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How To Create A Successful Hybrid Work Environment

As companies scramble to establish a “new normal” after being thrust into remote work during 2020, many are establishing hybrid work environments. But what exactly are they, and how can you make one work for your team? We’re breaking it all down so you, too, can create a successful hybrid work environment for management and employees alike.

What is a Hybrid Work Environment?

According to a recent survey from Glassdoor, nearly 9 out of 10 employees say that they prefer to continue working from home at least part-time after their offices have reopened. However, the pandemic uncovered challenges with fully remote teams such as disjointed teams, decreased creativity, and lower morale. Thus, the hybrid work environment was born. It is a fluid system that provides a happy medium between in-office stability and WFH freedom.

How Can We Make A Hybrid Work Environment Successful?

Empower Employees To Choose

One of the most beneficial aspects of a hybrid work environment is that employees can choose what works best for them. Provide structure if necessary (everyone must be in the office on Mondays for an all-hands meeting), but leave flexibility. This will allow your employees to set themselves up for success and give them a sense of autonomy over their careers. You will be amazed at the shift in attitude and productivity.

Provide Tools

As acknowledged previously, remote work comes with challenges. To combat this, provide your employees with the right arsenal of tools. Investing in messaging software such as Microsoft Teams or Slack will allow your team to stay connected, whether in the same building or not. Encourage video calls over phone calls so people can still get some “face-to-face” time. When encouraging a hybrid work environment, help your employees create a productive work-from-home space. Provide an additional monitor, phone, keyboard, and mouse to keep them from having to lug materials back and forth.

Check-In Regularly

Hybrid work environments aren’t just “set it and forget it.” You need to check in with employees regularly to ensure their success and the overall success of your team. Are they staying on track and achieving regular milestones? Do they require additional support? Is the hybrid model working for them?

One of the best things about a hybrid work environment is that it is an adaptive working model. You can (and should) make adjustments as time goes on. Be sure to establish success metrics and implement regular assessments. In the end, your goal is to foster a flexible environment that promotes creativity and productivity.

How To Thrive In A Hybrid Work Environment

When the working world was turned upside down by COVID-19, many companies moved to a remote work environment. And to everyone’s surprise, it actually went great! In fact, a recent survey revealed that nearly 9 in 10 employees prefer to continue working from home at least part-time. As states and countries continue to open up, leaders are faced with a decision: have people come back to the office or continue working from home. Thus, the hybrid work environment was born, empowering employees to choose where they work best. While a hybrid work setup comes with many benefits, it also presents unique challenges. So, in order to thrive in a hybrid work environment, stick to these three guidelines.

Stick to Routine

When your work environment changes throughout the week, it can feel chaotic and untethered at times. By sticking to the same routine, whether in the office or at home, you provide a steadying anchor for yourself. Wake up at the same, maintain your morning rituals, and log in at the same time when you work at home. Then, over the course of your day, take regular breaks, including a lunch break. And perhaps most importantly, log off at the same time you would if you were in office. This will help draw boundaries between your work and personal life, even if the environment is the same.

Plan Ahead

Do you create a plan for each working day? If not, now is a great time to start! Planning ahead will help you avoid the awkward “where was I?” every time you start work. Whether you create a detailed hour-by-hour plan, a more general daily outline, or even a goal list for the week, a plan will give you structure. Setting up calls or Zoom meetings is also easier when you know your schedule for the week, and you can plan around possible distractions or excess noise.

Communicate Often

When you work in a hybrid environment, it’s up to you to maintain excellent communication. Even in-office meetings and collaboration may look different these days, so it’s important to keep up your professional relationships. Set up regular coffee chats, utilize your company messaging tools, and call to check in on your coworkers. A little investment goes a long way when it comes to communication!

In conclusion, a hybrid work environment can be great for both managers and employees. Set yourself up for success from the start through consistent routines, planning, and effective communication.

3 Work from Home Interview Questions You Must be Ready to Answer

Before any job interview, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the basic interview questions. You can almost guarantee an interviewer to ask you questions like, “Can you walk me through your resume?” or “What achievement are you most proud of?” But with remote work opportunities on the rise, there are a few more questions you should be prepared to answer. Here are three work-from-home interview questions you can expect to answer in your next interview.

