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Employee Experience

How to help people work from home: 3 tips for HR leaders

As many of us start working from home full time for the first time, we ask what advice fully remote workplaces have for us and what we can learn from them...

1. Bring people together, even when they’re apart

Courtney Seiter, Director of People at Buffer

Creating a sense of community has always been important too. Social media management platform, Buffer, has a fully remote workforce with more than 85 people working in 19 different countries.

Buffer’s Director of People, Courtney Seiter says one of the biggest issues facing remote workers can be a sense of disconnection and loneliness. “Especially if these people aren’t used to working from home – it can be isolating.”

To combat this, Buffer has experimented with different kinds of virtual gatherings, where people can get on a video call to chat about life and share concerns or stresses. “We use a tool called Donut that integrates with Slack and pairs you with different people within your organization to meet and chat with.”

Buffer has also tried virtual forest bathing, where colleagues can get together online to enjoy the soothing calm of being in nature while meditating. This not only brings people together, but also goes some way to help relieve anxieties in uncertain times. “Everyone needs outlets for stress and anxiety,” she says.

Time well spent?

The Washington Post reports that in 2018, the average American spent 225 hours – well over nine full calendar days – commuting back and forth to work.

2. Help people to onboard remotely

Dave Gilbert, VP of Talent at Gitlab

This is particularly important for onboarding new team members. Dev ops platform, GitLab, sends its people clear achievables for what’s expected of them weeks 1, 2-4, week 4-6. “They can check off exactly what they need to cover for not just work-wise, but also social things like setting up a coffee chat with three different people.”

A coffee chat at Gitlab is defined as a meeting without an agenda where the whole purpose is simply to get to know the other person. “The cool part is people also set up coffee chats with you because they know you're new.”

Gitlab also has a Slack channel called ‘new team’ members. “All of a sudden you're seeing interactions happening through that new team member channel,” says Dave. “It starts to create connections, starts to create a sense of community, starts to create a sense of acclimation and acculturation.”

3. Keep teams small, but connected

Lori McLeese, Global Head of Human Resources at Automattic

One big problem remote teams have is isolation. “We keep teams limited to 8-10 people so that the team lead can really get to know their team members,” says Lori. “This has been the biggest help in combating isolation and loneliness. We also try to make sure that they’re placed in a timezone that’s no more than 4 hours ahead or behind.” This helps to keep everyone connected and feeling that they can support each other.

“We also have book clubs and we do learning sessions once a month, with topics that people submit to my team and from there we’ll either source an internal or external expert speaker.

“Because we’re in so many time zones we’ll make sure to record them and transcribe them too.”

Find out how best to support your people during this difficult time with our complimentary Remote Work Pulse solution