The Case for a Remote Workforce

Trust and accountability are at the heart of successful remote work arrangements. VTLO built a culture where remote workers thrive. So can you.

The pandemic has rapidly accelerated the work-from-home movement. This year, only 26 percent of the U.S. labor force worked on their employer’s premises, and that figure primarily represents front-line service personnel. For many, working from home is a key component of the Now Normal.

From my point of view, I say: What took you so long?

Over 30 years ago, I became the poster child for telecommuting at my forward-thinking employer, an outwardly staid insurance company. My boss valued the amount and quality of work I created at home far more than they needed my presence in the office. Here’s how it happened.

On January 23, 1987, a snowstorm trapped me in my New Jersey home, unable to make my normal commute to my employer’s New York City headquarters. In that one snow day, I wrote the company’s first employee annual report, proving that I was actually more productive at home than I was in the office where interruptions were frequent. The next year, I became a mom. The two-hour commute would mean never seeing my infant awake. So, I made a bold request: allow me to work from home or accept my resignation. The company decided to keep me on board and try the new arrangement.

It was a huge leap of faith for my employer, and I didn’t take their trust in me for granted. My work-from-home arrangement began in the pre-internet world. We faxed documents and held phone meetings. We established a robust accountability system of project management, deadlines, and quality assurance. The work got done on time with excellence and integrity. After two successful years, we amicably ended that relationship, allowing me to realize my dream of being a freelance writer. Like so many entrepreneurs, my former employer was my first client.

Over the years, my solo practice became an agency. Its success is built on my willingness to treat others as I’d been treated – trusting self-motivated, capable professionals to do their best work while balancing the duties of their job with personal obligations, such as parenthood, volunteer work or elder care.

Vitiello Communications Group perfected the remote work model. Our business processes and infrastructure support every team member working from home, collaborating online and via videoconference to meet our clients’ expectations and support one another’s professional development.

When the pandemic struck in March 2020, clients and other business leaders in our network turned to Vitiello Communications Group to show them how to survive – and thrive – as a fully remote workforce.

Here are the three best practices we recommend and use ourselves to promote a healthy, inclusive culture of trust and accountability:

  1. Invest in an Employee Experience Hub

In our digital Now Normal, the foundation of employee engagement is your company intranet. We call it the Employee Experience hub. You wouldn’t dream of running your business without a professional website because it connects your company to your customers. The same is true of a well-run, professional intranet. When the information available is fresh, interesting, and accessible, it connects your employees with each other and the business.

Our hub links our people no matter where they are. Here we:

  • Post company announcements, news, reference material, employee profiles, Q&As and employee recognition
  • Get team members involved in our employee volunteer program and our professional development series
  • Host chat sessions and conduct pulse surveys to quickly get employee feedback
  • Share personal news, client wins and best practices
  • Link to all our operational information
  1. Commit to a Regular Cadence of Communication

The drumbeat of business relates to time – daily stand-up meetings, weekly status updates, monthly reconciliations, quarterly business reviews and annual reports. Successful businesses adhere to a predictable cadence of data gathering and reporting to ensure targets are set and met.

The heartbeat of business relates to content – messages that resonate in the moments that matter, from the time an employee joins the company and becomes embedded in the culture to developing into a valued brand ambassador. Satisfied, productive employees trust leadership, feel connected to colleagues, and believe in the purpose of the organization.

Here are some of our proven best practices for using communication to sustain a healthy, remote company culture:

  • Daily: Team members post news and resources to keep colleagues up to date.
  • Weekly: A fun Wednesday “Hump Day” topic invites all colleagues to post responses and reactions.
  • Monthly: Our On the Spot column highlights a team member. Our learning group provides opportunities for team members to lead lunch-and-learn workshops to build skills and promote innovation.
  • Quarterly: An infographic and brief video update the team on our progress for each quarter.
  • Annually: We start each year with a virtual kickoff meeting. This year, to celebrate 30 years in business, every team member received a special gift – a champagne glass engraved with the company logo and a bottle of bubbly. At year-end, we hold a virtual holiday lunch with food deliveries made by local vendors.
  1. Encourage Employees’ Voices Be Heard

In a “manage by walking around” world, leaders can mingle with their teams, ask how they’re doing, and quickly pick up on the workplace vibe. In the remote workplace, that easy interaction is absent. To stay in the know, leader communication needs to be intentional and intuitive. Regular progress meetings to ensure accountability, as well as spontaneous calls to give people a chance to speak candidly become more important than ever. Online video chats allow leaders to listen and respond to employees’ concerns. Many are conducting virtual happy hours, running contests, and playing games to give their teams a way of socializing and laughing together.

In addition to our regular calls, VTLO held weekly optional check-in video chats for the team to talk about their experiences as the pandemic spread to all our locations around the country. As we’ve adapted to the Now Normal, we talk less about where to buy toilet paper and more about the lessons we’re learning as we navigate living and working through this challenging time.

We launched our “Let Your Voice Be Heard” blog series by inviting every team member to represent the company by writing a blog about a topic that interests them. We care about our team members’ diverse perspectives and are proud to amplify their points of view on our external platform. By listening to everyone, we all benefit.

Our company values are summarized by the word “GRIT,” an acronym for Growth, Respect, Integrity and Teamwork. Each of these values has specific actions, yet it is the overarching notion of resilience, perseverance, and toughness – grit – that our people demonstrate passionately every day. Our team is now fully remote, and we expect it will stay this way for the foreseeable future. We meet every deadline. We deliver every project as promised. We delight every client.

Trust, accountability, and communication. That’s how I pioneered the work-from-home model more than 30 years ago. And that’s how we’ll continue to make it a success in the future.

What will you do to make sure your team and your culture thrive in the remote workforce revolution?

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