Six Tips for Cultivating a Healthy Online Work Environment

Creating a Healthy Online Work Environment

The need for a healthy and satisfying work environment is not up for discussion. Any enlightened manager knows its benefits. The same need extends to remote workgroups, and that is still something of a revelation to many leaders.

 Perhaps it’s because of the “environment”. The remote work environment is fleeting; all team members don’t work together. They cannot share the same jokes; they can’t feel each other’s challenges. At least not by default – that’s why building a culture of empathy and team spirit is critical.

 As the remote workforce grows bigger, there is a serious concern for remote employees to remain connected to the rest of the team. A vibrant work environment that meets the requirements of remote employees can help reduce that isolation.

What exactly constitutes a healthy online work environment?

 It’s a work environment where remote employees feel safe in their roles, an important part of the team and the company, and one where they have the opportunity to learn and grow.

 A healthy online work environment encourages unrestricted communication, open discussions, and collaborations. It supports remote employees with educational and technical resources to enable and empower them. It overcomes hurdles like different time zones or different work methods.

 A healthy work environment is one that promotes a healthy lifestyle, free of emotional strain. It is a place where employees feel that despite working remotely their work makes a difference, not only to the company’s bottom line but to the community as a whole.

 The edicts of a healthy online work environment mirror that of an in-house team.  Remote workers have the same need to feel safe and secure in their work. They still need to be challenged and held accountable for their actions. And they definitely need the support of colleagues to flourish in their roles.

 A healthy online work environment translates to happy employees. And what is the business decision that underlies employee happiness? Research has shown that happy employees are 12% more productive.

How to cultivate a healthy online work environment

  •         Trust and faith: Without trust no team will ever reach its full potential. That’s possibly truer for remote teams – who don’t always get to see the full picture and have to rely on other members to fulfill their roles. Likewise, having faith in a colleague, even when mistakes crop up, will go a long way in building an online work environment that is secure and reliable. Both trust and faith underpin the decision-making process and accountability – two qualities remote employees seek to feel part of the company.
  •         Peer-review and recognition: Sometimes feedback from peers is saved for occasional reviews. But it should be fluid enough to become a part of the daily routine so that remote employees can receive and share feedback without worrying about egos or hurting anyone. Open recognition of achievements is just as important to foster motivation and improve productivity. On the other hand, recognition of problems within the team and swiftly addressing them will also help promote a healthy remote work environment.
  •         Intellectual challenge and educational resources: Remote work often relies on tools and apps that new hires may not be familiar with. And on top of that, given the flexible nature of online work, help may not always be readily available. A healthy online work environment should have resources in place for employees to rely on not only to fulfill their roles but fire up their intellectual curiosities. Because an intellectually challenging role is one of the best motivators.
  •          Safety and security: “Remote” doesn’t take issues like discrimination and harassment off the table. In fact, these deadly problems have already migrated to the online work environment. The danger for remote employees is that if they don’t speak up, their pain and the existing problem will continue. Both team members and team leads should be wary of these issues. Victims should be able to speak up and get the support they deserve.
  •         Work impact and social responsibility: Knowing that their work matters not only to the company but to society is not a vague factor for employees. The new workforce, particularly Millennials, prefer working for companies that have a strong social responsibility program. Giving remote employees the opportunity to participate in a company’s CSR programs will tighten their bond with the company.
  •         Health and wealth: Companies can’t dictate good health measures to employees. Yet the effect of a healthy lifestyle on the employees’ work and the company’s profit is far from debatable. This is why managers are now actively reinforcing healthy habits. Remote employees shouldn’t miss out on the support of the management or colleagues because they don’t meet face to face. In addition, full-time remote employees have the same needs for time-offs that will help renew them for dedicated work.

Be it fun team-building activities or an open ear to a colleague’s troubles, measures that make the online work environment tangible despite being fleeting will help remote employees perform better, feel supported, and build relationships – and in turn make them feel like an important part of the company.

Perhaps a healthy online work environment is not measured in numbers. But lasting relationships, loyalty towards the company, and a remote employee’s pride in working for the firm is a good gauge for how conducive the environment is to dynamic remote work.

 

Guest Author Bio

Image courtesy of DistantJob.com

Image courtesy of DistantJob.com

 Sharon Koifman believes every company, from the biggest enterprise to the newly-launched garage startup, should have access to world’s top talent. That’s why he used over 10 years of experience in tech industry recruitment & HR to create DistantJob. His unique recruitment model allows DistantJob’s clients to get high-quality IT experts working remotely at a fraction of the usual cost – with no red tape and within two weeks.       

