It feels like it’s been ages since companies around the world were forced to send their workforce home to stay safe from the pandemic. A couple years later, not everyone has returned to the office – countless companies have brought back their most essential employees while keeping some of their more internet-based staff home for remote work.

The general consensus, at least in America, is that this is a great thing for the future of business. Most remote employees enjoy working from home and those who still commute to the office have a smaller, tighter team to work with. However, this split workforce leads to big issues on one front: company culture.

Since most on-site teams and remote teams have been separated for at least a year, they’ve likely each developed their own unique subcultures, neither of which necessarily reflect the culture the company advocates for. Communication and bonding sticks between coworkers in the same setting, and thus, folks that work from home don’t connect well to on-site employees and vice versa.

It’s an impactful issue – a report from RingCentral revealed that organizations that take steps to connect remote and on-site team members foster the happiest communities. Happier workers produce better work, lessen turnover, and generally save plenty of money. So, how do you bring both these types of employees together? Let’s take a look.

Unified communication 

The most common way that remote and on-site teams begin to divide is by communicating through different means. It does make sense; when you’re in an office environment you’re more likely to tell your coworkers things face-to-face. The problem is how often that information, whether trivial or critical, never makes it to the ears of those working from home.

That’s why leaders should encourage everyone, even those in the office, to keep most communication on a robust messaging system like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or even Discord. This enables all workers to get to know each other a bit more, to all have access to the same messages and news, and even to blur the lines between the at-home team and the on-site team.

Similarly, physical workplaces often rely heavily on boardroom meetings while simply sending a summary of the meeting to the home crew. Sometimes they’ll even stream the meetings through Zoom on a laptop, so remote workers can just… watch… the meeting happen. Neither of these are engaging, and will often lead to miscommunication from those who didn’t truly attend the meeting.

A solution you may want to try is having a classic Zoom style meeting for all employees, whether working at their office desk or from their living room desk. That way, the information will be homogenized, remote team members will feel like they’re back at the office, and no one has to shuffle down the hall to the boardroom.

Keep everyone “in the know”

One of the ways remote employees feel the most disconnected is in missing out on industry or company news that directly affects them. There are horror stories of remote employees not knowing new rules and regulations of the very jobs they’re doing, or not even hearing that their organization is about to lay off half their staff.

An informed workforce is a productive one. Sharing pertinent news helps give your team important context, inspires them to take action, and satisfies their need to be prioritized alongside a transparent organization. By updating workers on the latest company news via a virtual dashboard or centralized news bulletin, leaders can ensure that their employees are getting all of the information they need to feel energized and engaged. 

This centralized news bulletin enables everyone who works for your team to hear the same information, which eliminates the possibility of miscommunication and makes your at-home team feel more included.

Virtual meet-ups and happy hours

Believe it or not, there’s quantitative evidence that scheduling happy hours increases engagement and helps teams feel more bonded. 24% of employees in RingCentral’s study reported feeling more connected to their teams after virtual happy hours, which demonstrates how easy it is to make a difference.

When your workforce isn’t hybrid, at-home and on-site employees don’t have opportunities to just chat and hang out the way they would by the water cooler. A quick drink & chat through Zoom finally unlocks that for them, and it works as an easy segue into teamwork and camaraderie.

There’s one tip we may suggest: if you have the ability, schedule that happy hour at the tail end of your work day rather than afterwards off-hours. Many employees either have plans that start at 5 pm or will simply be annoyed that more of their free time is being taken up by work. Giving everyone a free hour to chill out at the end of the day will boost attendance and give everyone on the team a better attitude about it.

The social workplace community

Even in a post-pandemic landscape, our ever-growing digital landscape is vital to day-to-day operations. Thanks in part to that very pandemic, the usage of HR software skyrocketed and is now shaping up to be the future of work. According to business analytics platform CB Insights, HR software is projected to become a $43 billion dollar industry by 2026. More and more top level organizations are adopting it every day, which is why it should be HR teams’ #1 priority. The question has shifted from “Should we invest in HR software?” to “Which software should we choose?” The software you should choose should be a social workplace community.

Adopting social workplace community software into your employee retention policy should be a key priority for hybrid teams wishing to strengthen their culture and align those who work on-site and remotely. Think of it like a productive version of social media – and what makes today’s most popular social networks so engaging? Constant online access, engaging content, connections to people with similar interests, and most importantly, a fun user experience designed with the users themselves in mind. Imagine if that was available to every employee, via desktop or a mobile app, specifically for your workplace…

As helpful as this software is for remote businesses, it’s also an excellent solution for frontline teams, such as hospital or food service workers, whose days are too busy for the kind of togetherness that you would hope to develop at work. An online community – especially one they can access from their phone – can help them stay in touch with their employer, manager, coworkers, and even higher-up leaders that they don’t get the chance to see in their branch/location.

What makes social workplace community software such a great driver of employee retention is the fact that it’s specifically crafted to appeal to the employee just as much as – or more than- management. Too many HR platforms are designed to make the management team’s life easier by forwarding assignments more quickly, while features like rewards and peer recognition make these platforms for your people instead.

With a synthesized HR platform, you can also align everyone’s performance reviews to fix the tendency that many leaders have to review remote workers differently from in-office workers. Asking everyone the same questions on the same cadence ensures fair play and satisfaction from everyone.

Picture a social media platform that doesn’t distract from work, but enhances your work. A system like that will engage your company’s team and keep them productive regardless of where they operate from. A social workplace community reconnects all of your employees and makes collaboration easy, boosting employee engagement and productivity.

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