- Remote work is here to stay. Still, even as the thought of a more permanent work-from-home lifestyle receives praise, people recognize the value of an office environment.
- To bridge the gap between the desire to continue working remotely and the benefits an office environment offers, today’s organizations need to recognize what keeps employees engaged virtually and understand how to foster community and culture among their people no matter where they are in the world.
- A key part of integrating remote work with in-person advantages will be the successful intranets, better thought of as “community and culture experiences.” These experiences provide greater personalization and empower companies to bring company culture to life at a time when employees need it most, giving them new ways to connect with their work and each other.
Plenty of experts have said it already: for some industries, remote work is here to stay. According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly two-thirds of U.S. employees who have been working remotely during the pandemic say they would like to continue to do so. PwC also found that 83% of employers believe the shift to remote work has been successful for their company.
But despite a growing interest in a more permanent work-from-home situation, people still recognize the value of an office environment. In PwC’s survey, 65% of respondents also believe the office is “very important” to increasing employee productivity, while over half consider the office “very important” for employee collaboration.
To bridge the gap between the desire to continue working remotely and the benefits of an office environment, today’s organizations need to recognize what keeps employees engaged virtually and understand how to foster community and culture among their people no matter where they are located.
A key part of integrating remote work with in-person advantages will be the successful use of intranets, better thought of as “community and culture experiences.” These experiences provide greater personalization, bringing company culture to life at a time when employees need it most and giving them new ways to connect with their work and each other.
The challenges in building community and culture today
There are a number of factors making it more difficult than ever to build organizational community and culture. Many of these challenges existed before the pandemic but have been exacerbated by its effects.
First, information overload within business is now a universal struggle. Regardless of whether you’re a smaller team or a larger enterprise, a lot of information is shared digitally through an increasing number of channels—employee chat systems, shared drives, email, video calls and more.
Ironically, the proliferation of all of these wonderful digital tools has sometimes made us feel less “in the know” since we can’t seem to keep up with it all. To complicate matters, internal company changes are happening more quickly than ever before.
Critical business updates—say, in relation to a new COVID-19 policy, organizational changes, or revenue targets amid the pandemic—are being delivered as rapidly as the world around us changes, making this news and information even more timely and important.
Second, onboarding new employees and team members is more difficult in a remote environment. New hires are now starting work with the added challenge of not being able to meet anyone face to face.
Even something as simple as leaning over their desks to ask the person sitting next to them a question is impossible when getting started remotely. This means that new and veteran employees alike are feeling less connected to their peers.
This diminished feeling of connectivity is compounded by the uncertainty of not knowing when employees will be able to collaborate in person and the difficulty of getting to know co-workers on a personal level outside of virtual meetings.
Lastly, with more virtual meetings has come less time to find and read up on critical information. Unsurprisingly, studies show people have more meetings during the pandemic than they did before.
Even though the time spent in each of these meetings has decreased, the need to prepare and join a call still serves as a disruption in workers’ day or workflow. This gives people less headspace and time to catch up on work. Having to jump from call to call can also lead to missed announcements at the beginning of meetings, leaving employees feeling out of the loop.
These examples point to the fact that the pandemic has heightened challenges to building community and culture in today’s work environment, but these difficulties can be readily mitigated through the right content and technology.
Reinventing the intranet as a community and culture experience
People often view intranets as antiquated systems, but the above challenges underscore why remote work has led to a resurgence in the need for them. If done right, intranets have the power to serve as community and culture experiences.
Today, there are three things organizations should prioritize in their intranets in order to build effective remote environments for their employees.
- Task management and integrations: To mitigate information overload, employees need a one-stop-shop that they can rely on for all business updates—be it critical information about internal policy changes or employee birthdays. Even if information is also shared on other channels, having one centralized source to reference will streamline communications and help keep everyone on the same page. The ability to integrate an intranet with other systems means businesses can reduce context switching by connecting to the tools that employees already use.
- The ability to storytell: Stories connect us and are the building blocks of company culture. Especially in remote environments, people are looking for ways to connect with others, share feedback and check in with colleagues more often. Citing a Globoforce report that found 89% of human resources leaders agree ongoing peer feedback and check-ins are key for successful outcomes, Forbes says this is a good reminder that employee engagement should “be featured as a central part of overall business strategy.” As such, community and culture experiences should provide a variety of different content types for storytelling—from articles and live blogs to galleries and videos. User-generated content capabilities also mean more employees’ voices can be heard through content they are able to create and share directly.
- Communication features for fostering community: The modern intranet bridges gaps between every part of the organization, meaning employees and senior-level executives can collaborate and communicate easily. This includes features like employee profiles that help put faces to names and more strategic tools like defined modules that allow organizations to deliver content to specific groups based on their geographical location or team, for example.
Remote collaboration is quickly becoming the new normal. While information overload, remote onboarding and excessive meetings are proving challenging for today’s businesses, they’re also making the case for solutions that can help bring community and culture back to the forefront of the employee experience.
Simplified task management, storytelling capabilities and seamless communication all contribute to turning today’s intranets into the supportive remote office environments employees seek.
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