Inc. Magazine recently published its 2022 Best Workplaces list, and among the 475 honorees, several common themes can teach leaders how to maximize employee satisfaction:
1. “In-person” doesn’t have to mean office drudgery
In recent months, executives have started to push toward bringing employees back to the office. Employees have pushed back, sometimes leading to public confrontations with leaders. But executives insist that being in person helps foster cohesion and employee connections.
Chili Piper, a B2B software firm, may have found a better way. Founded in 2016, the company has been operating with a globally dispersed workforce from day one. The founders discovered long before the COVID-19 pandemic that virtual meetings presented unique challenges, especially when cultural subtleties came into play.
To combat some of these tensions, the company paid for employees to attend annual offsite meetings in exotic locales such as Ibiza. They soon discovered that employees were using vacation time to visit each other and posting their photos and experiences on the company Slack channel. In response, the company started offering employees up to $300 per day for activities, lodging, and food and drink when they visit co-workers in other countries (employees pay for their own airfare).
Chili Piper’s creative solution shows that fostering connection and cohesion among employees doesn’t have to mean standard office drudgery. Paying for employees to visit co-workers may not always be in the budget, but executives should note that there is more than one way to create a thriving virtual company culture.
2. Balance is key
As companies and employees continue to engage in discussions about remote work, it’s important to note that for many employees, it’s not that they want remote work—they simply want more flexibility and work-life balance.
In early 2021, leaders at a communication software company, Front, looked at burned-out and exhausted employees and knew that something had to change. The company instituted Flexible Fridays, a policy that gives employees one day per week without internal meetings and allows employees to ignore internal e-mails and calls. The sole focus on Fridays is customer needs. The policy seems to be effective; company surveys indicate that 94% of employees feel they can better meet family and personal responsibilities, and 89% say the policy has had a positive impact on their personal wellbeing.
At hospitality tech startup SevenRooms, leaders have implemented a Fresh Start policy that gives new hires two weeks of paid time off before they even begin their jobs. In addition, the company offers unlimited paid time off and requires employees to take five consecutive days off during the first half of the year and again during the second half of the year. Employees who have been there more than five years must take twice the amount.
Policies such as these recognize that when many employees say they want remote work, what they are really asking for is flexibility and balance. Giving people time to focus on work that matters and revitalize their own wellbeing can go a long way toward improving employee satisfaction.
3. Work should be humanized
In the past, many companies tried to humanize work and engage employees with perks such as free snacks and weight rooms. While those perks might still be appreciated in in-office environments, the real way to keep employees engaged is to humanize their work, not just make the environment more appealing.
Leaders are getting creative with humanizing work. For instance, to combat digressions and off-topic discussions during meetings, Addigy, a software company, handed out yellow flags to every employee to combat digressions and off-topic discussions during meetings. The technique has improved engagement and made meetings more efficient.
Public accounting firm MB Group has rejected the gold standard of tracking professional services hours by doing away with timesheets. Instead of burdening employees with tracking time, it bills clients with flat project fees, freeing employees to engage more fully in their actual work. Co-owner Susan Bryant says the policy brings out the best in her employees.
Finally, at Seer Interactive, CEO Wil Reynolds fosters a culture of gratitude. While company salaries and benefits are generous, much of the engagement focuses on gratitude. The company provides thank-you cards for employees to give to each other, and the company’s Slack has an internal channel dedicated to celebrating Fridays with shout-outs to other employees.
These creative work solutions show how focusing on humanizing work and driving people results can return business results. When companies create an environment that helps meet very human needs, employees can be far more engaged in their work, and engaged employees produce better business outcomes.
- What is one creative or unique way we could foster connections for hybrid or remote employees?
- Is there one way we can encourage better work-life balance for our people?
- Do we have one old or entrenched process that could be eliminated or “humanized” to unburden employees?