Remember the first day of a new job? From navigating the new office to learning your coworker's names and where they sit, it's a day full of overwhelming firsts. Now imagine you work remotely and never have been to the office, but are coming in for a day. Would you know where to sit, where resources are located, or who to ask for help?
If you're the person in charge of managing the first day/in-office experience, you know these situations occur pretty frequently. With the increase in remote working, it's more common for these employees to feel left out when they do come into the office. With these tips, you’ll learn how to make remote workers feel like a part of the team, no matter where they’re working.
Different types of remote workers and their needs
Wherever your team works, it's important to support everyone's unique working situation. It's best to determine how your equipment helps bring teams together to allow for productivity every day. First, let's define the different types of remote work few of these options so you can decide what your organization looks like and how to best enable it.
The co-located worker works only from the office and interacts with people face-to-face, with calls and video conferencing with distributed colleagues. This person may be a part of a hybrid team, where some employees are co-located and others are remote.
Remote employees work outside of a traditional office environment. They may be location-independent, or they may work full-time from a single location. They interact with others through email, video conferencing, and messaging apps. (To learn more about remote workers in particular, check out this guide to answer any questions you might have.)
The last group is becoming more common and requires a bit more support: the hybrid worker. They are a mix between the two other groups, meaning they spend part of their time working in the office and part of their time working elsewhere. Hybrid employees can choose to work however and wherever they're most productive. They'll use a combination of face-to-face meetings and video conferencing and messaging tools to communicate with their colleagues.
When a workplace doesn't support remote or hybrid workers
Workplaces should be built to support your employees. In order to make workplaces as functional as possible, some companies have shifted to an "open office plan", thinking it will solve all their problems. The rise of the open office alongside with remote work has some negative impacts on remote workers. While roughly 70% of offices using an open office plan can increase collaboration between co-located employees, hybrid and remote workers don't always reap these benefits. But problems don't just arise from having an open-office plan.
If a workplace doesn't have enough designated meeting rooms or huddle spaces, it can become difficult to get work done. Background noise and other distractions can detract from the tasks at hand when remote employees try to call in. Or if discussions with other team members are inefficient, remote employees won't be able to interact with the team when questions or problems arise.
Workplaces also aren’t always equipped to support hybrid workers. While they do need a desk for the days they are in the office, their space is empty when they're not. You can't give away their desk due to the fact that they're not there consistently, but you can't have inefficient use of space at companies looking to maximize their office usage. They need a solution, like a reverse-hoteling strategy, that gives them space when they're there and uses it effectively when they're not.
Equipping your workplace for remote and hybrid employees
The remote worker
1. Creating spaces for 1:1 conversations
There are a few office layout changes that best support the remote worker. Designated huddle spaces or call booths make it easy for co-located employees to speak to their remote counterparts. These spaces are soundproof and provide productive spaces for one-on-one meetings.
2. Investing in video conferencing tools
You should support video conferencing for remote workers. It's the most efficient and natural way for remote workers to connect with others, so companies need to invest in a simple and effective video conferencing system in-office workers can use to communicate with them.
Products like the Meeting Owl are easy to use and capture the feeling of your standard in-person meeting. All you have to do is plug it into a laptop, start your meeting, and it feels like you're right in the room with everyone. The Meeting Owl auto-focuses on those speaking in the room to keep the discussion on-topic and more naturally integrate remote workers into the discussion.
3. Utilizing room booking systems
Meeting rooms should also come equipped with a room booking system. The benefit of using a room booking system for remote workers is that co-located workers can quickly and easily start meetings so remote workers don't have to waste valuable time waiting around for meeting setup. Owl Labs found that over 50% of video conferencing users wait for more than 10 minutes on meeting setup, and remote employees don't want to waste their time waiting while someone on the other end finds a room to call in from.
The hybrid worker
1. Use "flex-desking"
One solution is "flex desking," where employees book desks each morning they come into the office. This lets hybrid workers book desks when they need them, and keeps them open for other employees to use when they don’t. Flexible desking also helps maximize resource usage in the workplace since you don’t need one desk for every employee, only for those that are in an office at a given time. Having a solution to enable seamless desk booking means you won't get stuck working in the kitchen because your desk was turned into a printing station.
2. Incorporate "wayfinding" into your office
Another useful tool to help hybrid employees is to support "wayfinding." You'll want to make it as easy as possible for hybrid employees to find their way around the office because if they can find all the resources and people easily, they're much more likely to feel included and productive. Create an interactive map of your office for employees to use that labels desks, rooms, and technology. This way all employees in an organization be able to see what rooms and desks are available to enable effective use of resources.
The co-located worker
The good news is that the co-located worker has as much to gain from these tools as the others do. Workers can take advantage of activity-based workstations, flex desking, and wayfinding like their remote and hybrid counterparts.
1. Utilize your workspaces
Co-located workers can use differing workspaces for their different tasks. They can take a one-on-one meeting in a huddle room, move to a desk for heads-down work, and use a conference room for a team meeting all in one afternoon. Having multiple types of workspaces for different activities allows team members to find the best setup for what they need to get done including connect with their remote coworkers.
2. Use "flex-desking"
Choosing specific desks in the morning isn't just for the hybrid worker dropping by. Switching desks daily can keep those that work in the office every day refreshed and focused. You won't have to experience the monotony of working in the same space for eight hours a day, and it will give employees the opportunity to work in close proximity to different team members for relevant projects
3. Pair video conferencing and room booking
Co-located workers should also effectively use office technology. Video conferencing should be utilized as much as possible to keep the co-located teams on the same page with those that are remote. Room booking and usage systems should also be a priority as teams in the office will get the most use out of them.
With these tips in mind, you'll be able to create harmony between all of your team and worker types, no matter where they’re located. To analyze the productivity of your work environment, here are the metrics you should be using.
Hi, we're Owl Labs!
We've partnered with our friends at Robin to bring you the best tips on how to optimize your workplace for remote and hybrid workers. We're experts in remote work and make the Meeting Owl, a 360° video conferencing camera that actively captures those speaking in a room. Robin's focus on unlocking the workplace through space booking and usage insights makes us a great team to drive the future of work forward.