Want a Productive Virtual Work Environment? Here’s What You Should Be Thinking About

March 1, 2021

Employees and managers should be thinking about how they are enabling remote work. After almost a year of working from ‘home,’ the list below outlines questions that you should think about to make the most of the virtual workplace.

I’m an employee. What should I be thinking about? 

  • Your at-home workspace. If your workspace isn’t meeting your needs, explore your options, like using a provided work-from-home stipend or your health spending account. Reach out to your HR team to understand your organization’s offerings. 
  • Internal communications and initiatives. Use your company’s internal communications tools (e.g.. Skype for Business, Slack) to keep in touch with your colleagues. Get creative with how you connect; explore internal committees, or even initiate virtual social events. 
  • Recurring meetings. Monitor your existing recurring meetings - are they too infrequent or frequent? Encourage a review of team norms to ensure you’re set up for success in a virtual team environment. 

I’m a manager or business leader. What should I be thinking about?

  • Workplace tools and equipment. Ensure your team has the tools and equipment they need to be successful at home. Be proactive in discussing the resources available and encourage your employees to voice their needs. 
  • Communication expectations. Set internal and external communication expectations (e.g.. 24-hour response rate) to better understand your team’s productivity. Talk about boundaries with your team and lead by example. This could be minor, like reiterating what’s working, or it could be more drastic, like restricting late-night emails and instant messages. 
  • Team and individual check-ins. The new year is a great time to gather feedback from your team and ensure they’re comfortable with the current check-in structure. In a virtual setting, you may need to allocate more creative, brainstorming time than in the office, while still ensuring deliverables are met. Lastly, evaluate if the 1:1 time and performance cycle is working for you and your team members. 

Can I ask an employee to return to the office? Or can my employer ask me to return to  the office?

The easy answer is yes. 

Subject to any previous agreements or restrictions (as outlined in the Employment Contract, or Collective Bargaining Agreement), an employer has the right to determine both how and where an employee needs to work. That said, COVID-19 has created limitations through mandated government orders that modify this. 

Both the Canada Labour Code and Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act outline the requirements that employers must meet to protect the rights and health and safety of employees. 

It’s important that HR professionals and businesses stay informed on COVID-19 related government orders to ensure a safe working environment and - when we can -  a smooth transition back to the office. 

What are some creative ways people are staying engaged, virtually?

There are many unique businesses that have been built around enabling an engaged workplace in a virtual environment. We’ve listed some of the companies to connect with, or to consider implementing with your team:

  • Donut Slack Integration: it matches team members together for virtual coffee chats. At Humi, we’ve been using it for about a year and it’s a fan favourite! 
  • Thoughtful care packages: sending care packages to team members for onboarding, celebrations, anniversaries, or life events
  • Employee engagement surveys: use your HRIS tool, or an external survey to get a pulse on how your team is doing. Use that information to make improvements on the employee experience
  • Online knowledge-sharing: such as book clubs, mentorship programs, or fitness groups
  • Virtual games: escape rooms, Code Names - there are a lot out there! 
  • Meeting block days: set a company-wide (or team-wide) day, where meetings aren’t ‘allowed’ - this enables your team to focus on deliverables they committed to during the week
  • Wavy: fun, virtual, team-based activities that have nothing to do with work!

What are some perks we should be thinking about, in a virtual workplace?

The workplace has changed, and so have the needs of your team members and colleagues. It’s important to first check-in with your team to understand if the perks are working for them. If not - conduct a feedback survey to learn more about what is relevant to your team. Some perks include:

  • Monthly food gift card (eg. UberEats, Skip The Dishes, etc.) 
  • Weekly/monthly tutorials or training (eg. Meditation session, personal training, etc.)
  • Employee & Family Assistance programs (Humi has partnered with InkBlot Therapy)
  • Management Training - How to Navigate Managing a Remote team
  • Office Equipment Stipend 
  • Virtual Conference or Networking Participation

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