By Kathy Marshall, Chief People Officer
Talent lives everywhere. As the Chief People Officer, I am incredibly appreciative that my fellow colleagues on the Personify leadership team understand the value added, the positive impact on employee experience and the competitive advantage of providing remote-first employment opportunities to talented individuals throughout the United States and parts of Canada.
The best employees for open jobs at Personify may not live within driving distance to our offices in Austin, Washington-Baltimore, Atlanta or Toronto. The day that we solidified our remote-first policy and no longer limited our incredible team to a handful of zip codes, we grew into an employer that listens to hear, understands and values employee work-life integration.
What I’m about to share was likely surprising just three short, but also very long years ago. As the Chief People Officer, I have only met 25 colleagues in-person. Some days it still surprises me too. However, our team, the PersoniFam, continues to find inventive ways to build connections with each other and to create a welcoming, transparent culture through the screen. We rarely meet at the Keurig in the break room to chat, but we do send a colleague their favorite Starbuck’s drink every so often or a gift card on their birthday, because we can’t all go out to lunch.
Remote-first isn’t always an easy decision and may not be the best fit for every organization. One of the most important challenges to creating a remote-first culture is getting your leadership team on board. When discussing permanently allowing members of the PersoniFam to work from home, the decision was easy. If we could make our employees’ days and work lives that much easier, because working through a pandemic is not easy, we wanted to provide that support. No more commutes. Don’t worry about coming into the office when your little one is exposed or perhaps a family member is ill.
If your leadership team is on the fence about adopting an official remote-first policy, here are some questions that we asked ourselves that may help guide a similar conversation for your organization:
Do we primarily serve our clients or partners in-person?
Personify is a SaaS technology company, and our employees establish relationships and serve our partners primarily through a digital space. While our team has missed being able to consult and connect with clients in-person over the past two years, we’ve focused on providing rich digital experiences that make up for that lack of face-to-face interaction and have been able to provide more of these opportunities without the need for travel.
Do our company values and guiding principles support a Remote-first consideration?
Not just one but four of our company values directly impacted our decision to adopt and promote a remote-first culture. Transparency is fundamental to trust, teamwork and understanding. Our commitment to equity means that we value fairness and strive for diversity and inclusion. Equity guided the decision to not ask specific groups to work in the office, while others could work from home. Simplicity means that we work harder to make things easier for our clients and our employees. Lastly, we practice accountability by saying what we do and doing what we say, both internally and externally. Transparency, equity, simplicity and accountability were the guiding principles that we referenced to formalize our commitment to a remote-first culture.
If our organization can’t truly adopt a remote-first culture, is remote-friendly an option? Wait, but what’s the difference?
A remote-first culture is one that supports employees working from home as often or as little as they choose. A remote-first company also provides the technological and cultural resources to allow all remote employees to feel included.
A remote-friendly culture is one that supports employees working from home on occasion to allow for more flexibility to one’s schedule, but business and meetings are primarily conducted in an office setting.
If your organization shut down its office at any point during the COVID-19 pandemic and asked personnel to conduct business from home, logistically, there should not be obstacles that prohibit at least a remote-friendly culture.
How do our employees feel?
Gather honest feedback in one-on-one settings, exit interviews or by conducting a company-wide attitudinal survey. Employees want to feel heard. If attempting to survey, be careful not to create an unrealistic expectation. If you know it’s not a real option, don’t present it as such.
During our monthly company-wide meetings, we allow our employees to submit anonymous questions to be answered by our CEO and leadership team. A common question throughout early 2021 was ‘will we be required to return to the office?’ We knew the topic was important and top of mind for many. Therefore, as a leadership team, we decided to address the question well before our planned return to office date arrived, a date that never came, as we determined a remote-first culture was the best fit for our employees and our values.
How can we create an authentic, relatable culture when everyone is working remotely?
By using technology to your advantage! Explore a company-wide communication and collaboration software like Slack or an online community where employees can chat about work, share resources but even more importantly, their interests. Our company-wide Slack team has over 300 diverse channels for sharing ideas, hobbies and laughs! There is a space for everyone’s interests with channels for parents, pets, plants, new moms, LGBTQIA, cooking and anime. It’s all employee-led and employee-created. Allow your employees to create and build an authentic communication platform that works for them!
If you worry that your organization won’t be able to provide the same face-to-face support your clients once had, explore an online community. When in-person interactions aren’t possible or happen less frequently, online communities can help clients and employees stay engaged. We use our Client Community to provide connection, resources and a collaboration space for clients to interact with each other, as well as with staff.
Promote camera-on meetings for more genuine discussion. More authenticity is created when speaking with someone’s face, even if it’s through a computer screen. As a leader, camera-on meetings are helpful for gauging employee sentiment, attitudes, understanding, frustrations and tone.
Establish a Culture Team. Create and promote a Culture Team with volunteers from across your organization to help with ideas, morale, insights and to be incredible champions for building a culture that spans departments, locations and time zones – all through a digital space.
A remote-first culture is just one of the many benefits that we provide to create an incredible employee experience at Personify including unlimited PTO, company-wide wellness days, paid parental leave and more! If you want to be part of a company that promotes a remote-first culture and understands the importance of a healthy work-life integration now more than ever, we’re hiring for a number of roles. You can learn more and express your interest on our Careers page.