 

Plugging-In When Your Inspiration and Energy Takes a Timeout

Background image by CreateHerStock.com.

Background image by CreateHerStock.com.

For at least the past two weeks, I have been beyond tired and uninspired to write anything new. I am not a fan of forcing myself to write when I’m not feeling it, so I decided to honor the space I have been in. To describe the feeling, I have felt like I am in abyss of a wandering mind and unable to dig myself out of it.

I started out with the obvious feelings and reactions of being mad at myself for not pushing through. That was until I decided to evaluate what I have accomplished and why I may be feeling listless and lacking in new ideas.

The reality was: I have been working damn hard for over six months no real downtime. This may sound like a humblebrag, but unless you understand how an entrepreneur’s mind works that will be your only conclusion. My mind is constantly racing with thoughts of new ventures, things I need to do and questions of whether I am doing enough to reach my goals. That’s just on the professional end of things. On the personal end, it is kids, husband, home life etc.

In taking stock of what I set out to do and what I actually accomplished – it allowed me to accept my tiredness and need to unplug as a warranted effect of my hard work. Cleaning my whiteboard of projects completed wasn’t enough. I needed to take the time to write down what I had done specifically so I could quantify and see it.

I got my mojo back today!

One thing I am very intentional about is keeping the right people in my circle of trust. These people remain nameless, but I praise them loudly and often, because they keep me on target and sane.

Sharing is caring.

Today was no different – as I met with my one of my friends/business partners. We met as we do annually to discuss how our academy went. Over Mexican food and great drinks we discussed our successes and room for improvement.  We also discussed life and business since we wrapped the academies. Shockingly, I am not alone in this abyss of wandering minds. My business partner was experiencing the same feelings. A few drinks and many admissions later, we both were idea machines!

So, how does a casual lunch and drinks inspire one to move from listless to inspired again?

It’s all about people! Whether you are an entrepreneur or something else, we all have an innate need to be seen, understood, heard and empowered. We especially need this positive energy from others when we are unable to motivate ourselves .

When our smartphones are in the red and about to die, we frantically hustle to find a plug to power up our batteries again so we can continue surfing , sharing,  chatting etc. Today, my business partner and I plugged-in to one another to recharge and keep going. We essentially threw one another a lifeline.

I was convinced that my upcoming vacation alone would do the trick ( and I still kind of believe that). However, I really needed to spend some time connecting with someone in my circle of trust to put things in perspective. People often ask me if I miss working in an office with people. My answer is always “no”. I am not the kind that needs constant human interaction, but I have learned enough to know when it is prudent to tap into others.

Here are some tips for navigating periods of low-to-no inspiration or energy:

1) When your body slows you down, it is because you need to slow down. Honor that space and time and be still. It’s usually a warning to slow-down. Also, a lesson is usually on the way when this happens.

2) Evaluate how you reached this unwelcomed slowdown. More often than not, you will find that there are some steps and/or missteps that brought you to this place. Write it out, find your blindspots and forgive yourself.

3) Plug into your circle of trust. Many times we believe our struggles are unique to us. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to ask a question or to share your experiences will help you shake the “unique struggle” mindset. This allows you to normalize your feelings, get out of your head  and resume productivity.

Whether you are an introvert, extrovert or ambivert – people need people. If you want to be successful both professionally and in business you need to have at least one other person you can call to cry, vent , or bounce ideas off of. It is too much of an emotional and physical burden to bare for you to carry it all alone. Find your tribe and plug-in when you need to recharge. Trust me it’s okay.

 

Three Reasons Why Companies Should Provide a Pathway Back to Work for Moms

Women's Rights

As we continue to explore all of the segments of diversity that deserve our attention, let me add another one to the ever-growing list. If you couldn’t tell by the title – the segment I am speaking about is: Moms. Some of women are fortunate enough to be employed by an employer who understands that there is much more that can be done for women returning to work than what FMLA provides. Those women are in the minority. The larger chunk of this segment is betrothed to companies who either don’t care or aren’t creative enough to create opportunities and pathways for mothers returning to work after starting their families.

Did you know?

The U.S. is one of three countries along with Oman and Papua New Guinea that does not offer paid maternity leave. This is a clear indication that we are not only lackluster in support of women before they become mothers, but that we neglect them on the other side of motherhood as well. As such, “off-ramping” or leaving career tracks for women is not just an option but a decision made under the duress of the stigma placed upon women who decide to have a family.

According to the Center For Talent Innovation’s 2005 study, 37% percent of professional women in the U.S. left their career track at some point. 66% opted for flex-time, temp and part-time work instead of completely off-ramping. According to a 2015 Huffington Post Women article by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the numbers had not changed much when they revisited the 2005 study in 2010. Shocking!

