How Do You Engage in a Virtual Workplace?
As time rolls on, many credit unions are trying to figure out how to handle the new world of remote work. These days, most employees prefer at least a hybrid work arrangement, and many want to work remotely full-time. In fact, Gallup research shows that 30 percent of U.S. workers want to work remotely full-time, 60 percent want a hybrid arrangement and only 10 percent prefer to work full-time in the office. People want to avoid the commute and better integrate their life and work.
Most CEOs, including credit union leaders, seem hesitant to allow those who can work from home to do so every day, citing the negative impact on the organization’s culture. If the concern is that employees will become disconnected, siloed or isolated, there is a remedy. Here at Vizo Financial, we have been very intentional about creating opportunities for employees to get together virtually. We have a number of Zoom events each month which employees can join to interact with their colleagues. These are non-business meetings with the sole purpose of maintaining camaraderie and all are optional, as forcing people to do things typically disengages them.
One critical component to achieving maximum engagement lies in how these virtual events are conducted. Here are a few guidelines we have developed that seem to work for us:
- Cameras on – From the outset of the pandemic, we asked everyone to turn on their cameras when attending any meeting. Initially, some people were reluctant, but over time, this has become a non-issue. Now everyone enjoys seeing one another. This simple expectation brings everyone closer. I’m amazed at the number of companies that hold virtual meetings, and no one uses a camera. It’s a lost opportunity for people to connect. If your computers don’t have cameras, buy them. It’s worth the investment.
- Join from your desk – When people are working in the office, we ask them to join from the desk they are working at. Having people gather in a conference room is less effective when using Zoom. It’s hard to see people and hear them. When people join independently from their own technology, everyone can see their facial expressions and pick up the tone of their voice. Connecting with colleagues is an important byproduct of any meeting, and that’s difficult to do when you have a hard time seeing or hearing someone.
- Get people involved – Like any meeting, you want to have content that allows everyone to get involved. After all, the point of these events is to have people interact. Most people don’t like to sit silently and be talked to, no matter the topic or length of the meeting.
- Keep the meetings to 30 minutes – While this isn’t always an option, we’ve found shorter meetings maintain people’s attention while still keeping them connected. It also allows people to fit these better into their work schedules.
- Make most of the sessions optional – Everyone likes choices, and most people don’t like to be forced to do things. It’s true that making meetings optional means you may not get everyone participating; but what we’ve experienced is that people who want the interaction attend frequently and the people who don’t need as much interaction attend sporadically.
In general, what we’ve found in a remote environment is that most people behave the same way remotely as they did when working in the office full time. People meet their expectations and support each other. With a little bit of strategy and intentionality, virtual engagement opportunities can benefit everyone. And it certainly makes us more grateful for the ability to balance our workplace connections while also managing our personal lives, something we never could have envisioned before March 2020.
Joe Bertotto has more than three decades of experience helping leaders improve their workplace cultures. He is the chief culture officer at Vizo Financial Corporate Credit Union and a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. In 2014, Joe was named a Credit Union Rock Star by Credit Union Magazine. He also recently published his book, Pick Up the Gum Wrapper: How To Create a Workplace That Increases Performance While Improving Lives, which credit union leaders have been using as a guide to increase the effectiveness of their leadership skills and overall culture.