Before March of 2020, the idea of a remote company was rare. Everything was built and optimized for in-person office culture—candidates were flown out for interviews, salaries were adjusted based on location, and companies chose their HQ campuses strategically.
Then the pandemic hit. Millions were forced to work from home full-time, a new normal.
Over time, signs emerged of remote work sticking around, with an increasing number of companies making it indefinite. These companies are integrating remote work deep into their culture, accelerating trends that were slowly gaining traction over the past few years. In a poll conducted by Gartner, 90% of HR leaders said that employees would be allowed to work remotely even after COVID-19 has subsided. There’s little doubt now that remote work has become a growing aspect of the job market.
At the time of writing this, the COVID-19 crisis is still at large, and the acceleration of remote work has pushed leadership teams to address a host of new challenges, like how managers gain visibility into day-to-day work without micromanaging every minute, how teams foster the same quality of relationships that could be built with an in-person office, and how companies will facilitate communication.
One of the big shifts that we see is that a manager’s visibility into what is being worked on by their direct reports is harder and more necessary in a remote world. At Bennu, we think about visibility two ways: vertically and horizontally. Vertically throughout the reporting chain, teams need high visibility to ensure day-to-day execution alignment with high-level strategic initiatives. Horizontally across functions, teams need visibility to share ideas and collaborate.
Given direct reports aren’t physically in the same proximity, it takes more energy and effort to build processes and adopt tools that enable visibility throughout the reporting chain as well as across functions. Additionally, employees want to be empowered to self-manage rather than be micromanaged, so tools that are used for performance management need to be transparent to employees as far as what data is visible and how it’s used to assess their performance.
Switching to remote or hybrid teams comes with a whole host of benefits, including increased flexibility, no commute, cost of living advantage, and more. That said, employees still want to have high quality working relationships. Again here, it takes effort, processes, and tools that cater to the remote work environment. Standups, weekly manager 1-on-1s, and other recurring meetings have never been more important. These touchpoints are more than just an opportunity to see how work is progressing—they’re an opportunity for the team to connect with each other, build rapport, and increase transparency.
In a remote-first work environment, many employees miss the spontaneous conversations that used to build culture and keep people updated.
It’s hard to replicate “water cooler conversations” when everyone is in a distributed location, but there are new ways to help employees connect and communicate in a remote world.
The key isn’t to replicate the water cooler—it’s to adapt processes and tools to achieve the same result. While tools like Slack and Zoom enable tactical communication, the burden is still on the employee to assemble and curate information. That’s why a new style of communicating is emerging. New communication tools like Bennu go beyond reminding employees to communicate, helping employees identify and curate contributions to share.
In-person work has had centuries to evolve, while the acceleration of remote work is just beginning. At Bennu we’re proud to be tackling the above problems and improving communication in the remote workplace.