What started as a mandate has evolved into a movement: Executive teams and human resources (HR) leaders around the globe are analyzing why (and if) a remote or hybrid work model should hold a permanent place in their company’s structure.

By now, we’re familiar with social media accounts highlighting the journey of employees taking this opportunity to transition away from the “traditional workplace” into a remote work environment with autonomy that brings new meaning to work-life balance.

However, this experience is few and far between — according data from Spiceworks Ziff Davis (SWZD), only 6% of all workers will be fully remote after the pandemic.

SWZD’s research report, “The Future of Remote Work,” uncovered long-term workforce changes, inter-office tensions, forward-looking technology plans and actionable business opportunities that empower businesses to make this new employee experience a reality.

What did we find? Hybrid and remote work models drive success far beyond employee satisfaction. Pairing this flexibility with an emphasis on preserving your culture through multiple strategies, including team-building activities, real-time training and continuing education opportunities further boosts engagement and morale.

Flexibility is Key: An Inside Look at SWZD’s Culture

Flexibility is key to building connection and belonging on remote and hybrid teams. It can lead to more productivity and a newfound sense of trust amongst your employees, because it shows that their company believes they are capable of managing their own time, space and success.

At SWZD, we stay connected and engaged through a variety of virtual social gatherings by the department and company-wide programs, including our monthly manager meetings, where the leadership team discusses HR updates and troubleshoot challenges as a group based on their experiences and lessons learned. These organic conversations are also supported with more formal leadership training conducted by external speakers that bring a fresh perspective to the team while still allowing managers to share their experiences and best practices for additional insight and connection.

The emphasis on training and shared learning goes beyond the management team, with dedicated budgets for each department to distribute as appropriate to foster growth. SWZD also recently piloted a program that provides free access to an online learning tool with hundreds of courses that anyone can take, which helps to engage and develop employees.

To keep company-wide communication constant, we hold bi-weekly, all-hands “town hall” meetings to present new product developments and strategies, HR and company updates, team presentations and more. Much of the well-received feedback from employees is accredited to the “work from anywhere” company culture that we continue to foster by sharing photos of the unique and fun work environments we find ourselves in. Many employees use the remote work incentive to explore new destinations while accomplishing their day-to-day tasks. Featuring these personal experiences, it has become a favorite conversation starter in these town hall meetings that offer employees a sense of community and robust culture.

For teams within an approximate distance of a local office, we encourage those who feel comfortable with in-person gatherings to meet as another way to keep collaboration top of mind, but that isn’t to say remote collaboration is lacking.  All our teams have ongoing virtual brainstorms, quick video conference call check-ins, etc., and have set realistic expectations for meetings to ensure that employees are using their time to the fullest — be it at or away from their desks.

An emphasis on shared learnings and continued training is one of many tactics we use to help build belonging and connection on fully remote and hybrid teams across the world. It can be difficult to reach out to colleagues and/or be vulnerable when sitting behind a desk on video calls all day, so it’s critical to provide these opportunities to connect and build relationships beyond our standard business meetings.

Empowering Employees in a Remote Setting

Empowering employees with the choice to decide what works best for both their personal and professional development is critical for leaders to keep in mind as they adopt a hybrid or fully remote workplace model.

The past two years have brought forward many challenges, but understanding and encouraging employees to set boundaries encourages the confidence to advocate for what they find most fulfilling in and outside of their role, sparking creativity and opening new doors for fulfillment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed how we work and learn, and the rise of hybrid and remote work has brought immense value that’s here to stay. The key to success in a remote or hybrid work model is educating your employees and leaders on the benefits it can provide and why it’s a pivotal incentive to stay ahead of your competition in an increasingly complex job market.