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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and with me is my co-host and friend Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting. Our topic today is working remotely with digital transformation. In a February 1st research article on clever.com written by Dr. Francesca Ortegren, Clever surveyed 1,000 US remote and in-office workers to learn about people’s intentions to return to work and the causes for concern regarding working in an office environment, and she shared some interesting data. The first one was that 63% of employees prefer working from home rather than in the office, and nearly 30% plan to continue working remotely even after the pandemic.
88% of organizations worldwide adopted remote work in some capacity last year. That shift toward remote-based teams shined a light on the fact that remote work is not only possible, but also beneficial for both employers and employees, causing many to consider remote work in the post-pandemic world.
Susan, I thought that statistic was interesting, that 88% adopted some remote work, because I think about the organizations where remote work is not possible, for example, hospitals or banks and credit unions or construction companies, where…
Or grocery stores. Yeah.
Right, right, where people have to be on the front line. So I thought that was a high number. The next statistic, which was also interesting to me, said only 24% of those currently working in an office feel safe at work. Like, how stressful that must be for people who do not feel safe, even when they do need to go into the office. And, you know, another piece of that that was mentioned in the article, that many organizations, including IBM and Zappos, they actually limit the remote work opportunities, because science suggests an in-office work is better for collaboration. You know, we talked about that on our recent podcast on mental health, that working together might also improve our mental well-being. So it’s that need for people to feel safe, but also a need for people to be with other people.
We are social animals.
Yes. So here’s what the respondents liked best about remote work. Number one – 62% of employees surveyed said they were saving time by eliminating their commute.
No surprise. 61% cited flexibility as what they really loved.
55% said they were saving money. I can tell you, for me, I…I feel like I’ve saved money on my clothes and my makeup and even changing my contacts every day. But I’m sure people who have long commutes think about what they’re saving in gas and wear and tear on their car and parking dollars as well.
50% cited spending more time with people I live with. Now, we know the other 50% don’t care for the people they live with! But these 50% cite that as a real positive.
I have to admit, I’m very guilty of this next one. I’ve been an early bird person my whole life and now I’m finding myself sleeping in. So 43% of other people in the survey are enjoying sleeping in more.
39% cited they have increased productivity by working remotely.
Yeah, I like it. And Susan, this one might hit you a little bit, that 38% are enjoying spending more time with their pets.
Yep, I’m in the 62% that wouldn’t say that. 30% say more breaks during the work day.
And 29% say they’ve developed healthier habits by working remotely.
24%, they’ve had the ability to live in a different location than where the company is housed, which I’ve heard a lot of interesting stories about people working from their balcony on tropical islands and various things like that.
Right. And then the last one – I keep debating if this is good or bad – but 20% are enjoying having less management oversight.
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The growing remote work trend prompted ONVU Technologies to examine the personal and business effects of the pandemic and embark on an initiative to make 100% of its workforce remote. While the company already had flexible work practices, moving to this model full-time allows them to give employees time back. Per ONVU executives, this significant shift of business operations would not have been possible without digital transformation. Their focus on technology and solutions to enable a more collaborative and transformative work environment enabled them to make that quick shift to a remote workforce permanent. Our guest today is the Vice President of Human Resources for ONVU Technologies. Ragini Sidhu has the responsibility for leading and managing HR globally, while located in the United Kingdom. Susan, I think she might be our first international guest on the show.
Wonderful, I hope we have a lot more. Ragini, how is ONVU Technologies implementing its remote work initiative?
So, due to the global pandemic, we…back in March of last year, we basically decided to put all of our workforce to work from home internationally. So we have offices in the UK, in the US, Turkey, and India. The reason behind that was to…basically, we…we put all of our employees at the forefront of this decision-making process, because we wanted everyone to feel safe and be healthy with…with an ever-changing landscape. So we did this actually ahead of government guidance.
How many employees do you have?
