Whether they’ve liked it or not, San Francisco’s tech workers have spent most of 2020 learning how to be effective and supportive while working from home. For some, the eventual return to the office cannot come soon enough, while others have grown to enjoy the flexibility remote work allows in their daily life.
When we checked in with a random sampling of companies in our growing community, we were surprised to learn that all nine of them generally agreed with the following statement: “Employees are generally more productive when they are working from home.”
There are caveats, of course. Remote employees require a kind of digital infrastructure to promote connection and inclusion in company culture — especially after others have returned to the office. So while remote employees can match or even exceed the productivity of their in-office peers, a remote workforce also presents a challenge for HR leaders as they build corporate culture.
Many of the companies we spoke to already had a head start in supporting remote work, with a large pre-pandemic distributed workforce or teams spread across multiple offices worldwide. While it’s premature to predict exactly when we’ll be heading back to the office, their experience managing remote teams before and during shelter-in-place orders will help make distributed teams and flexible schedules an enduring feature of the modern workplace.
On adaptability: “We’ve been very impressed by how seamlessly our remote workforce can operate. This adaptability has enabled our business in a few ways — we’re able to hire from a wider and more diverse candidate pool that is not limited to our office locations. It has helped our teams understand and empathize more about each other and are closer than ever before. Remote work has allowed our employees to have a healthier work-life blend that works for them.”
Carmen Butler is the Director of HR Operations at KeepTruckin, a trucking fleet management platform.
On remote collaboration: “Our company needs to help foster relationships within cross-functional teams and promote a collaborative work culture — all of which can be challenging when team members are working 100 percent from home and are unable to interact in person. When the pandemic subsides and our employees can return to the office setting safely, Evidation will continue to evolve its support of a distributed and flexible workforce with options to work remotely and/or in the office, along with reconfiguring our office spaces to better meet the training, team-building and innovation needs of the company.”
Bertina Yen is the Vice President of People and Operations at Evidation Health, a health measurement and research company.
On optimization: “To make remote work optimal, we’ve learned to show that leadership genuinely cares about our employees; to focus on social connections; to show that we care about the work-life blend; to increase meaningful communication across the board; to ensure that cross collaboration does not break down, especially now that informal interactions aren’t happening in the break room; to put extra effort into building a sense of team and belonging; and, of course, to leverage technology to find new ways to get things done.”
May O’Neal is Chief People Officer at Varo, a mobile banking platform.
On versatility: “When we reopen our offices, team members will be able to return or work from home at the cadence that is best for them, driving flexibility and productivity. We use collaboration tools like Google Docs and Slack to stay in touch synchronously and asynchronously — and cultural levers such as communication standards, meeting best practices and remote-first events and experiences.”
Charlotte Johnson is the Director of Workplace at Upwork, a staffing solution.
On HR Innovation: “We have the capabilities, platforms and culture for sustained remote work and EPAM is keen to maintain flexibility and choice for EPAMers while balancing client and business requirements. To allow for continued growth, we will be implementing a flexible working arrangement solution in our offices that involves a new workplace management and workspace ‘hoteling’ booking program.”
Kate Pretkel is Head of Global People Programs and North America HR at EPAM Systems, a digital product design and development agency.
On flexibility: “We will continue to be flexible as the pandemic subsides, and will gather employee feedback to see how folks are feeling. Some employees really want to be back in an office, others will want the flexibility to be remote a couple days per week and others will want to be remote permanently.
Daisy Chu is Head of People Ops at Doximity, a telemedicine platform.
On programming: “As we move forward, it’s less about encouraging our people to continue working remote (which they’re already used to) and more about putting intentional programs and regular touchpoints in place that enable our people to stay engaged and connected to each other and to the company. For example, we’ve created a virtual onboarding process designed to promote connection and engagement despite the fact that new hires won’t start in an office on day one.”
JC Herrera is Chief Human Resources Officer at CrowdStrike, an endpoint cybersecurity company.
On supporting parents: “We’re finding ways to be more mindful of working parents, and how we can continue to support them. We’ll be more open to flexible schedules going forward, and more thoughtful about mental health for all employees.”
Gabriela Prida is Senior HR Business Partner at Clari, a revenue operations platform.
On commitment: “We remain committed to our talent and teams and will look at how the situation continues to evolve. I expect that the landscape of work will change for us and many companies.”
Tyler Haugen is Chief People Officer at Crunchyroll, a hub for anime and manga fans.