The coronavirus pandemic caused a massive shift in the way we work. Millions of people around the world have made the switch to working from home - many of them into summer 2021. Not everyone has been quite so prepared for the change.
It should come as no surprise that top tech companies like Twitter, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have been able to weather the transition to working from home more gracefully than others.
Cities are emptying as people make the transition to working from home.
Work from home policies of top companies
Small and medium-sized businesses don’t have the resources that top companies can mobilize. They’ll find it more challenging to switch to working from home, as a result. Still, there’s a lot that can be learned from the work from home policies of top companies.
- Twitter has been the most active in pursuing long-term work from home policies. The social media company has stated that workers can work from home forever, even after the coronavirus threat disappears.
- Facebook, Inc. was quick to follow suit. The social media behemoth is also letting all its staff work from home until July 2021. Facebook is giving each employee $1,000 to help set up a home office.
- Amazon, Inc. has taken a more easy-going stance to the crisis than Google and Facebook, but they’re still allowing corporate staff to stay home until January 2021.
- Apple, Inc. is the least into working from home, it seems. The tech firm is still deciding when to allow employees to stay home until - although they’re not confident it’ll be in 2020. The retail staff has been switched to online roles, while essential employees such as those working on developing new projects are coming into the office.
Your new office comes with a kitchen and two kids
It’s not easy working from home. Sharing your workspace with your family, your fridge, and your Netflix account requires a lot of willpower.
Apple brilliantly sums up the challenges being faced by millions of people with it’s ‘Apple Work From Home’ short film. The clip is meant to poke fun at the problems we’re facing while advertising Apple products and services.
At Boost, we understand the problems of working from home - our team is 100% remote, so it’s something we deal with on a daily basis.
We’ve put together some remote work guides to help employees who are making the switch, and for employers who are new to managing remote teams. We’ve also published our story about how we’ve met the challenges of building a remote team.
Top company tips for working from home
The bright minds at Google’s People Innovation Lab (PiLab) spent two years researching what makes a great remote team. Other companies like Facebook and Twitter have been quick to jump onto the results. Their findings are enlightening for two reasons:
- They show you where you need to focus to keep your remote team happy.
- They revealed that there was no difference in the effectiveness, performance ratings, or promotions for individuals and teams working with remote colleagues compared to those working in the same office.
Top tech companies are spending more resources in finding out what makes happy remote employees tick. Here are some key takeaways.
Get to know each other as people
Working remotely takes away those bonds you build with in-office colleagues. You can’t go out to lunch with your team. You can’t have Friday after-work drinks. You’re dealing with faces on a screen.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get to know each other as people.
Start virtual meetings with some personal chit-chat. This is especially effective during one-to-one calls. Ask how their weekend was, or what their plans are for the week, or even what music they’ve been listening to lately.
In short, build some rapport with your remote colleagues. You’re all people and you’d all rather not have to address each other like robots built to complete projects.
It’s not okay to assume. So don’t just set up a time for a meeting and assume that everyone will be happy with it.
Ask people when they’d like meetings to occur.
Remember that you’re dealing with people who have their own schedules and times when they switch off to recharge. You may also be working across different time zones.
Keeping this in mind shows that you respect the other person’s boundaries.
Forge in-person connections
The Ancient Greek philosopher Plato once said: “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
In today’s world, he might have said: “You can learn more about a colleague in an hour of conversation than in a year of Zoom meetings.”
Go the extra mile to make in-person meetings happen. Even if you’re working from different countries. These get-togethers reinforce the relationships your team builds online.
Make an effort to show emotion in calls
Most people aren’t that good at virtual communication. Have you ever been speaking to someone who’s sitting at the other end of the line playing with a piece of paper? You even have a sneaking suspicion they’ve just woken up and thrown a shirt on. They’re probably not even wearing any pants.
Use more gestures and show emotion when you’re in conference calls. This shows that you’re actually listening.
- Lean in closer to the camera when someone talks
- Express emotions on your face clearly
- Make sure everyone’s in a well-lit room where they’re clearly visible
- Use hand gestures
- Speak clearly so everyone can understand
- Invest in a proper webcam so people can see you better
- Offer good internet as a company benefit
Twitter puts employees first - forever
No one has taken a bolder stance on putting employees first during coronavirus than Twitter. The tech company was one of the first to send employees home when the crisis began and they’ll likely be one of the last to return to the office as well.