We have about 75 employees internationally, and like most businesses, we’ve had to deal with an ever-changing landscape and we’ve had to adapt with all of this, as well. And what has benefited us enormously is the communication and trust that we have in our employees to take control of their time. And by just doing that, it’s allowed people to basically use their time and use it as wisely as…as they can. And that has really helped people, as well. So some of the initiatives that we have done is we’ve allowed people to basically, through our team’s chats, put video on so people can actually feel more included. You get to talk to people, as well. And the one thing that we have done more so as a business is, in this period, we’re listening to people a lot more. Because it’s a continual learning process, isn’t it, being in this mode? Some things have worked, some things haven’t worked so well. And some people have even said to us, you know, the things that we’re missing is the social chitchat that we used to have, so being in the kitchen and grabbing that cup of coffee and having just that talk to people. So what we’ve actually implemented is saying to people, Okay, well, when you’re actually having your…your team meetings, just join that conversation a few minutes earlier and just do that. Just speak to people. Speak about the weekend, speak about the weather in their part of the world, how things are going. And that has really helped, just having those little…little touches like that. And the other thing, which is one of my favorites, is just doing the walk and talk meetings. So actually saying to people, you know, if you’re having a one-to-one – so, I do this with my team – if you’re having a one-to-one, let’s just go for a walk. And that way you get your steps in as well, which is great, but you’re having…you’re having conversations, and that has worked really, really well. One of my favorites, from just speaking to one of our engineers who had a crazy lifestyle, like myself…so, she’s a working parent, and what she used to do in the office…going into the office before, she would wake up at the crack of dawn, she would drop the kids off to school, half an hour commute into the office – in rush hour traffic, as well – so you have all that stress, try and get to your nine o’clock meeting on time, then have your meeting, you know, hope every single meeting that you’ve had during the day runs on time, as well, then you’ve got school run to think about, right? And again, doing the same thing back, and by the end of the day, you’re absolutely exhausted. Absolutely exhausted. So by working from home, what it has allowed us to do is giving people that precious thing of time back, and by just doing that, it’s made life so much more easier. So speaking about this particular engineer, the thing that she was saying to me is, you know what, Ragini, the one thing I’ve been able to do now is – I can still do the mom thing, I can still provide for my family, I can still make the healthy meals every day – but the one thing I’ve got now is time for myself.
So she’s actually incorporated yoga into her every day, and she practices yoga regularly, and you know what? We’re noticing a difference in her already.
She’s happier, she’s more energized, and again, just keeping fit. So it’s really, really worked well. And similarly, you know, we have another engineer in…in Ankara in Turkey. And his example, it’s amazing the…what working from home has been able to do for him and his family. So he’s on the other extreme. He prefers to have a life in the morning, and instead, he codes at nighttime, instead, so we’ve seen his productivity actually increase because of that. So it’s…again, the one thing that this has allowed us to do is giving people time to use whatever suits their personal needs more.
Yeah, I love it. Those are great examples of how people are making it work for them. Do you have some must-do steps that businesses can take, maybe some things that you’ve done and learned from, or just other ideas that you would recommend to businesses who might be implementing these full remote work environments with minimal disruption?
The thing that I would definitely say, we…for us it’s been a massive learning curve. But the one thing that we’ve been pretty good at is just keep talking to people and keep listening. Because what’s…you know, what may work for some, it hasn’t worked for others. And by doing that, especially now, when things are continually changing, the one that we’ve probably done a lot more so, I mean, at the start of lockdown, especially, what we were doing often was we’re sending emails to everyone once…once a week, just to tell them, this is what’s happening as a business, as well. And that…that definitely helped, as well. As long as we keep…you keep telling people why you’re doing this, how it benefits them, how it’s benefited the company, you bring them along with you on the journey. And that has definitely, definitely helped. But certainly, it’s just listening to people’s concerns, because let’s face it, change is not easy on anyone. Right? And the must-dos, again, it’s the basics. Make sure that people have got the tools to do their jobs properly at home, that they’re comfortable at home, and something simple, like ordering a comfortable chair for them, that goes a long way. And you know, like anything, just frequently check in with your people, make sure that they’re okay. You know, some days are harder than other days. And it’s just continually communicate, I would say are the must-do things.
I think that’s really paramount. Well done. You’ve done a lot of the things right, but have there been any pain points that you’ve experienced since going 100% remote?
Lots. There’s lots, and they continue to happen. Internet is one of them. So some regions, we’ve got some some areas that people live in, as well, that they don’t have 5G, so it’s been a bit difficult for people, so they’ve had to, you know, increase their…their internet usage provider. So that’s been one of the things. The one that’s been really difficult is tackling people who live by themselves who used to use the office as social interaction, and that has been really quite a challenge. So, I mean, the one good thing is, again, because people talk in the office, as well, so within their friendship circles, they’re still having a beer on a Friday, but they do it virtually. So, it’s how do we combat that. On…more on the work front, what we have introduced is we’ve basically, told managers, just step up your one-to-one meetings, as well. As a business, one of the new things that we’re going to be doing soon, launching, is a health and well-being program where we get basically everyone together. So we’re thinking of doing a virtual exercise class, which I’m hoping will go down well, where we can get everyone together on camera – even if I can even do that, that’d be great – just, you know, to exercise together, see each other, have a bit of fun at the same time. So we’re hoping that will will help that. The other thing, which, again, it’s a tough one, is…is people find it very difficult to switch off from work, because the home has become the workplace now, right?
