Over the past few months, organizations pulled together by separating themselves in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. While we remain in the midst of this pandemic, these distancing efforts have enabled businesses throughout the country to start reopening.
But things have changed for organizations everywhere. Major companies like Twitter, Nationwide and Facebook have announced plans to permanently shift many of their people to remote workers. Others like Google and Salesforce will stay virtual until at least 2021, or have adapted flexible remote policies to ensure seamless business continuity.
For us at 7Summits, this strangely feels like our time to shine. We work socially (our language for remote collaboration) today, and have been doing so for more than 10 years. In fact, it’s one of our core values. We have maintained our work velocity beside our clients despite the current dynamic market conditions because we have long-since tested and perfected connecting the people in our company with our customers and partners to achieve results, leveraging the latest technologies to foster a collaborative work environment.
Organizations won’t be able to safely bring everyone back to their physical offices. There will have to be some form of remote working for some population of your workforce every day. Whether you made it unscathed through this first burst of change or took a few hits along the way, it’s time to acknowledge that you need an active, contemporary business continuity plan that includes virtual collaboration, communication and connectedness to be ready for an uncertain future.
Solutions like Salesforce’s Work.com are great for helping organizations safely reopen and enabling managers to better advise and support their teams, but how can you best unleash your everyday employees in today’s uncertainty or in response to the next great crisis? Online communities and digital workspaces help keep every employee engaged as you seek to establish regularity in your company regardless of circumstance. Since this is what we do, I thought I’d share more about how we work to hopefully inspire your organization to maintain momentum as well, while using this as an opportunity to transform for the better.
We’re headquartered in Milwaukee, but around 70% of our employees are remote workers spread throughout the country. All of our local employees are given the same flexibility to work from home or from the office as often as they choose, but this has been amplified by the closure of our physical office due to COVID-19. 7Summits has embraced our evolution into a virtual workplace, leveraging the benefits that remote working allows while instituting policies to minimize the potential drawbacks.
There are numerous benefits for both parties when remote working is correctly managed. It is important for companies to set clear expectations with workers regarding available hours and contact methods, and maintain regular communication between team members. 7Summits has multiple opportunities for these types of interactions to take place.
We have a standing company-wide meeting every Monday morning to share successes and recent updates across the organization. Additionally, each team holds weekly “stand-up” meetings where employees plan out projects’ next steps and voice their opinions in a conversational, collaborative environment.
We also have an internal, digital community built on Salesforce Community Cloud called The Hive where employees can collaborate on projects, ask questions, post news and access our broader knowledge base and any procedural documents. We’ve helped many of our clients embrace a solution like this as well.
There are also various Slack channels for people to share shout outs, project updates and simply engage on a personal level with coworkers. 7Summits’ investment in reliable technology to facilitate audio and video phone calls also allows for more valuable communication between workers, instead of relying solely on emails. This approach has enabled us to continue our strong work without missing a beat in the face of this disruption.
Besides communication, many virtual workplaces struggle with creating a workplace culture that fosters collaboration and engagement. When you’re not in the same space as your colleagues and managers, it can be difficult to form relationships and connections with coworkers. 7Summits again leverages best practices to ensure that a strong workplace culture is not lost among a high number of remote employees, even when circumstances force our entire workforce to go virtual. Nearly all of our meetings are run on Zoom, allowing people to have frequent face-to-face interactions with their peers. And recordings of those meetings are easily saved in The Hive for reference by those who may have missed a meeting. This style of engagement also fosters making management and executives easily accessible to prevent people from feeling disconnected from leadership.
Weekly 1-on-1s between all employees and their managers also ensure that 7Summits’ people establish relationships with their teams, even if they work exclusively remotely. These touchpoints provide a vital opportunity for our employees to be transparent about their challenges or limitations based on child care, internal stressors or other obligations that have disrupted their traditional work patterns. Our managers are strongly encouraged to make every allowance possible so that our employees are focused not only on their work productivity, but their mental and emotional health.
By implementing a flexible remote policy, 7Summits has demonstrated a commitment to allowing our employees to take advantage of the benefits that virtual working affords. For starters, research has shown that remote workers are generally more productive than those who work exclusively in an office. This is due to people generally starting on time and not leaving early, while simultaneously avoiding in-office distractions. They also don’t have to sacrifice sick days or PTO for minor things like colds, and can instead accomplish all of their work from the comfort of home.
Allowing work-from-home options also allows our people to save time and money and maintain a better work/life balance. Telecommuting lets employees skip lengthy, stressful commutes that can include battling traffic, construction and bad weather. Simply avoiding driving cuts costs associated with gas, maintenance and parking, and gives workers hours back into their days to spend with family or tackling personal chores around the house. More time at home can help boost morale and keep employees happy, reducing stress and leading to better overall health.
The financial savings are also a major benefit to remote workers. Virtual employees save an average of $7,000 a year compared to their non-virtual counterparts, with those savings coming primarily from commuting costs, food and business clothes. While individual employees may receive other benefits by working from home, the positive effects on morale, time and finances help demonstrate 7Summits’ commitment to enhancing our employees’ experience with flexible virtual policies.
While our top priority remains our people, enabling a connected virtual workforce allows 7Summits to reap benefits as well. The boost in productivity among employees helps our projects get completed quickly and more effectively. Higher morale and less stress around the office due to the flexibility to work from home at any time help further enhance our workplace culture. By offering our people the option to work where they’re most comfortable, we also hope to enhance the employer/employee relationship at 7Summits. When companies’ employees are happier, they are more likely to put in the additional effort to help the organization.
There are many other tangible benefits that offering a virtual work environment affords companies. As mentioned above, talent recruitment is enhanced by embracing virtual work, expanding candidate reach across generational and geographical boundaries. As future generations get accustomed to remote working, it is important to offer these options to set ourselves up for continued headcount growth well into the future. Additionally, 7Summits is able to hire incredibly talented people across the country instead of having to recruit exclusively near our Midwest headquarters. Finally, companies that offer work-from-home options tend to experience less attrition (up to a 50% decrease, in fact), as all of the benefits associated with remote working cause people to want to stay where they have that luxury.
While our remote working policy provides ongoing benefits to our company productivity and recruiting processes, it also serves as a major risk mitigator in more disruptive times. Other companies may be scrambling to set up the systems and processes to effectively continue working, whereas at 7Summits we can simply tell employees to resume their normal work schedules at home. Having a remote policy already in place means that meetings are still being held, deals are still being closed and projects are still being launched, regardless of the external factors that may be affecting other organizations. Our operational readiness ensures that we can continue doing the work that transforms businesses and enhances people’s lives. That’s our Mission.
Offering a flexible remote working policy has many positives for both employers and employees, and has become an increasingly important imperative as company’s prepare for the future. 7Summits places a premium on fostering an engaged and accommodating work environment where people have the tools to succeed. By adhering to best practices and making a concerted effort to minimize potential drawbacks, we ensure our remote workforce and our clients get the full set of benefits that this flexibility affords now and into the future.
All posts in Advice & Thought Leadership