using your work computer in your free time and going for a walk after work to switch to “home-mode”, can be very helpful. Also, having a ‘working from home buddy’ to make sure you both take breaks and keep your schedules is a good idea if you’re struggling with planning your schedules and too much overtime.
But how can an employer support a good work-life balance? Kaisa Seppälä gives some insights.
Set up boundaries between office hours and free time when you work from home
“Setting clear boundaries with both clients and employees is an important step in creating a healthier work-life balance. When the working hours are communicated clearly to the clients, it relieves the pressure for employees to always be available.” Kaisa says. She also points out that managers need to live by these boundaries as well: “Don’t send out emails in the evening and create a company culture where people feel that they too, always need to be working. If inspiration strikes and you need to write down your message right away, it’s a good idea to save it in drafts or schedule for the following morning,” she continues.
Flexible working improves employee experience
While it’s good to have clear work hours agreed with the employer, offering some flextime allows freedom for employees to live their lives more based on their individual needs. In these cases, people can show their availability and planned working hours in the office system to still keep the necessary boundaries between work and home life.
“Offering flexibility is a key element of employee experience since it shows trust and empowers employees. A lot of companies have found that people do their best work when they feel they are in charge of their schedules.” Kaisa says.
Investing in employee wellbeing
Another good way of promoting a good work-life balance is investing in their well-being. Office work is known to be bad for the physique, and the consequences can be even permanent health issues. “Companies shouldn’t roll out all the responsibility of health to the employee alone. For example, work ergonomics need to be good when you work from home as well.” Kaisa points out.
Another good way to promote well-being is by making small work out session part of the workday. “I love Haltian’s weekly after lunch yoga session! It both promotes taking a healthy break from work, and helps people find ways to take care of their bodies.”
While working from home has improved the employee experience for many companies, as people get more flexibility and save time in commuting, it has also created a lot of challenges. Now, is not the time for companies to wash their hands from employee experience but pay even closer attention to it with open and clear communication, sense of purpose and promoting healthy work-life balance!