remote work guide

What Is Remote Employee Experience (REX) and Why It Matters for Your Business

These days, many of us are working fully remote jobs or are living a hybrid lifestyle, spending a few days in the office and a few days at home. If you’re like me, you can’t imagine returning to a world where you’re commuting daily to a full-time office. You long for the entire remote employee experience (REX).

Remote work isn’t new to us anymore. But, now that the dust has somewhat settled, many employers are rushing to improve their remote employee experience to retain talent and enable productivity at home.

What is remote employee experience? 

Remote employee experience incorporates employee emotions, engagement, and personal values related to the time spent working remotely for a specific organization.

The remote employee experience is a holistic approach to people operations that values employee well-being, engagement, and personal goals. A positive remote employee experience means that team members feel valued by their organization, which increases productivity and morale.

Prioritizing the remote employee experience makes best-in-class organizations profitable, stable, and great workplaces. With an engaging, team-oriented, and flexibility-focused REX, remote employees can perform productively outside the traditional office and from anywhere in the world.

An employee’s experience is a complex mixture of how human psychology, company culture, and industry norms impact employees’ fulfillment and happiness in their work. If your team feels fulfilled and happy, you’ll have higher employee engagement, productivity, and loyalty.

There’s a lot of information about traditional employee experience but a shortage of data about hybrid, flex, or fully remote employee experience. We’ll teach you how to create a remote team experience that helps you attract and manage the best talent in your industry. First, let’s delve into why REX matters.

Why remote employee experience matters

It’s no secret that turnover is expensive, so intelligent leaders always focus on retaining talent. One of the best ways to do this is by improving your employee experience.

It isn’t just the cost of hiring that impacts a business's bottom line. Research shows us that happy employees make your business more money. How do you make your employees happy? By improving their employee experience.

But don’t just take it from us. Let’s look at some compelling research from MIT.

  • Companies with a positive employee experience score are more innovative and profitable and report higher customer satisfaction.

  • Companies reporting a positive employee experience have 16 times the employee engagement level of employees with a negative employee experience score.

Remote work wasn’t a fad: In 2020, quarantined employees were forced to learn work-from-home best practices. Initially, it was strange and unfamiliar, but we all became accustomed to increased flexibility, non-existent commutes, and more time spent with loved ones.

Adjusting to “the new normal”: The recent corporate focus on employee experience is primarily due to increased studies and research showing that companies with satisfied employees report higher productivity and profits.

The answer is simple: happy employees who feel engaged are more likely to be innovative and harder working. Employee happiness translates directly to satisfied customers and increased profits.

It’s not rocket science; it’s just the unmistakable positive impact of investing in your employees.

The shift from employee experience to remote employee experience

In the past few decades, the world of work has gradually transformed from a "service economy" to an "experience economy," resulting in an increased emphasis on customer and employee experience.

Now, things are shifting again to focus on the remote employee experience. Employee experience is a term many were familiar with before the remote work shift, so it’s no surprise that with a massive change in how we work, the way we experience work changes.

Let’s examine how employee experience and remote employee experience compare.

Employee experience

Employee experience (EX) management has been quickly accepted into mainstream corporate culture. Mark Levy of Airbnb was the first head of employee experience at a major U.S. company, but many organizations have followed suit in recent years.

MIT performed a global study of senior executives that determined two main factors that affect the overall employee experience: work complexity and behavioral norms.

Remote employee experience

Remote employee experience is a term that grew from the concept of EX and was popularized by the rise of remote work. Now that we know remote work isn’t going anywhere, managers are scrambling to create remote work environments that result in a positive employee experience.

How to measure the remote employee experience

To measure remote employee experience, we’ll use The Future Forum’s best practices. This consortium focuses on creating a new understanding of digital work.

In 2020, The Future Forum released its new Remote Employee Experience Index. This index uses data from 4,700 remote workers in the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, Japan, and Australia.

In their remote employee experience research, The Future Forum identified five key factors that determine the remote employee experience.

What key elements make up remote employee experience?

  • Productivity

  • Work-life balance

  • Ability to manage work-related stress and anxiety

  • Feeling a sense of belonging

  • Satisfaction with the working arrangement

We would also add that the REX requires a positive relationship with leaders and managers, buy-in to the vision and positive company culture, and effective communication designed to support bidirectional feedback.

10 ways to improve remote employee experience 

To create a positive experience for remote employees, you can focus on the five key factors that impact remote employee experience:

How to create a positive remote employee experience

1. Set reasonable productivity standards

Reasonable productivity standards ensure team members complete tasks on time, with the right level of quality, and at the right speed.

The crucial elements of productivity standards are 1) deadline flexibility and 2) reasonable due dates for projects. Be sure you’re working within your team’s schedules, PTO, parental leave, or religious observance. If you’re calculating productivity and leaving out flexibility for vacation or sick time, you’ll stress your team out.

2. Create a sustainable work-life balance for remote teams

Remote work inherently creates an environment where employees can seamlessly manage their work and personal lives.

