As a remote or hybrid leader, you may have realized some of the unique challenges that come with being in charge of your team. Finding ways to keep morale up while still staying connected is one of the most important things you can do for your employees. Whether it's through offering new equipment or an improved office environment, there are many initiatives that can help make remote and hybrid work easier for everyone involved. In this article, we'll cover some of the best and worst workplace initiatives that have become remote work trends, but first, let's dial in on how a trend kicks off. Here's a hint...it all starts with change initiatives.
A workplace initiative refers to "a change in current work practices, policies and/or procedures." Simply put, it can be anything from offering flexible schedules or new office spaces for employees who prefer working remotely. Workplace initiatives are also meant to improve productivity among team members and usually depend on the company's culture and the type of industry.
What are some of the best work life initiatives examples? The most popular example is, Bring Your Pet to Work Day, which pretty much works with any industry and company. Pets are always an instant hit! But with the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have transitioned to either a fully or hybrid setup, and leaders have needed to get creative on how to implement fun and effective initiatives like this.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved that it's possible for employees to work from home or from anywhere they want. For Molood Ceccarelli, CEO & Founder of Remote Forever, this is the best workplace initiative. She shared in her interview with us:
"The best ones [workplace initiatives] are - as you can guess - those that are fully remote where workers have a choice to work from wherever they want. Two of my employees, for example, live in vans and travel around the world. They sometimes work from the van and sometimes from a café and sometimes from somewhere in the middle of nature. It’s their choice and I would never force them to work from a specific location or use specific equipment. We also value asynchronous communication over meeting or chatting in real-time which improves communication and collaboration."
She also added that the greatest workplace initiatives she's seen are those that directly impact local economies of various islands and small towns when co-working and co-living spaces are created for digital nomads. She believes that these initiatives have a bright future and attract mid-term stay, introduce the local culture, and improve the local economy of digital-nomad-friendly towns.
Since many companies have shifted their operations remotely, a go-to strategy is to use apps to connect team members in a fun and random way. When you're working in a physical office space, there is a chance that you will meet a new person outside of your team in the elevator or in the watercooler area. This element of randomness is completely eliminated when everyone's communicating in Slack. Anmol Parashar, Head of Product at Yac, shared with us the best initiative from his previous company.
"The best workplace initiative, goes to my ex-team at WorkPleo. They are a growing team of 300+ people working all over the world and have been using Donut to match people randomly and encourage colleagues from different teams to go on as many informal chats as they want during work hours. They do this so people can understand each other better and can collaborate on efforts that require participation from different teams zone: we had a huge whiteboard that was up in the main area (you know, where everyone hangs out and works) and every week we would write down our goals for the next week."
Without a doubt, working remotely or having the option to work anywhere you want is here to stay and is no longer just linked to a digital nomad lifestyle that you would often see on Instagram or YouTube. In fact, 2021 has been dubbed as "The Great Resignation." Four million people have quit their jobs in July 2021 in the US, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, according to The Morning Consult survey of 1000 adults, 39% said they would consider quitting if their companies did not give them the option to work remotely.
What is a good example of a workplace initiative? Embracing open and asynchronous communication. As companies embrace the fully remote or hybrid work setup, it's also critical to upgrade or update the communication process. Keeping teams engaged and connected virtually is more challenging, but it's definitely worth all the effort. According to Pamela Ilieva, Director of International Recruitment at Shortlister:
"The best initiative to improve communication in a remote work environment is embracing open communication by saying it as it is. Honesty is the best policy, and I stand behind it! I know it sounds easier than it is, but I truly believe that if the leadership is open to say things out loud, whatever is good or bad, the rest of the teammates will follow."
Virtual communication can be tricky because you don't see people's expressions and other non-verbal cues, so that's why creating a space for open communication is critical.
On top of having open communication, remote leaders need to start embracing asynchronous communication as well. We believe in the power of asynchronous communication which is why we've built an async-first culture within our team. Gable, the all-in-one solution for hybrid teams, also agrees that this is one of the best workplace initiatives. Their team wrote in a tweet:
"Embracing async communication! We implemented this at Gable to support employees in multiple time zones, allow them to have focused work without being interrupted by meetings, and work at peak periods for the most creative flow."
Mastering asynchronous communication is a skill that the whole team needs to embrace for it to become more than just a future of work trend.
