More people are working from home than ever before, and with no clear end to the pandemic in sight, we know that remote work is here to stay. But learning to navigate this new world of work isn’t something that will happen overnight, and as employees struggle to adapt to working from home, companies need to establish new principles for measuring the remote employee experience.
During our current climate, when so many remote workers are dealing with stress, anxiety and serial overworking, it becomes even more important to accurately gauge sentiment and experience. So what aspects of the remote employee experience should we consider and how can we measure them?
The importance of employee experience
While for years it was customer experience that dictated company culture, things are quite different today. The rise of employee experience has been sudden and significant, and as we move into an era where employee wellbeing and advocacy take increasing precedent, companies need to offer new levels of support, flexibility and opportunity if they want to attract and retain the best staff. But measuring personal experience isn’t easy – and even once you manage to do so, you then need to evaluate it in a way that gives you actionable insights to actually improve employee experience.
Unpacking employee experience
So how do you unpack the employee experience to make it measurable? While there are a range of different ways to interpret and frame the concept, these five core aspects are a great place to start to help focus your analysis:
Productivity. A remote employee's sense of their own productivity is a crucial indicator of their overall experience. Do they feel motivated and engaged? Are they able to focus as well as they’d like? Are they satisfied with the work they’re doing? Are they able to complete tasks effectively while delivering a good quality of work?
Work-life balance. Without boundaries separating work and home, work-life balance is a vital part of the remote employee experience. It encompasses balancing priorities in our work and personal lives, as well as each employee’s work patterns and practices: e.g. do they do serial overtime? Are they experiencing burn out and stressed? Do they lack direction or unclear priorities? Is their workload sustainable?
Wellbeing and support. This element is about the ability to manage pressure and anxiety while working from home. Does the employee feel they have access to support – and if they do, what is the quality of that support? And does their perception of their company’s values and standards allow them to feel comfortable talking about these issues
Connection and belonging. Loneliness is one of the most common complaints for remote workers, and this element measures whether employees feel seen, valued and accepted by other people at work. Is there a social connection or bond within their team? Do they feel included and able to participate? Do they feel psychologically safe? Do they believe their growth is important to the company, and are they offered opportunities to train and develop?
Satisfaction with remote working arrangement. This hinges on the ease of remote communication and collaboration. It includes the infrastructure that supports the employee’s remote work experience – their tools, virtual workspace and processes – as well as their individual work environment – from noise and distraction, to privacy and order. It also means having clearly established communication channels, where everyone knows how, where and when to communicate.
Measuring the remote employee experience
Measuring all of the above aspects of remote employee experience essentially requires a two-pronged approach:
Talking to people (qualitative) – gathering the personal account of employees to gauge their sentiment, impressions and challenges.
Behavioral insights (quantitative) – such as HR metrics, KPIs, time and activity data.
This lets you balance what people say with what they actually do – for example, saying they have a manageable workload, but regularly putting in overtime. Crucially, it also ensures you keep cold hard data grounded in a rich emotional context.
There are a multitude of mechanisms for gathering remote employee feedback – from holding focus groups and staff forums, to workshops and anonymous polls. Employee pulse surveys are always a good place to start. Keeping the finger on the pulse of the remote employee experience can tap into the power of real-time, continuous feedback to paint an accurate picture of employee happiness, engagement and wellbeing. When you factor in how quickly things are changing in our current climate, it becomes clear that quarterly, monthly or even weekly surveys will no longer cut it, and daily pulse surveys will give you insight into your employees’ experiences at all times.
One-to-one meetings are very valuable too. When we’re working in the virtual realm, it becomes even more important to ensure you utilize a human-to-human approach to measuring feedback. Establishing regular one-to-one meetings with employees is a great way not only to ask for specific information and details, it’s also an opportunity to build trust and encourage honest conversation. Plus, it can go a long way in helping employees feel connected to other people, and that their thoughts and experiences actually matter to management.
There are a ton of different tools you can use to capture and analyze the more objective behavioral aspects of the employee experience. The market for tracking performance, productivity and HR metrics is especially crowded, which means you have a lot of choice. Employee work hours, overtime, capacity and activity can even be captured automatically by apps like Timely, helping companies protect against employee burnout, review workloads, identify poor work/life balance and ensure work hour compliance. Together with employee testimony, this data provides a much richer account of how individual employees are actually managing their work – like whether they are working longer, logging off later, working overtime, managing too many tasks or taking longer to complete standard tasks.
You might also want to have a look at employee engagement tech. Tools like Culture Amp let you map the sentiment of employee survey responses in a score-based heat map, bringing a more metric approach to qualitative insights. Peakon is another great example, providing the ability to score individual employee engagement as well as well as give pointers on how managers can respond to insights.
However you decide to gather employee experience insights, the key thing is to make it a part of your everyday culture. It's not something you do once and then park. Getting continuous feedback and data from staff allows you to gauge current sentiment – and only when you have this information can you begin to take steps to improve the remote employee experience.