Starting a load of laundry while you wait for a document to upload or having the ability to drop your kids off at school instead of spending time commuting are priceless benefits of remote work.

One danger of hybrid or remote work is the need for proper boundaries between work hours and personal time. Use clear PTO expectations, communication policies, and OOO notifications to ensure employees are keeping their work and home lives separate in healthy ways.

3. Help your team manage work-related stress and anxiety

Work-related stress doesn’t disappear with remote work (though it is greatly alleviated). As a manager, you must ensure fair and flexible deadlines and expectations to reduce unnecessary anxiety for your team. Understand how your employees feel and adapt to this.

Creating a sense of psychological safety can help your team feel comfortable sharing their feedback, concerns, or suggestions.

4. Instill a sense of belonging among employees

The sense of belonging is one area where remote work can falter. To counteract this, use team-building activities and employee retreats to help your team interact outside the work context.

At Hubstaff, we’ve created an internal Slack channel called “Hubstars,” where employees can publicly highlight their co-workers who are exceeding expectations.

5. Ensure your team is happy with their remote working arrangement

While you aren’t directly controlling your employee’s remote work environment, you can help them create a comfortable and productive setting.

With the money you save on providing a physical workspace, create a bonus system that improves employees’ home office space. Some companies offer in-home cleaning services or discounts on home internet as perks. Others provide subscription gift boxes or coworking space memberships.

At Hubstaff, we offer professionally taught classes about ergonomic work conditions. We also offer bonuses to help our professionals buy chairs, desks, and other home office equipment. Professional development is not just a way to improve skills or run virtual meetings better. It also includes protecting employee mental health and the environment.

6. Reinforce the relationship between team members and leaders

Don’t forget to have team building efforts create a positive relationship between people and their managers or leaders. Uncover how employees feel and get everyone on the same page.

Direct managers are your front line in spotting burnout and overwork. They’re also the perfect people to bring ideas to leadership when staff have issues. Train managers on interpersonal skills so they are an active part of creating a supportive, inclusive work culture.

Managers should also have specified times and goals for talking to their team about their company’s REX efforts. This communication can be more impactful than a company-wide email.

Individual leaders have the most direct impact on our work days. If your company puts out a message of caring about personal success and development, people only believe it if their manager regularly reinforces it.

7. Expand bidirectional communication

How can team members express their joy at work or frustrations with a task?

If that’s not a simple answer, it’s time to improve communication channels. These are essential to a positive REX because feedback is how you can evaluate it. Make it easy for people to tell you what they enjoy and what is improving their experience.

These conversations are designed to help people connect with work and policies directly impacting REX.

This bidirectional communication should happen between managers and team members. It is their opportunity to give public feedback and make a case specific to their work. Virtual employees need remote meetings that highlight their concerns and even thoughts on professional development opportunities.

Surveys, mentioned below in the sentiment tracking section, can provide a way for anonymous feedback that is more a report than a conversation.

8. Regularly reinforce transparency commitments

Trust and transparency must be the pillars of your commitment to team members. The goal is to balance productivity and individual privacy. People need to understand how they’re evaluated and monitored.

We’ve put together the Hubstaff guiding principles to help you think about this structure. Your transparency communications should focus on big-picture ideas and individual practices you use to show these. For instance, we put team members’ privacy first, which is why we don’t log keystrokes or monitor email.

Have your senior leadership or C-suite executives create and share this commitment for greater impact and visibility.

9. Track sentiment and other valuable metrics

REX work needs continuous feedback and review to ensure your practices are on track. Sentiment is the most crucial aspect you can measure for the employee experience.

Track sentiment by running polls of your entire workforce and individual teams. You want multiple opportunities to see how people feel about your company and their respective roles. Keep surveys short so that they’re easy to compare over time.

Advanced workforce analytics and remote work tools can help you understand these trends. There are also specific EX tools that you can try to find what your people respond to best. Test how people feel about key initiatives and if they’re adopting the platforms you require or trying to work around them.

10. Visibly act on the feedback

The other elements above won’t mean much unless you act on your team members' feedback.

People will stop offering those opinions if you take suggestions or comments but never follow up. When companies punish people due to feedback, they start lying on questionnaires.

Companies can’t respond to every piece of feedback. So, you’ll need to pick elements that are important to REX and actionable. Then, as you decide what steps to take, share this with the company. Highlight the changes being made due to employee feedback.

Action shows people that you value their opinions and work. These demonstrations encourage employees to engage. You’ll see a better employee experience, whether remote, hybrid, or in-office.

What remote employees value 

All this talk of remote employee experience got us thinking: what do remote employees say that they want? We sought out surveys and created an online poll to find out.

What matters to remote employees? Poll results.

With an impressive margin, the number one thing that our LinkedIn followers look for in remote work is flexible deadlines and schedules. For managers, this is a home run. It’s free, and it’s proven to improve productivity and profits.