What does your work from home setup look like?

If you are interviewing for a remote opportunity, your interviewer will likely ask what your work-from-home setup looks like. Most of us worked from home at some point, thanks to the pandemic. However, if you will be working from home permanently, your prospective employer will likely inquire about your remote setup to ensure you have a good workstation. Now, you don’t necessarily have to have a home office, but the interviewer will want to hear that you have a designated area to work from home. Whether that’s a desk in your guest room or your dining room table, your interviewers will want to hear that you have an area that is devoted to your workday. Basically, they want to ensure that you are not working on the floor in your living room while the tv is blaring in the background to distract you.

How do you collaborate with your team in a remote work environment?

Good communication and collaboration are essential in any work environment. However, when you’re not working in person with your colleagues or manager, it can be more challenging to work together. Thus, an interviewer will likely ask how you collaborate with your team while working from home. When answering this question, you want to share how you take the initiative to work with your team on projects and other tasks successfully. You can share what tools you use to communicate with your team and the types of meetings you have.

For example, you can share that you frequently chat with your teammates using Microsoft Teams and you meet once a week for a video chat to strategize about tackling your ongoing projects. As long as you can express to your interviewers that you can successfully collaborate with your team virtually, you will be in good shape.

What were some of the challenges you’ve faced while working from home?

This question is similar to an interviewer asking about overcoming conflict or difficult situations in the workplace. Working from home brings unique challenges, and interviewers will want to know how you have overcome them in the past. When answering this question, provide an example and details on how you overcame the situation. Focus your response on the solution rather than the problem itself. Whether that be work-life balance, isolation, or obtaining information vital to your role; the hiring manager will want to understand the steps you took to conquer this issue. The problem itself is not essential, but the resolution is because you will face obstacles in any remote work environment, and it’s vital to prove that you are capable of triumphing through those hurdles.

So, those are the three work-from-home interview questions you must be able to answer. If you are looking for more interview advice, take a look at our blog! We have tons of helpful interview tips and tricks to help you secure your next remote job!

How to Retain Employees When It’s Never Been Easier to Quit

With remote work becoming a permanent option for many companies, quitting a job has never been easier. With most or all of your staff working from home or at least in a hybrid environment, it’s more challenging for employees to feel engaged with a new job. If you start a new job working remotely, it’s difficult to establish relationships with your colleagues, and you can adopt an “easy-come, easy-go” attitude. Without forming in-person connections with your co-workers, it takes some feelings away when deciding to leave for another opportunity. So, with remote work not going anywhere, what can your company do to retain your employees?

Expand your leadership team

With new policy and technological changes resulting from working from home, you may need to add a new leadership role. We are still navigating uncharted waters with new issues arising every day as we work from home during the pandemic. As a result, it may be time to add a new position to your team: Director of Remote Work. Facebook added this new position at the end of 2020 to help with the transition of becoming a more remote-friendly company. The creation of this position was to ensure an equitable and supportive environment for team members across the board. Now, this person doesn’t have to be in a director-level role; however, it can be beneficial to create a position responsible for improving your employees’ remote work experience.

Reshaping your company culture

Another way to combat employees from jumping ship while working from home is to reshape your company culture. You can implement a few initiatives to build engagement with your staff and help them develop that connection and sense of commitment to their team. For example, you can encourage your staff to share pictures or stories to help your workers get to know each other a little better. Our team at JSG just shared a collection of our kids’ (and grandkids’) back-to-school photos! This activity was a fun way to get to know some of our co-workers and share an essential piece of their lives. Other ways to bolster your company culture while working remote are establishing no-meeting days, scheduling regular check-ins with your team, and fun competitions.

Encourage communication from leadership

Additionally, to help retain your staff during this unprecedented time, you should encourage more communication from your leadership team. A recent survey revealed that 30% of remote workers believe employers can improve their culture by increasing communication from leaders. During times like these, it’s even more critical for your leadership team to make themselves available and communicate what’s going on with the company. Whether it’s upcoming policy changes, new regulations, or just sharing their support, leaders must speak up during these trying times. A little communication can go a long way with your staff and make them feel more appreciated.