It’s always here.
Yeah, it’s always here. So especially when we first started working from home, we published a…an internal guide on, you know, the best practices of working from home. So we said to people, right, put in some boundaries in place. So in the morning, you know, when you used to commute into the office, don’t log on to the office and onto your laptop at, you know, eight o’clock in the morning. Instead, go for a walk, go do something different, whether it is prepping for food for later on in the in the evening or doing your chores or doing something or just have some time, right? Go do something different. So there’s that. The whole thing is that when you’re sitting at your desk, you’re ready for work, you’re in that mode, you’re dressed, you’re ready to go. And doing the same thing when you’re when you’re logging off from work as such, go…go do something. Go for a bike ride, take your kids for…just do something differently. So for some people that have worked really, really well. For others, we’ve actually encouraged even during the working day. Again, it’s trusting your workforce, for people know when they’re their most productive in the day, as well. So when people feel like…especially after lunch, people tend to feel a bit more tired, so once they’re using that time after lunch, you know, block…block that into your diary, when you recognize that you’re less productive at that point, for instance, and you know, use that time instead to go do something different. It’s using it to the best…to the best that you can. And that tends to work a bit better, as well. But mainly, those are the three areas I feel, I find that people…we’re continually trying to better as a company as well.
Yeah, I love it. And great advice for all of us. Ragini, how has technology and the digital world kind of empowered a more collaborative workforce for you?
One thing that we do know is the world is forever changing. And the one thing that people want more so now is convenience. They want that…you know, they want convenience at the palm of your hands to be able to go do what you’re go…going to do. And working from home is just another example of that. So one thing that we have used as a business is just use that existing technology to bring people together. So, you know, being able to use video, being able to use collaborative tools to work on documents together, just basically using the existing infrastructure that we were lucky enough to already have to bring everyone together in one place. And we’re even having, you know, virtual company meetings together, you know, so it’s that whole feeling of bringing everyone in the same room as such. And now one of the things that we are looking at is even enhancing our own intranet to make it more collaborative, for people to be able to do more of the things that we know, through social media, people are able to do, but bringing that into the workplace so it’s more interactive. So that’s…that’s basically one of the ways that has helped to bring…bring people together and empower that way.
Ragini, are you doing any type of formal tracking of increased productivity, or maybe employee engagement surveys where employees are telling you that they’re more productive? Is there any tracking that’s going on?
So at the moment, we haven’t got anything formal in terms of one system. The…the things that we do have as a business is kind of done more on a departmental basis. So each line manager is responsible for employees’ productivity in terms of what their output is, and through just doing that as well, we’re finding that people are actually more responsive to getting the work done, because you’re able to say, Well, okay…so, for instance, I’ll use my own team as an example. We have…we have, like, a planning session on a Monday, where we each…everyone’s got their own tasks that they need to get sorted, but they’re responsible. So if they said they’re going to commit to it being done by a certain day, as well, you’re finding in this mode, as well, that people will do… basically, get…get that thing done within…within a certain timeframe. So it is improving productivity in that sense, where things are more transparent and they’re more visible. But people have that. They feel that responsibility to basically keep up with the changes. So as a business that’s…that’s what we’re doing, more of a departmental basis.
Yeah, I like it. That’s good. Is there any other advice you have for our listeners, whether it’s, you know, maybe a business leader that might implement some of these practices, or even just for individuals who are working remote or thinking about working more remotely?
I think the main thing I would say is to communicate and bring people along with you. Because what I’m…what may work for one individual may not work for somebody…somebody else. So it’s just to remember that, you know, not one size fits all approach and to keep doing that, because the more and more that you do that as a business, as well, you’ll find that people will give you…give it to you back in leaps and bounds. Okay? And then you have the other thing, of making sure that people aren’t doing too much, right? Not overworking. So that’s one thing, as a business…again, at the very start of lockdown, we were finding people were working…they were doing extra work on a weekend or late into the evenings. And, you know, we’re…as leaders, we have to be mindful of saying to people, Well, you know, equally, we don’t want you to burn out. Right? That’s just the worst thing that we could ever want, you know, for you and your families and the business at the end of the day. So then it’ll be the other extreme to say, Okay, you know, please log off, enjoy your week, right? And just enjoy the weekend and just doing the same thing as well. So it works both ways, I suppose.