The ability to give feedback to managers, a solid tech stack, and socializing with co-workers each claimed roughly 10% of the overall vote. But the thing employees say they value the most is just the flexibility to do their work while maintaining a work-life balance. That’s true for your new employees and seasoned remote veterans.

Key benefits employees gain from working remotely

According to a Slack study, more than 72% of knowledge workers prefer remote or hybrid work. The survey also showed that the key reported benefits are:

  • Less time spent commuting

  • Money saved on food, attire, gas, and other office-related costs

  • Work-life balance improvement

  • Overall less stress

  • Increased quality time with loved ones

Don’t just take it from us. Send a survey to your staff and ask what you can do to improve your remote team experience. Anonymous polls give an authentic perspective into how your team functions remotely.

Practical ways you can address your remote employee experience

Top-performing companies prioritize two areas of the employee experience: supplying employees with the right digital tools and implementing evidence-based leadership strategies.

Use the right technology

The right tech stack can transform your remote employee experience. Companies in the top quartile of employee experience respond with a difference of 66% more digital capacity for work than their competitors in the bottom quartile. Communication tools play a significant role here.

Here are a few essential tools that optimize our remote employee experience:

  • Slack: With custom time zones and away settings, our international crew thrives on the async chat system.

  • Google Meet: Google Meet is our preferred video conferencing platform. It’s easy to use and connects to Google Calendar for simple meeting invites and coordination.

  • Hubstaff: We use our software to optimize time tracking, payroll, task management, time off requests, and activity tracking. Let’s talk more about how that works for our remote team later.

Think about what you need to get work done. Ensure that your remote workplaces and virtual teams can accomplish those goals. Technology can replace some in-person interactions and in-person meetings, but only if you have the culture to support it.

Provide opportunities for feedback

Humble leadership can make all the difference in a remote work environment.

Without the natural dialogue of an office, it is essential to provide the opportunity for employees to give feedback. Companies in the top quartile of employee experience are 90% more likely to seek employee feedback.

Employee development is also crucial for remote teams. Mentorships and continuing education may look different in an in-office environment than in remote work, so leaders must prioritize them in remote work.

What does a negative remote employee experience look like?

Here are some clear signs of a negative remote employee experience:

Slack conducted a study highlighting employees' top challenges while working from home. Here is what they found:

  • Unstable Wi-Fi or internet access

  • Maintaining and building working relationships with colleagues

  • Staying focused and avoiding distractions

  • Feelings of loneliness or isolation

  • Keeping up with what others are working on

Leaders can mitigate many of these issues with a strong employee experience strategy. Your work is more than video calls and saying “hi” to new hires. The key factor is creating an inclusive environment where company productivity is just one part of a healthy work-life balance.

How return-to-work policies hurt employee experience scores

Some employers are forcing their employees back into the office. How does this impact employee experience scores? Spoiler alert — it’s not good. This can be a major issue for most companies, especially if they want to remain productive.

Because they were interested in the EX effects of the increasing return-to-work orders, The Future Forum ran a study to see how returning to physical offices impacts employee experience scores.

Unsurprisingly, employee experience scores have dropped to near-record lows across all eight employee experience measures surveyed.

Research on employee experience scores from The Future ForumImage Source: The Future Forum

According to The Future Forum, full-time office employees report the most abrupt declines compared to their remote or hybrid peers. Here are some of the changes:

  • 2x reduction in work-life balance

  • 1.6x decline in satisfaction with their work environment

  • 1.5x increase in work-related stress and anxiety

(Alt text: Research on remote employee experience from The Future Forum)Image Source: The Future Forum

The language — often prompted by C-level executives — about the return-to-office movement doesn’t match current workforce data. On the other hand, Hubstaff remains, as we always have, a 100% remote workforce. Let’s talk about how we enable our remote team to thrive.

How Hubstaff Software enables a positive remote employee experience

We’re proud of our employee experience here at Hubstaff and believe our software plays a key role. We’ve been focusing on remote employee experience long before it was fashionable. 

Graphic: Quote from Hubstaff employee.

Hubstaff provides a complete system of remote work tools designed around remote team experience (RTE). Here are some critical ways that Hubstaff improves the remote employee experience. It helps you:

  • Maintain peace of mind that your team is working productively

  • Build a company culture that attracts the best talent

  • Ensure remote teams are content and motivated to do their best work

  • Make the best resource management decisions possible

With online timesheets, reporting, automated payroll, invoicing, and scheduling, Hubstaff enables our remote team to thrive while working internationally and in countless different time zones.

The takeaway: Invest in your remote employee experience

Companies that don’t respond quickly to this new way of working and need for a positive remote team experience will struggle with internal stress, a lack of productivity, and high talent turnover.

On the other hand, companies that eagerly embrace the need to support a solid remote employee experience will have happier employees motivated to do their best work.

The way to save money and make money is to invest in your team. It’s about reducing turnover and ensuring they love their work. You’ll see this investment returned through an improved remote employee experience, and you’ll be delighted by significantly increased productivity and profits.

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