JSG is here to help

Those are three changes your team can make to retain employees when it’s never been easier to quit. If you are still struggling to find qualified candidates that will stick around, reach out to our recruiting team! We will work with you to source candidates that will be compatible with your team and won’t unexpectedly jump ship.

What Are Job Seekers Looking for in 2021 & Beyond?

Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer are (shockingly) just around the corner. As the last quarter of the year creeps upon us, many Americans are turning their attention beyond last-minute summer activities. According to the Pulse of the American Worker Survey: Special Report, 26% of all workers plan to look for a new job opportunity this year. This is encouraging for many employers looking to add new talent to their teams before the end of the year; however, to attract these job seekers during the Great Resignation, you must understand what they are looking for in a new role.

Remote work is no longer a benefit

The pandemic has made it clear that the majority of workers value remote work in some capacity. In fact, 87% of workers would like to work from home at least one day a week after the pandemic wanes. In other words, remote work is no longer a benefit, it’s a necessity for many workers. If your company is not supporting this demand, your candidate pool may fizzle out quickly.

Working from home still gets a bad rap by many employers. Some hiring managers believe that their workers are not as productive working from home or that it’s hard to collaborate. And this is likely true in some circumstances, but most employers ironed out these concerns over the last 18+ months. But with 1 in 3 workers not wanting to work for an employer that requires them to be onsite full-time, it may be time to rethink your post-pandemic workplace.

Why do workers want remote work?

Therefore, it’s clear that workers value remote work and will be looking for new opportunities that offer more flexibility. So, as an employer, it’s imperative to understand why workers care so much about it. According to the same survey, workers desire remote work for numerous reasons, including saving money, saving time (by not commuting), more time with family, better sleep, and improved health and stress levels. These are all great reasons why your team should be supporting remote work in some capacity.

Job seekers want a caring culture

Another aspect job seekers in today’s market are concerned with is healthy company culture. This desire is nothing new to employers, and many companies have been working diligently to foster a more inclusive culture in recent years. However, cultivating a caring culture can be a little more challenging with a hybrid workforce. Currently, 45% of workers still feel disconnected from their employer while working from home. According to respondents of this survey, culture in a remote environment can be improved by:

  • Companies offering remote-work resources
  • Updating company policies to reflect current times
  • More communication from the leadership team

These are three essential changes your team can make to develop a better company culture, even as some teammates continue to work remotely.

Are you looking for more hiring resources?

Those are the key things job seekers are looking for in new job opportunities. If you are looking for more ways to offer a better working experience and attract new talent, review our Client Resources!

How to Foster Company Culture While Working from Home

Establishing an inclusive, strong company culture has become a priority in recent years for many companies. When the job market was scorching hot a few years back, employers looked for ways to reshape their culture to retain their best team players and attract new job seekers. But as millions of people are working from home, it’s become even more challenging to nurture culture. And as many remote workers begin to feel burnt out and isolated, it’s crucial to confront this issue head-on. Here is how your team can foster a strong company culture while your staff is working from home.

Virtual activities

When everyone is in the office, synergy and teamwork are more natural. Your team can plan office parties, go to happy hours after work, and do other exercises that cultivate culture. But just because the bulk of your team is working remotely, it doesn’t mean that you can’t organize similar activities. You can schedule virtual activities to give your team a break from work and have a little fun. A recent article from the New York Times illustrated that some smaller businesses were doing virtual movie nights, online games, and some in-person outdoor events. These virtual activities are a fun way for your staff to have a little fun, build chemistry with one another, and feel like they are part of a team.

Zoom fatigue is real, and it’s causing some remote workers anxiety. Another excellent strategy some employers are endorsing is meeting-free days. Blocking out one day a week where no meetings are allowed so your team can focus on their work without constant interruptions is a great way to ease the pressure off your staff and improve your company’s culture.