George Ramos, a Business Consultant who helps businesses align their strategy through people dynamics, said that promoting a safe, and diverse, and inclusive work environment is one of the best workplace initiatives that organizations need to spend more time and resources on. Workplace diversity is not only about hiring the best people for the job regardless of their background or experience, but it's also important to ensure that all employees feel welcome in your organization. Fostering an open dialogue between workers creates trust which ultimately encourages everyone involved to work together towards the company's vision.
But what do diversity and inclusion exactly mean and how can you translate these into actions, and make them part of your company culture? Simple and small steps can be made, such as celebrating diverse holidays as a team and showing support during Pride Month. For example, wearing Pride colors during a Zoom call is a simple yet creative way to show diversity and inclusion. But make sure that you genuinely support the causes and people that you're standing behind, and not just doing it as a publicity stunt or because someone told you too. When you implement workplace initiatives that don't reflect your company values, there is a chance that it could backfire.
On top of flexibility, open communication, and diversity, work life balance initiatives should also be included. While working at home provides flexibility, sometimes it also means that you're "ON" all the time. This can cause employees to be burned out very quickly.
Every coin has two sides. And the other side of workplace initiatives examples are the worst ones. Here are a collection of workplace initiatives that are not effective and need more careful consideration before implementing them.
Leaders who are not comfortable with the idea of remote work may be hesitant to let employees to continue working from home. They want people in their physical space, where they can see what's going on and judge productivity for themselves.
While there are legitimate reasons for asking employees to go back to the office, taking away the work from home option completely because you don't trust your employees is not one of them.
Richard Bretzger, Future of Work Consultant, shared in his interview with us, that forcing people to go back to the office is one of the worst workplace initiatives he has seen.
"Work from home has been a good thing during the pandemic. Now let's get our people back to the offices by providing them fresh fruit."
Companies nowadays are thinking of the best way to entice their employees back to the office, but many are questioning some of them and asking, is it really enough.
Even before the pandemic, micromanagement has been a productivity and motivation killer for many (if not most) employees. This is even more true for remote workers who are out of the manager's sight and thus, subject to far greater levels of micromanagement than their on-site counterparts. Pamelia Ilieva cited, micromanagement as the worst workplace initiative. She shared:
"If I have to name one of the worst workplace initiatives for remote work, it is micromanagement. There is nothing worse than managing your team by asking them to create an Excel spreadsheet of how they spent their day."
Micromanagement shows up in different ways, such as installing spyware to monitor employees or requiring employees to stay logged into their work email at all times.
Team buildings are often cited as the best examples of good workplace initiatives. However, it could also be one of the worst when you don't consider your team's energy, preferences, and personalities. George Ramos cited the importance of diversity and inclusion as the best workplace initiative he has seen. But when asked what's the worst initiative, he wrote:
"For teambuilding, especially the ones that make you do tasks and structured exercises---they only serve to depart from the real issues (if there are issues). For teams who want to strengthen their bond, they would be better off doing something that EVERYONE would enjoy."
Before implementing any activity, make sure to consider everyone's opinion. Although one thing that usually transcends age and culture is games. Luckily, there are tons of virtual games that remote and hybrid teams can enjoy.
Yes, games are usually fun and engaging. In fact, many companies have implemented gamification as a workplace initiative. But it has to be done right. Workplace gamification is supposed to increase motivation, performance, and engagement. Ryan Swanstorm, Remote Work Consultant, sited gamification gone wrong is one of the worst workplace initiatives. He wrote in a LinkedIn post:
"Many workplaces took gamification as 'let's add a scoreboard for employees.' Instead of making the work more fun and engaging, companies just kept score. For most companies, it did not work out well."
According to Gamify.com, one of the biggest mistakes about gamification is that thinking it's a quick fix. It is so much more than keeping scores and providing rewards. Alex Mospanyuk, recommends in his gamification article:
"A manager must identify what behaviours they are trying to drive, and what overall value they will provide to the team and organisation. These goals can be simple, such as just having fun, but they must provide real value."
At the end of the day, gamification should combine your employees' preferences, your company's values, and your business goals. Your employees should not feel like they're playing a game or that their work is just another task on the list, but rather that they are part of something bigger and more meaningful than themselves. Once you've achieved this, gamification can be extremely beneficial to your organization's success!
There are a lot of different ways to make your company culture more engaging and enjoyable. Some have been great, while others not so much. There are no perfect work initiatives that will be universally loved by all employees. You just need to find the ones that best suit your organization's needs and values as an employer. What are some of the worst or most frustrating workplace initiatives you've seen?