It’s been more than a year since companies were faced with moving their operations from the office to online. Now remote work has become a way of life for millions.
The past year put weight on upper management to swap cultural norms and in-person monitoring for virtual replacements. But not all remote employees are happy with their new to-dos and virtual bonding activities.
That’s why we asked remote employees what they want their companies to stop doing. Here’s what they said.
Cut Mandatory Happy Hours
Remote work offers flexibility for many lifestyles, but that also means new personal conflicts and responsibilities can arise. We heard from parents who share their space during work hours with their children that not only are distractions inevitable, but also, when it’s time to sign off, their focus turns to their young ones. When you’re weighing a 5 p.m. Zoom happy hour against starting dinner for your family, an after-hours virtual water-cooler chat doesn’t sound as inviting.
What can you do instead? Create opportunities to celebrate professional and personal milestones to help employees feel more connected. Alex Kinsella, marketer at Chocolate Soup, says, “When your employees feel recognized with personalized gifts, it also sparks conversations between your team to strengthen work relationships.”
Offer managers a monthly stipend to spend on their direct reports to commemorate when they hit targets, reach an anniversary date, or accomplish any other deserving achievement. Announcing it on Slack or your company’s social channels will help your team bond during work hours, instead of making it an extra task.
Say No to Endless Meetings
Alina Clark, co-founder of CocoDoc, explains that when her team first transitioned to remote work, they had daily video meetings during which employees shared their task lists. That quickly turned into a lack of engagement and resentment, since employees were feeling micromanaged.
What can you do instead? Change the meeting protocol. Clark swears by replacing meetings with an email or Slack message whenever you can. “That’s been our mantra since then: Don’t ask for a meeting if you can do it in an email. Our text communication via Slack helped cut down on the meetings needed to discuss some issues.”
Make meetings meaningful so they’re a productive use of time for everyone.
Make Lunch on Camera Optional
Everyone operates differently. Some people like to socialize during lunch, while others use that time for midday rest and recovery. Some of our respondents, who asked to remain anonymous, said they’d like their companies to slash virtual lunches. They’d prefer to use the lunch break as alone time and find it awkward to eat in front of others over video chat.
What can you do instead? Surprise your staff by sending a stipend for lunch. You can encourage employees to share a picture of what they got in a designated Slack channel to start a conversation.
If you still want to build on-camera camaraderie, you could schedule a 15-minute game during work hours that employees can choose to engage in.
Nix Unplanned Video Calls
It’s normal for remote employees to spend less time preparing their background, hair, and outfit if they don’t have any video or in-person meetings for the day. Some remote employees therefore say that the number one thing they want their companies to stop doing is holding unplanned video calls.
Tasneem Hamaad, copywriter at the Stork Dork, has been there. As a freelancer, she structures her own time, so she’s not always in the best position to hop on a last-minute video call. “I work from home and have my own schedule, and I’m not always ready to open my camera,” she shares.
What can you do instead? Schedule regular touch-base meetings with your team to avoid the need for unplanned video calls. For example, you could use a Monday check-in video call to cover what your direct reports will tackle for the week. Then you could schedule another call on Wednesday or Thursday to talk about any issues or road blocks that arose. Additionally, use email or Slack to resolve anything urgent that comes up in the interim.
Rein in Excessive Micromanagement
Time tracking and screen monitoring might seem like great ways to gauge productivity, but these types of supervision can cause the opposite effect. You don’t want to send a message to your employees that you don’t trust them.
Ron Evan, digital marketing specialist at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency, shares that time tracking is the chief thing he wants remote companies to stop. “Everyone is different, and they need different amounts of time for the same tasks,” he explains.
What can you do instead? Evan is a firm believer in companies looking to results as an appropriate measure of productivity. And he’s not alone. Many of our respondents mentioned that screen monitoring is a no-go, and that the feeling of having someone looking over their shoulder at all times can cause unwanted pressure. Put trust in your employees to get their work done, and regularly review their results.
Limit Challenges and Games
James Crawford, cofounder of DealDrop, reports that one of his previous employers would create competitions for every holiday and special event, including St. Patrick’s Day, Columbus Day, the Academy Awards, and many more. That means he was constantly tasked with challenges like writing a poem, taking a photo, answering a quiz, and baking a cake.
“I accept that this was all done with the best of intentions, to keep everyone engaged, but it went too far and I believe we all just wanted [the fun committee] to stop,” Crawford says.
In the same vein, Rolf Bax of Resume.io, adds, “One thing that took us a little while to realize, but I'm glad we did, was that our remote employees do not like participating in health-and-wellness challenges. People don’t care to share or compete on how many steps they take in a day, how many push-ups they can do, or how much water they can drink.”
Crawford and Bax agree that endless challenges and activities can feel forced, especially during a stressful time in history.
What can you do instead? Bax recognizes that mental and physical health is important, but organizations can approach supporting it in different ways. Instead of gamifying it, he says, introduce a budget for these things and make clear how that money can be used. Maybe your company could offer a stipend for a fitness tracker or gym membership. Or if you want to support mental health, you could provide funding designated for counseling sessions or meditation apps.
It’s also important to regularly encourage remote employees to share their feedback on company processes and culture-building activities. Use software like TINYpulse to solicit anonymous input so people feel more comfortable expressing their true thoughts.
Better yet, ask your staff directly, What can you do instead? Every employee can make a positive impact within your organization if you allow them to.