Share stories and pictures

At this point, most of you probably have your cameras turned off during video calls. You probably haven’t seen some of your coworkers for months (or even longer). When you are not physically together, you can miss out on some water cooler conversations. As a result, it can be difficult to keep up with what’s going on with your colleagues outside of work. An easy strategy to remedy this is to encourage your staff to share pictures and stories. Did someone just have a baby? What were your pandemic projects that you proudly finished? Developed any new hobbies over the last 18+ months? These are all things that are fun to share with each other virtually! So, whether it’s a staff newsletter or a fun Slack channel, sharing stories and pictures with your colleagues is a great way to cultivate culture.

Our team at JSG all submitted our work from home pictures at the beginning of the pandemic. Check them out here!

Friendly competitions

Who doesn’t love a friendly competition? These competitions can be work-related or just for fun. Football season is coming up, so creating a company fantasy football league is a great way to have a little fun and bond with your coworkers. Your programming team can do a virtual hackathon, or you can host a trivia night with some fun questions about your company, industry, or products. You can even do costume competitions for Halloween (which is spookily just around the corner). Whatever your team decides, creating some friendly competitions is an excellent way to build company culture while your team is working from home.

Regular check-ins

Last but not least, your team can schedule regular check-ins with your staff to gauge how they are doing. When working from home, it can sometimes be more challenging to have one-on-one conversations with your team. Regularly checking in to see how they are doing and understand what you and the company can do to support them will go a long way. Your staff will ultimately be better-taken care of and appreciated. Plus, you will learn new ways to help them do their jobs better and provide a healthier work-life balance.

Those are four ways you can foster a more robust company culture while working from home. If you are looking for more ways to support your staff and offer a better experience, check out our Client Resources!

How to Stand Out to Your Employer While WFH

As the workplace continues to shift during the pandemic, there have been many conversations centered around working from home and hybrid schedules. One of the most significant issues is that workers that choose (or have the opportunity) to return to the office can gain more attention from their superiors and leadership teams. As a result, those working on-site may have a better shot at receiving a raise or even a promotion. So, if you cannot head back to the office, here are four ways you can stand out to your employer while WFH.

Turn your camera on during meetings

If you are still working from home, it’s time to turn your cameras back on during meetings. At the beginning of the pandemic, almost everyone was eager to turn their cameras during this challenging transition. However, as the mandatory lockdowns and working from home persisted much longer than anticipated, most companies became a little more relaxed about Zoom meeting etiquette. Well, if you want to stand out to your employer while you work remotely, turn your camera back on.

Putting a face to a name is an excellent way to help you stand out and make you more memorable. Having your camera on is especially important when you are meeting with people outside your team. If you’re meeting with someone from the leadership team or even just another department, make yourself visible! Having your face front and center will make networking with others within your company easier, and ultimately, help your colleagues and superiors remember you.

Show up a few minutes early to meetings

One of the worst drawbacks of working from home is the lack of social interaction with your co-workers. Those watercooler conversations are hard to come by when you are not face-to-face with your colleagues. You miss out on a lot of interactions, small talk, and even bonding. To combat this, log onto your video meetings a few minutes before they start. Being early to these Zoom or Teams meetings will give you the opportunity to chat with your colleagues and superiors, helping you establish relationships with others within the company. Building these relationships and rapport with your co-workers will make it easier to stand out while working from home.

Be engaged in your meetings

Most of us have seen the memes and jokes (like the one below) making fun of the people that say “goodbye” or “thank you” at the end of a meeting, so they feel they contributed. Well, instead of keeping your mouth shut throughout the meeting, start engaging and actively contributing. Of course, this depends on the meeting, but if it’s a collaborative meeting amongst your colleagues, don’t be afraid to speak up! You probably have a lot of fantastic ideas and knowledge to share with the team. If you want to get noticed by your employer while working from home, it’s time to start being an active participant in your video meetings.

