How a Remote-First Culture Improves the Employee Experience and Benefits Business

How a Remote-First Culture Improves the Employee Experience and Benefits Business

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How a Remote-First Culture Improves the Employee Experience and Benefits Business

Like many organizations in March 2020, SMG abruptly “went remote” as a result of the pandemic. And, like many, we assumed the situation would be short-term. Certainly within a few days (weeks maybe?), we’d be back at the office with co-workers, everything carrying on as “normal.” We just needed to come up with a temporary solution.

Employees learned how to Zoom, how to collaborate virtually, how to stay connected through a computer screen. Days passed, months passed, we slowly got better at it. We started to appreciate the perks. We realized in certain ways we were even more productive.

And then, two years had gone by.

Earlier this year, SMG announced its plan to go fully remote. And we weren’t alone. Major global brands like Airbnb, HubSpot, Upwork, and Twitter also decided their employees wouldn’t be going back to the office. Just like that, a “normal” work environment looked entirely different. In fact, the Pew Research Center found before the pandemic, only 20% of people whose work could be done remotely worked from home most or all of the time. As of February 2020, that number had increased to 60%.

This wasn’t a decision SMG took lightly and though employees have adapted well to the change, we are dedicated to evolving our efforts from “scrappy survival” to “well-oiled machine”—laying the foundation for a successful remote-first strategy in the long-term.

In this blog, we’ll look at the benefits of a remote-first model and provide some best practices on ways to set employees up for success and create a healthy, productive remote-work environment.


How employees benefit from a remote-first model—and ways it benefits clients, too

Yes, there are the classic perks of working from home, like no commute time, comfier pants, more pet snuggles, etc. But the benefits of remote work extend beyond personal gain and have a positive professional impact. Here are a few:

  • Employees have a better work-life balance: Remote-first provides more flexibility, which gives employees more ownership over their schedule—allowing them to optimize productive work hours, take mental health breaks through the day, and spend more time with loved ones.
  • Higher employee productivity: With the ability to work in a more agile, focused environment, work output is quicker and better.Multiple studies show employees report being more productive (and more creative) at home without the distractions of the office.
  • A broad spectrum of talent: In addition to broadening your potential candidate pool, remote-first also gives associates the autonomy to operate in various time zones and work in a way that makes sense to them and the company’s goals.
  • Employee growth + development: By hiring associates around the world, team members are exposed to other cultures and can build new experiences they may not have otherwise had.
  • More accessibility to global clients: SMG now has teams represented in more than 140 locations globally around the world, making us a true global experience management (XM) provider.

Best practices for shifting to—and sustaining—a successful remote-first culture

Perhaps your corporate office is considering—or already has moved to—a remote work environment. Either way, this process requires a clear strategy, careful implementation, and ongoing evaluation to keep employees aligned and business goals on track. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Remain transparent and inclusive: These are two pivotal points of remote-first work. If remote work is new to your organization, there will be missteps. But clear and honest communication is key to building trust, for both the employer and employee. 
  • Make decisions holistically: Decisions should not be made downward, rather surfaced from ideation and collaboration within and across all teams.
  • Reassess values from a global perspective: Endorse and appreciate multiple cultures and backgrounds, leverage global diversity, and acknowledge culture as your dynamic structure that augments according to the unique perspective of those who are a part of it.
  • Set clear expectations—and boundaries: Distinguishing the fine line between achieving your goals and overworking your employees is paramount to the individual’s health and team’s success. Working adeptly and taking time off to recharge are equally important for efficiency. Work-life balance contributes to the longevity of success, as happier employees are more energized and committed. First and foremost, teams should make their members feel safe to discuss issues and work together to explore ways to cope with challenges. Some best practices to follow are proactively organizing workdays and scheduling time to wrap up at the end of the day, communicating availability, holding mindful meetings (meetings that don’t waste anyone’s time), and allowing flexible schedules and different time zone handoffs.
  • Build a community: Isolation and the inability to connect in person can be debilitating to a remote workforce. To combat these feelings, celebrate business wins, host virtual happy hours, and find ways to collaborate across and within teams. Book clubs, employee resource groups (ERGs), employee wellness sessions, and regular all-company meetings are just a few ways you can continue to engage your remote workforce. Need ideas? See how these 13 companies creatively engaged employees here.
  • Dedicate a role to your remote-first strategy: Encourage your company to hire someone focused on helping employees embrace remote work. This person can help navigate cultural changes while contributing to broader decisions like implementing more collaborative tech.

Keep employees front-and-center of your remote-first efforts

Any big changes to your company’s operations or culture are going to have a big impact on employees—and not everything will be well-received. But if you don’t have a process in place to get input from associates, you won’t know where you’re falling short or how to appropriately adjust.

Operating with a happy and engaged team is key to the success of your business. To learn more on what can be gained by improving employee engagement and retention, check out the best practice guide: Why customer-centric organizations prioritize the employee experience.

SMG is a remote-first company with a globally distributed workforce. Team members all over the world collaborate to build globally scaled industry solutions for our clients. That level of flexibility means our talent pool is off the charts and our employees have a better handle on work-life balance. But even with a distributed workforce, our global community remains strong and engaged. We learn together, celebrate together, and grow together.

If you’d like to learn more about SMG’s culture and view our open opportunities, check out our careers page.