Article

Remote working: a people-first approach

Almost a year ago, the work-from-home economy of the future became the present. For many employers and employees, this unanticipated situation remains the norm.

Almost a year ago, the work-from-home economy of the future became the present. For many employers and employees, this unanticipated situation remains the norm.

Compounding the uncertainty

No one knows for sure how remote operations will remain once we tread the path to economic (and social) recovery.

One thing is for certain though: any return to normal depends on our people.

How are you feeling?

Despite our individual circumstances and our capacity for resilience, mostly we’re tired, anxious and cynical. And this mood has a huge influence on “office” culture.

We’re trying to juggle work demands with crushing isolation. We’re attempting to give full attention to our careers while simultaneously adopting the role of teachers’ assistants.

At Stiff, we believe that all business is personal—that assessing the health of our colleagues is more important than ever; that employers need flexible work policies that are adaptable for all employees; and that one-size-fits-all methods of engagement are antiquated.


In short, a people-first approach
is the route to take.


Make the time to reach out

So how can organizations follow this path when people are scattered, preoccupied and struggling? How can employers show empathy and understanding, and acknowledgement?

Ask team members about their concerns, their struggles. Put aside the ego and ask for their opinions on improvements to processes and procedures and policies. Find out what support looks like to them and what they would classify as important job benefits. Learn about their thoughts on continued remote working and how that might affect their happiness in their roles in the long run.

And then address their trepidations through actionable planning.

Do not underestimate the importance of active listening. Staff looks to its leaders to set the tone, provide guidance and assuage qualms. In any physically dispersed company, managers need to connect more regularly with their teams. This means taking the time to actively listen and invest in conversations with team members on a one-on-one basis.


Be empathetic
and show vulnerability

Everyone needs to feel a sense of “we’re all in this together.” Get emotional. Share your own experiences. Pay closer attention to the feelings of your colleagues and help them channel their own emotions in constructive ways.

A company’s culture is the sum of its many parts—values, policies, priorities, benefits, perks, environment, accessibility, perspectives, operations and more. The time has come to move towards a values-centric company culture. People want to work for reputable organizations that reflect their politics, perspectives and positions.

Companies have to provide tangible policies that are going to improve an employee’s bottom line. The new perks are less about what a company can give and more about what a company can do to empower its workers—and the world.

When a company’s operations are digital-first, and its labour is scattered, then employees’ attitudes and behaviours and desires shift more towards the personal. Building the workplace culture of the future must be centred on building the talent of the future.


Flexibility, equity and inclusion

The company culture of the future will demand organizational commitment to an equitable and just society.

It’s not enough to write an inclusive mission statement—what must follow is an action plan with concrete objectives and clearly defined efforts.

In the past year, our team has heard more about the adoption of equitable employment and labour policies—culture changes that have positive effects outside the workplace:

  • Flexible hours make it easier for parents to manage the demands of the household.
  • More time off provides employees with the space they need to re-centre and refocus.
  • Increased access to training and credential-building courses helps elevate performance.
  • One-on-one quarterly reviews deliver mentorship and a sense of personal growth.
  • Access to sick days gives peace of mind and an assurance of protection.
  • Providing mental health resources can help destigmatize emotional distress in the workplace.
  • Benefits packages that include wellness services can supply 360-degree employee support.

Employees want to know:


  • How their workplace aligns with their personal values.
  • How a company is actively promoting BIPOC and LGBTQ+ workers.
  • How recruitment practices are changing to reach underrepresented talent.
  • How organizations will decide what partners and clients to work with.
  • How companies will ensure a similar commitment to values among all vendors.
  • How a business is conducting ethical operations with no attachment to bodies that proliferate hate or profit from prejudice.

We do know that offices and workplaces are evolving. We’re finally seeing the wide scale adoption of telecommuting practices originally promised with the internet’s unveiling. And just as employees are refocusing and redefining what’s important to them, so too must businesses refocus and redefine their company cultures for the future.