Stand out while working from home

 

Reach out to teammates and co-workers

Finally, if you want to stand out to your employer while you WFH, reach out to your teammates and co-workers. Sure, everyone has a group of people that they work with regularly; but, if you want to make a splash with your boss or superiors, try reaching out to others within the company. Reach out to cross departments and introduce yourself (if you haven’t already met). Have a conversation, see how your role can impact their position or department, and offer to lend a hand. Volunteering to assist with company-wide projects or offering your assistance is an excellent way to earn the attention of your peers and start to build up your reputation. Plus, these relationships with others in your company will become reciprocal, and you will be able to leverage their help when you need it.

These are four simple ways your can stand out to your employer while working from home. If you are looking for more career advice, take a look at our blog. We have tons of helpful resources available to help you take the next step in your career!

When Should You Ask About WFH in the Hiring Process?

As the country continues to heal from the aftermath of the pandemic, more jobs are returning. According to the latest JOLTS report, there are 9.2 million job openings as of May 2021. Furthermore, over 850,000 jobs were added by the U.S. economy, significantly surpassing economists’ projections of 700,000. So, with so many jobs available and 42% of employed job seekers looking for greener pastures, more people are starting to dip their toes into the job market. But if you are looking for a new position and want (or even need to) work remotely, when is the best time to broach this question? Here is when you should ask about working from home during the hiring process.

WFH policies are usually in job descriptions

So, if you are searching for a new job opportunity and remote work is a must-have, when should you ask the hiring manager? Typically, job descriptions will give you some indication of the company’s work from home or hybrid policies. Explaining the onsite or remote work policies in job descriptions became the norm during the pandemic, and now that we are well into recovery mode, most employers are still making this clear. Job descriptions are either clarifying that they are onsite positions to avoid any confusion, or employers are giving a glimpse at their remote work policies to lure in new candidates. Either way, most employers are (and should) share these details in their job descriptions.

When to pop the WFH question

However, if there is no mention of the company’s policies, you may have to ask for clarification. So, if working from home is an absolute must, when should you ask about WFH in the hiring process? It’s usually best to ask at the beginning of the process to save both you and the employer time. If the hiring manager or recruiter does not mention the topic at the beginning of an interview or pre-screening, you can safely ask towards the end of your conversation. Generally, this topic will come naturally during an initial interview, as most employers want to make their policies know upfront. If they do not support any remote work or hybrid working formats, they will usually be straightforward to weed out candidates with remote work as a main priority.

Nevertheless, if remote work is a deal-breaker for you, you should ask about it during that initial interview. Even if a company supports remote work or a hybrid schedule now, that doesn’t mean they will do so, say six months from now. Many companies are still evolving to offer safe working environments for their staff. In other words, the employer’s remote work policy may not be set in stone and could change as time goes on. So, if this conversation does not arise during your initial interview, you should ask for details towards the end of your meeting.

How to ask about working from home

If you need to broach the subject, you can easily do so with a quick question. Here is an excellent example of how to ask about WFH during the hiring process:

“The job description did not clarify if this position is onsite only or offers the opportunity to work remotely. Can you please elaborate on your work from home policy?”

This question is a simple way to get a better idea of the company’s WFH situation. But if you absolutely must work from home and you need to ensure remote work is a permanent perk at the company, you can clarify their policy with the following question:

“So, you mentioned that some employees are currently working remotely. Is this a policy [company name] plans on supporting in the future?”

Asking this question is an excellent way to understand the company’s stance on working from home permanently.

Don’t be afraid to ask

At the end of the day, don’t be afraid to ask the employer about their WFH plans. Policies are changing, and remote work is more convenient in specific locations and industries. As long as you ask earlier in the hiring process, you are in good shape. Just like with the salary and benefits, never start the conversation off with the company’s opinion on working from home. And even if they do not support a hybrid workforce, that doesn’t mean they won’t make an exception for the right person. You don’t know until you ask, but you must ask at the appropriate time.

The One Big Problem with Hybrid Work

If the pandemic has taught us anything over the last 18+ months is that remote work is here to stay. Even the companies long opposed to working from home opportunities have found value in supporting a remote workforce. According to data from LinkedIn, 87% of employees want to remain remote most of the time. With only 13% of employees desiring to be in the office the majority of the time, employers must offer hybrid working models to attract new employees. However, there is one big problem with hybrid work that has been prevalent (and surprising to many): working from home is damaging many people’s work-life balance.