The social media giant’s official policy is that all offices will remain closed until September at least, all business travel is forbidden until the same month, and employees can choose to never return to the office.
Yes, you read that right. Twitter is allowing its employees to work from home from now on. They’re embracing the chance to change the workplace in a way that will increase the wellbeing of their team members.
Revolutionizing the workplace
Twitter’s decision might sound radical, but it isn’t. Running a remote team saves you money on office space, and it saves your employees money and time on travel. There are plenty of other benefits, too.
- Employee productivity increases when working remotely
- Employee satisfaction increases
- Operational costs are lowered
- You can hire people from all over the world
- Technology is quickly enabling practical remote work
Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to the office forever?
Facebook’s grants: Keeping your people loyal - and employed
Not everyone’s home is designed to accommodate an office - it’s not something that people tend to consider when choosing a place to live.
Facebook has recognized that its employees will be more effective if they have a good space to work in. That’s why they’ve given all of their staff $1,000 to set up a home office.
Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of the social media giant, also announced recently that he expects 50% of the company’s 45,000 staff to be working permanently remote within five years.
It makes sense that the company would help staff to set up a great place to work in their homes, then.
Investing in your future
While small and medium-sized businesses will struggle to start dishing out grants of $1,000 to everyone on their payroll, it’s certainly worth weighing up how your employee’s productivity would increase if they were given the proper tools.
- You can help cover 4G costs if your staff is based in areas with poor internet connectivity. This ensures they’re free of interruptions that could kill a ‘flow state’ or ruin a conference call.
- You can pay for memberships in coworking spaces to give your employees a dedicated office space. This benefit boosts productivity while also keeping physical distance between work and relaxation.
- You can also put money towards better laptops, software, and other hardware for employees to make sure they have all the tools they need to be effective.
Apple: Teaching old dogs new tricks
Apple is a little different from Google and Facebook. Sure, they’re a tech company, but they deal primarily in hardware, not software. This means that the company has thousands of staff working in Apple stores. These retail foot soldiers have become essential faces of the brand.
The tech company has been forced to switch most of its retail staff to online roles. Staff all have their own avatars to make them more recognizable while they provide a new kind of customer service.
Switching retail staff into online customer service roles has proven to be an effective way to keep jobs afloat and adapt to the challenges posed by lockdowns due to COVID-19.
What you can learn from Apple’s tactics
- How to switch floor staff to an online role
- Whether to build improved online customer service infrastructure
- Explore the full potential of your staff
- Adapt to challenges to strengthen your company
Amazon - When working from home isn’t an option
Amazon sits in a unique position relative to the other companies in this article. Of the 860,000 people the company employees, more than 250,000 work in warehouses. The eCommerce monolith has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in developing internal capabilities and increasing salaries to help during the crisis.
But Amazon has also come under fire for failing to implement proper safety measures like social distancing in its warehouses and the company even drew criticism from US senators after it fired six staff for criticizing its response to COVID-19.
The corporate staff has been asked to work from home until January 2021.
Not doing enough?
Amazon’s fulfillment centers employ 250,000 people around the world. The nature of the online retail company makes it difficult to switch people to online roles. They need those staff in the warehouses - especially now when more people are buying online.
Still, no one is defending the company for failing to protect its workers, or for refusing to say how many of its warehouse staff have caught the coronavirus.
Amazon doesn’t go out of its way to shaft its workers. Still, it appears the boom in online shopping due to coronavirus and the continued expectation of next day delivery is taking priority over the wellbeing of staff. And that should never be the case.
If there’s one consistent theme throughout this article, it’s that switching your entire team to remote work all at once with hardly any notice isn’t easy. Some of the major companies are doing a better job of it than others. Some were more prepared. Some are finding it much more challenging.
Small businesses tend to look up to bigger ones for inspiration and guidance. And there’s definitely a lot to be inspired by in Facebook’s generous grants to set up a home office, or Twitter’s radical decision to allow it’s staff to work from home forever.
Apple has shown us how we can harness the unique potential of each staff member and adapt to the situation by switching people into new roles.
Amazon shows us how challenging these times can be for businesses that can’t just send all their employees home.
The world is likely going to be a very different place even once the coronavirus pandemic has disappeared. Perhaps these challenges are a wake-up call for us to start running teams in a new way - a way that allows more freedom and a better work-life balance.
For now, we all have to just keep pushing and adapting to what lies ahead. Check out our blog on managing remote teams for more tips about how to keep your workers happy at home.