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Digital by Default: The Future of the New Workplace

Author: Shelina Sarin

Earlier this week, Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke announced that the company would be going digital by default, with offices closed until 2021, and after that, most permanently working remotely. Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey also announced that while offices will gradually re-open, the option to either work from home or work in-office will be entirely up to each employee. Dorsey’s decision “supports a distributed workforce capable of working from anywhere”, where remote work enables employees to work from where they feel most creative and productive.

While remote work will mean that HR practices and employee on-boarding processes will begin to look different, on a more granular level, it will allow for recruiters to expand their intentions, outreach, and talent pool. With this, people leaders are faced with the opportunity to re-strategize their HR practices in order to better serve business objectives and the needs of a global pool of applicants in all capacities.

People leaders must shift their focus within not only these newfound opportunities, but also the challenges associated with designing and building this new future of remote work. Now more than ever, equity needs to be at the forefront of all decision-making by leadership.

Key considerations to be kept top of mind when going digital by default include:

1. Provide employees with the right tools and technology for an appropriate WFH set-up.

While technology and Wi-Fi may seem easily accessible to all, according to Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, as little as 40.8% of households in Canadian rural communities have access to high-speed Wi-Fi.

It is imperative for leaders to make sure that employees feel supported remotely and are provided with the resources to successfully adapt to an at-home work set-up. Support can be monetary like Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, who announced that employees who choose to work from home will be provided with a one-time stipend of $1000 to spend on work supplies. Companies can also provide non-monetary support like Anshul Ruparell, CEO of Toronto tech start-up Properly, who announced a company-wide R&R/vacation day for all employees scheduled for later this month.

2. Look at compensation and benefits from a global lens.

Hiring global talent comes with the challenge of supporting international HR planning and strategy, which can include complex HR practices. This can range from setting up international payroll, navigating tax implications, defining equitable compensation ranges, and creating benefits packages that support all employee needs.

HR leaders might need to adapt compensation plans to attract global talent and compete with the increasingly open talent market. Compensation can go beyond financial provisions; employers can include online professional development resources, paid time-off, and wellness programs to better support work-life balance for global remote teams. While dynamic compensation packages may seem daunting, attracting and retaining talent in an inclusive way is key in supporting employees remotely and scaling globally.

3. Understand cultural differences and unique employee needs.

Welcoming employees from around the world introduces new cultures, communication styles, languages, and even time zones into an organization. With the introduction of remote work, people leaders are tasked with the responsibility of educating and facilitating conversations with employees to ensure that they are being supported and represented, even within remote organizations. Organizations can invest in D&I programs to help establish D&I initiatives, educate people leaders, and understand employee needs.

4. Build an inclusive virtual community.

With tools such as Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and more, remote employees have the capability to flourish with meaningful interactions, networking opportunities, and room for employee growth. Prospective employees are actively looking to work for companies that foster community and welcome the opportunity to grow within any given organization. While these two deciding factors may seem different, they go hand-in-hand when cultivating the employee experience.

Working from home presents a new challenge for people leaders to create a sense of belonging for all employees. This is especially important as employees who find purpose through work and feel connected to their workplace are far more likely to succeed in their role and find opportunities to grow internally. In a global study from BlessingWhite, CEO Christopher Rice concludes that “while raises may encourage some workers to stick around, our findings suggest that employees – especially high performers – will remain in jobs that challenge them, utilize their expertise, and provide meaning.”

5. Define and maintain culture.

While adjusting to working remotely may introduce a new working environment, maintaining a positive company culture and staying connected remains the backbone of success for any organization. For people leaders, leading a remote team offers the task of translating the culture employees would feel in-person, online.

Introducing practices that maintain culture and community in the digital workplace can include having more frequent scheduled video team meetings, weekly virtual video team lunches, creating dedicated Slack channels for non-work related topics of interest, and even hosting virtual game nights. CEO of Front Mathilde Collin hosts a company-wide weekly AMA (ask me anything), which further promotes transparency from leadership and an open channel of communication to promote a strong company culture.

While remote work means that organizations may be physically apart, the need for creating a diverse and inclusive community still remains for employees to find meaning in their work, and for employers to continue on the path to success. Implementing a strong sense of community, shifting compensation strategies, and supporting individuals in all aspects of the employee experience are some of the pivotal ways in which organizations can realize this new era of working digitally.

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