Smart. So Ragini, how could our listeners reach out to you or ONVU Technologies if they have additional questions?
Okay, you can go to our website, which is www.onvutech.com, and you could just go onto the Contact Us page to send anything you have across.
All right, good, and we’ll have a link to that in our show notes so our listeners can find that easily.
Thank you so much for coming today.
Thank you. Thank you both.
JoDee, it’s time for our listener question. “This may be more for a Comp 101 discussion, but while listening, I was thinking about best practices surrounding how you advertise the compensation for different positions. I’m sure for the lower level positions, you can list a compensation range and some benefits, but when it comes to executive compensation, in the advertisement, is it better to advertise benefits and perquisites instead of the compensation range?”
You know, I thought this was a particularly good question, Susan, because I’ve mentioned several times on the podcast that I think it can be so beneficial to the candidate and to the organization to include the compensation range. And I say that because I think it saves a lot of time on both parties. If you have a job description that sounds like a $100,000 job, but pays $50,000, that’s going to attract a different level of candidate, and just saves time on both parties to really focus in on positions that make sense for you. But I thought it was a good catch to think about executive compensation. And that, likely, I wouldn’t recommend putting a salary range in there, that…. Just because there can be maybe a wider spread of executive compensation or what they might be willing to pay for, and/or the mix between those benefits and perks might be more flexible in terms of what they’re offering. So I’m glad you brought this up, and I think you’re right, I probably would not advertise the salary.
The other reason I would not do it is because I don’t think you want everyone in your organization to know what your executives are earning. And my guess is there is a wage scale difference. Could be very viable reasons. But it may not make sense. Part of the perquisites could be some equity, it could be different types of things that’s not offered to everyone. And it just, I think, opens a can of worms, that it’s not the place to do it, if it was…if I was in charge.
Right. The bonus opportunity included in that could also be…you know, some CEOs of large companies, their bonus might be 70 to 90% of their entire salary, so just focusing in on the…on the base compensation might not attract the right people either.
That’s very true.
In our in the news section today, we’ll talk a little bit more about remote work. It has created tax compliance risks for employers. Since the pandemic began, 28% of employees have worked outside their home state or even country, and consequently, their employers may have failed to withhold payroll taxes appropriately without even realizing it, and this situation can put their employers at risk for tax penalties. We briefly mentioned this in an earlier podcast, but I wanted to bring up some more specifics around it in today’s episode. So there was actually…because I came across a survey, the 2021 Adapt or Lose the War for Talent Survey conducted on behalf of Topia; they’re a talent mobility software company. They polled 1,250 employees – half were in the US and half in the UK – and all of these were employees who work for international companies with at least 2,500 employees. But their survey found that despite the increased support among employers for allowing remote work, many HR or finance departments are unprepared from a compliance standpoint. 93% of HR professionals were confident that they knew where the majority of their employees were working, but only 33% of employees said they reported all those days where they worked somewhere different, and 24% admitted reporting none at all. Now, some of that might be for various reasons, but some of it just might be that they didn’t really know they needed to.
Very fair. Back when I was working for a large organization, I had to be in New York a lot, in New York City. And of course, every day that you’re there, you owe tax on the…a single…if you just go there one day a year – unless the laws have changed, and I haven’t paid attention since I stopped going to New York for work – but unless you were involved in a training – there was a couple of exemptions – but by and large, if I was there for meetings, I was there to meet with staff, I needed to pay tax. So for those years that I was going up to New York a lot, I paid Indiana tax, where I live, and New York state tax as well. But my guess is a lot of employees are not…I mean, not necessarily my company, but across the world. It doesn’t surprise me that 24% of people say they don’t report when they work in other states for a matter of time.
Right. And what people should remember is that you can actually be saving money on taxes, too, that…think if…if your situation was flipped, Susan, and you lived in New York and visited Indiana to work, the taxes are lower in Indiana than New York, so you should be incented or encouraged to report those days, because your taxes would actually go d own.
Good point. Well, this is an important message, I think, for companies to know that they really need to help educate their employees, because I bet a lot of them don’t realize it.
Right. So thanks for tuning in today and make it a JoyPowered® day.
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