Let’s be honest… let’s be real.

Women should be able to start a family whenever they choose. It isn’t a decision that requires the ever-popular buy-in of line managers and the C-Suite. That said, when a woman makes that decision- it shouldn’t be the case that she has to bid adieu to her career aspirations, upward mobility and financial security.

Unfortunately, women are hindered. There’s a stigma around pregnancy and being a parent in many companies. While I choose to focus in on women for the sake of this piece, the stigma extends to any person – who has to put familial obligations before their work at some point.

I can remember so many days working for previous employers – where my need to leave at 5pm was met with grimaces and rolling eyes. I recall many days that one of my children were sick and I had to hear the long sighs and pauses directly after letting my immediate supervisor know I would be taking the day to care for them.

From where I sat, starting a family was seen as an affront to what the company needed to accomplish. How dare you set them back like this? You want to take longer than FMLA will allow, we can’t guarantee your job because you need more time. “Good luck and best wishes” is how they say: “You were great until you decided to have this family, good luck being hired again, but we are moving on.”

Leaning-in for the win or not.

There isn’t enough leaning-in in the world that can change an archaic mindset. If companies believe a woman who has family obligations is worth less than one who can sit behind a desk for 12 hours a day and then again from home neglecting their personal wants and needs – I would say they are insane. One isn’t better than the other – it’s just different. We need to stop alienating women because they choose to have a family. More importantly, we need to welcome them back whether it is after a short or long hiatus- offering different options for either scenario.

Here are three reasons why companies need to provide a pathway for women back to work after starting a family:

1) A 2013 Pew Research Center Survey indicated that 40% of households with children under the age of 18 have mothers who are either the primary or sole providers of income for the household.  By eliminating the pathway for women to return to work, you are very likely creating economic disparities for not only women, but for families on the whole. Washington Post reported last year that 47% of Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 expense. Already strained household budgets, plus unpaid maternity leaves, coupled with women out of work due to lack of opportunity is very likely a financial burden/nightmare for many families in the U.S.

2) Can you afford to lose another segment of the workforce? KPMG published their 2016 Top Global Market Trends last month. One of the five takeaways from this report was that: “Talent shortages are still top-of-mind for many leaders and they see it as the new norm.” I’ve mentioned in other articles that I think the talent shortage is more perceived than actual. How can we claim talent shortages when we are willfully turning away women from the workforce? Realistically, no organization can afford to lose this segment; which is why it makes sense to create circumstances that favor them staying.

3) It’s the right thing to do. How much more volume do women’s issues need for the parity and double-standards to stop? Every person deserves to be able to sustain themselves and their families by way of gainful employment. Women owned-businesses are on the rise and they are likely to rival establishment businesses and their archaic thinking. The true talent shortage is when women push out the big guys and focus on all of the items that were off the table like: paid maternity leave, flex-work arrangements, backup daycare, eldercare options, paternity leave, phase-back programs etc.

I covered this topic in further detail on my show: Ask Czarina Live ™ Unbothered: Moms Returning To Work. Check out the episode below.

 

 

 

Ask Czarina Live: The State of Working Parenthood

 

Ask Czarina- The State of Parenthood

I am coming at you from IBM Insight in Las Vegas. I promise you I will be back to churning out more than just Ask Czarina Live posts soon, but I am on the move a lot this month. Before I proceed, I want to thank everyone who joined me last week. It was great to have you and I am inviting you to join me this week and bring a friend.

Which brings me to our topic for this week’s Ask Czarina Live. This week’s topic is: The State of Working Parenthood.

I won’t spoil what I will share this Thursday, but I had a lot of hustling to do to be able to not only make it to Vegas for IBM Insight, but to be able to go to my speaking gig later in the week.

Ask Czarina Live Blog Tile

As a business owner, professional and mom of 3 who also happens to be in the midst of picking up steam as a speaker- my travel is picking up and responsibilities at home remain the same. I know all about the opportunities in front of me and I know what I stand to gain. At the same time, I am forever calculating the risks and cons to what I do. As such, I am calling all working parents and that includes stay-at-home moms and dads. I’ll explore the following:

  • Why I stopped making a distinction between these two groups of parents even though society continues to drive a hard line.
  • Whether it is easier now or in past generations to be a parent.
  • What I do to release present day parenting pressures making life bearable for everyone involved.
  • Is work-life balance attainable?
  • Is the request for “more flexibility” new or are we in a time and place where it is more accepted?