Remote work job openings are increasing

Like many others, you probably expected remote work to plateau as COVID-19 restrictions lifted and our lives slowly returned to normal. Surprisingly, the opposite is occurring. Over the last 12 months (from May 2021 to 2020), remote job openings grew by 240% globally. As a result, total job posts with words like “remote” or “work from home” now account for almost 14% of total job openings. This is a massive jump and is changing the future of recruiting strategies for most employers.

Work-life balance continues to be an issue

In the early days of the pandemic, many workers struggled with maintaining a healthy work-life balance. After working from home for nearly a year and a half, it can be more challenging to separate your work life from your home life. If you are one of these people, you are not alone. 32% of remote employees are more likely to struggle with work-life balance. That may surprise many employers as remote work eliminates many of the stresses that in-person working generates, such as traffic, long commutes, endless meetings, and many other things. However, burnout is on the rise, and with the quit rate at an all-time high, employers must be creative to improve their staff’s work-life balance.

Maintaining a hybrid workforce with a healthy work-life balance

If you are looking to attract (and retain) your remote workforce this summer, you are going to have to do your part to offer a healthy work-life balance.

Support their need to take time off

First of all, support your staff members and their need for time off. Many workers put off taking some much-needed R&R during the pandemic. As things continue to open up with restrictions lifting, your staff will be more likely to request some time off. Instead of making your workers feel bad about taking time off that they earned, support their need to step away from work for a few days or a long weekend. Some employers, like Bumble and LinkedIn, are even closing their doors for a week and giving all of their employees a paid week off. Whatever your PTO policy is, encourage your employees to use the time to relax and take a step away from work.

Regularly check in with your staff

Communication is essential when managing a hybrid workforce. Schedule one-on-one check-ins to see how they are handling their workload and watch for signs of burnout. If you don’t encourage open communication with your staff, it can be hard to pick up on cues of a poor work-life balance.

Optimize your hybrid work schedule

If you really want to support your staff in this new hybrid schedule, you can be more selective with the days they work from home and the days they work from the office. Depending on your industry and the role, some days may be more beneficial to work from home than others. Here are the best days to work from home for most employees to boost your work-life balance.

3 Skills To Look For In A Remote Employee

Remote hiring is on the rise. In fact, 78% of CEOs agree that remote collaboration is here to stay. Hiring for remote employees can be a little more complicated than in-office. There are skills that you need to look for so that your team can operate successfully. So, if you’re trying to grow your remote team, here are three skills you need to look for in a remote employee.

Self-Motivated 

Arguably the most crucial skill for a remote employee to have is self-motivation. As the employer, you will provide your remote employees with a job description and general task list, but you want someone who will look beyond that. When they have a moment of downtime, your ideal remote employee will ask themselves, “how can I go above and beyond?” They will take every opportunity available to make an impact on the team and company.

Interview question to ask: Ask the candidate how they plan their day and what they do if they hit a lull in their day.

Open Communicator 

Proper communication is essential for a successful remote employee. It would be best to have someone who will come to you with questions, issues, and honest feedback. During the interview, be sure to outline your communication process and expectations. Do you have an open-door policy where they can come to you at any time? Do you prefer daily check-in meetings for a more formal setting? The more information they have, the better they can understand if it is a good fit.  

Interview question to ask: Focus on asking behavioral questions such as “Say you realize that you made a mistake in reporting that caused a chain reaction. What do you do?”

Technologically Advanced 

It is unfortunately not possible for someone who struggles with technology to be a successful remote employee. Now, this isn’t to say that they have to know everything right off the bat! As long as they are eager and willing to learn, the growth potential is there.

Interview question to ask: Be sure to ask specific questions about technologies you specifically use in your department. Ask candidates to describe how they learn about new technology that they’ve never been exposed to before.

Bonus: Dog Person

We like to say you can never go wrong with hiring a dog person. And besides, you may get to see their dog on video calls!

Are you interested in reading more hiring advice? Check out the rest of our client resources here. Then, contact us to find out how we can help you find your next great remote employee!