- Remote work is here to stay. Even when the idea of a more permanent lifestyle from home is praised, people see the value of an office environment.
- To bridge the gap between the desire to continue working remotely and the benefits of an office environment, organizations today need to understand what is virtual about their employees and understand how to foster their employees’ community and culture, no matter where they are are in the world.
- An integral part of integrating remote work with personal benefits will be the successful intranets, which are better viewed as “community and culture experiences”. These experiences allow for greater personalization and enable companies to bring corporate culture to life at a time when employees need it most, and give them new ways to connect with their work and each other.
As many experts have said before: For some industries, remote working is here to stay. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. employees who worked remotely during the pandemic say they want to continue to do so, according to a recent Gallup poll. PwC also found that 83% of employers believe the move to remote working has been successful for their company.
Despite the growing interest in a more permanent work-from-home situation, people are still realizing the value of an office environment. In the PwC survey, 65% of respondents believe that the office is “very important” for increasing employee productivity, while more than half think the office is “very important” for employee collaboration.
To bridge the gap between the desire to continue working remotely and the benefits of an office environment, organizations today need to understand what is virtual about their employees and understand how to foster their employees’ community and culture, no matter where they are are located.
An integral part of integrating remote work with personal benefits will be the successful use of intranets, which are better viewed as “community and culture experiences”. These experiences increase personalization, bring the corporate culture to life at a time when employees need it most, and give them new ways to connect with their work and with each other.
The challenges in building community and culture today
There are a number of factors that make it more difficult than ever to build an organizational community and culture. Many of these challenges existed before the pandemic but were exacerbated by its impact.
First, information overload within business is a universal struggle today. Whether you’re a smaller team or a larger company, a lot of information is digitally shared across an increasing number of channels – employee chat systems, shared drives, email, video calls, and more.
Ironically, with the proliferation of all of these wonderful digital tools, we sometimes felt less “informed” as we couldn’t seem to keep up with all of them. To complicate matters, internal company changes are happening faster than ever.
Critical business updates – for example, regarding a new COVID-19 policy, organizational changes, or sales targets in the midst of the pandemic – are delivered as quickly as the world around us changes, making this news and information even more timely and important.
Second, in a remote environment it is more difficult to attract new employees and team members. New hires now start with the added challenge of not being able to meet anyone face to face.
Even something as simple as bending over their desks to ask a question of the person sitting next to you is impossible if you start from a distance. This means new and seasoned employees will feel less connected to their peers.
This decreased sense of connectivity is compounded by the uncertainty of not knowing when employees can work together in person and the difficulty of getting to know employees on a face-to-face basis outside of virtual meetings.
With more virtual meetings, there has been less time to find and read important information. Unsurprisingly, studies show that people are having more meetings than before during the pandemic.
Although the time spent in each of these meetings has decreased, the need to prepare and join a call still translates into a disruption to the work day or workflow. This gives people less headroom and time to catch up on their jobs. Switching from call to call can also result in missed announcements at the start of meetings, leaving employees feeling out of touch.
These examples point to the fact that the pandemic has increased the challenges for community and culture building in today’s work environment. However, these difficulties can easily be alleviated with the right content and technology.
Reinvent the intranet as a community and cultural experience
People often view intranets as outdated systems, but the challenges outlined above underscore why remote working has reinvigorated their needs. When done right, intranets can serve as community and cultural experiences.
Today, there are three things companies should prioritize on their intranets in order to create effective remote environments for their employees.
- Task management and integration: To reduce information overload, employees need a single point of contact they can rely on for all business updates – be it important information about internal policy changes or employee birthdays. Even if information is shared on other channels, communication is optimized through a central reference source and everyone stays on the same page. With the ability to integrate an intranet with other systems, companies can reduce context shift by connecting to the tools that employees are already using.
- The ability to tell stories: Stories connect us and are the building blocks of corporate culture. Especially in remote environments, people are more likely to look for ways to connect with others, share feedback, and check in with colleagues. Forbes cites a Globoforce report that found that 89% of HR managers agree that constant peer feedback and check-in are key to successful results. This is a good reminder that employee engagement “should be seen as a central part of the overall business strategy”. Community and cultural experiences should therefore offer a variety of different storytelling content types – from articles and live blogs to galleries and videos. User generated content capabilities also mean more voices can be heard by employees through content they can create and share on the fly.
- Communication functions to promote the community: The modern intranet closes gaps between all parts of the company so that employees and managers can work together and communicate without any problems. This includes features such as employee profiles, which can be used to add faces to names, and more strategic tools such as defined modules, which companies can use to deliver content to specific groups based on their geographic location or team, for example.
Remote collaboration is quickly becoming the new normal. While information overload, remote onboarding, and excessive meetings are challenging businesses today, they are also advocating solutions that can help bring community and culture back to the forefront of the employee experience.
Simplified task management, storytelling functions, and seamless communication help transform today’s intranets into the supportive remote office environments that employees are looking for.