In addition, I will be exploring a few articles that summarize the state of working parenthood. Here are the links to the articles, should you be interested in checking them out in advance:

Kids of working moms are better off

How working moms define success

What workers around the world want: More flexibility

 Stay-at-home moms are on the rise

Join me on Thursday at 11pm EST/10pm CST/8pm PST for my second  “Ask Czarina Live”. Last week I promised you that I would be posting the replays of “Ask Czarina Live” to “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel for those of you not ready to take the Periscope plunge. Unfortunately, Periscope has a bug that is preventing my broadcasts from properly being saved in my gallery, so I am currently unable to share my shows in both places. They are working on it and I will let you know when I am able to do it. For now, you can continue to view replays on Periscope, within the 24-hour window allotted,

As usual it will be fun, fresh, and insightful. I look forward to seeing you there.

Want more? Click here to watch the latest “Ask Czarina” episode. Subscribe to “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel to be notified when new episodes are published.

Technology and HR Revisited: Cease the Flexible Work and Collaboration Excuses

Technology and hr revisited- Flexible Work

Why does your entire workforce need to be seen in the flesh? Can you provide three reasons why you need to have your staff physically present themselves to work that doesn’t begin with “Our internal customers” and end with “need facetime”? Among the other excuses for why flexible work arrangements can’t happen are:

1) How will I know they are truly working?

2) If I allow one person to a flex work arrangement, everyone will want it.

3) I need my people here doing the work.

The Supply and Demand of Flex Work and Collaboration

According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com , 50% of the US workforce holds a position that is compatible with at least a partial telework arrangement. GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com goes on to report that 80-90% of US workers would like to telework or flex their schedules at least part-time to allow for concentrated work at home and in-person team collaboration via the office. Technology has made it so that we can be productive whether we are sitting in an office or at the doctor’s office. You need to check emails- our mobile devices make that possible on-the-go. Is there an online meeting coming up that you need your staff to attend? Most online meeting platforms have an or mobile optimized site for people who need to a join meetings from where ever they are. Many years ago, we could say “no” to telework, because the technology wasn’t there. Now that we have virtual workspaces, cloud storage, and video technology that allows us to collaborate and remain connected with our teams- what is the excuse?

The Telework and Flexwork Challenge

Image courtesy of Unsplash.com

If we are honest with one another, the nature of work is changing. It’s changing at an uncomfortable pace that appears to threaten our traditional way of doing things. Change is both uncomfortable and inevitable. However, the case of telework and flexible work arrangements seems clear. The workforce wants it, the technology is ripe for facilitating it- yet organizations are still relying on antiquated ways of thinking to approach this topic.

 

As Human Resources professionals, it is key that keep a pulse on what is needed by our workforce versus constantly campaigning for what the organization needs. No one wins when there isn’t some compromise. The issue around telework isn’t with the employees wanting it, but with our reluctance to evolve with the times.

Let’s be clear, not everyone in your workforce will want to work from home. Working from home requires discipline. There are employees that will naturally prefer to come to the office for a more structured environment. This puts to rest the idea that if you offer one employee a flex arrangement that suddenly a stampede of employees will be outside your door. For those that either need or want to telework or flex work, it is as simple as sitting down with them and figuring out a schedule that not only helps the employee, but compliments the needs of the business. After teleworking two days a week for two years at my previous company, I can tell you that my internal customers were well taken care of, interviews conducted and projects were on target. Granted, my then employer had me filling out work plans to show “proof” of my work from home; but they could never deny the fact that I was productive. Which brings me to the point of trust. Much of the challenge with managing a virtual or mobile workforce has to do with a lack of trust. There is a lack of trust with the collaboration tools and technology that make these arrangements possible and in some cases not semblance of faith in your employees. Think of it like this, if you are asking for a telework arrangement and you choose to abuse that privilege by not working as you would in the office- who loses? In some regard, the employer loses due to lack of productivity. However, most people who ask for flexibility need it more than it being a “want”. That said, the egg is on their face if they fail to work to standards and do what is expected of them.

What’s my Call-to-Action?

Cease the excuses for why telework and flexwork arrangements can’t happen. Instead, look at all of the instances where it is possible. Use a mix technology to keep your team engaged and connected. The need for face-to-face interaction isn’t going away yet. In the meantime, look at the endless possibilities on-demand video technology provides. Video not only makes it possible for teams in different parts of the world to meet and collaborate, it allows candidates to record an interview without missing a day of work and tipping off their current employer. I’m certain that some dedication to helping people work smarter and more flexibly can only help your talent management efforts. It’s all about adapting to what makes sense for your workforce while getting things done.

What will you do to kick the telework and flexwork excuses to the curb?

Want more? Click here to watch the latest “Ask Czarina” episode on this post on  “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel.

 

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