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We lock our employees out of the office for one week each year

This year we had our third annual Remote Week, where all employees were banned from our offices.

We lock our employees out of the office for one week each year
[Photo: ninuns/iStock]

Here’s the dilemma: When you’re trying to grow an organization quickly, it’s easy to get consumed by work and let everything else fall by the wayside. But part of growing a truly successful company is making sure you’re creating a working environment where your employees can maintain a healthy work-life balance. That’s why three years ago we launched a Remote Week.

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Each summer, for one week, we encourage employees to log on from environments that make them feel the most comfortable, inspired, and productive. That could be the home office, a hammock in the backyard, or the coffee shop down the street. For some of our workers, it means logging on from a hammock on the beach in Croatia or from a boat on the English countryside canals. It just can’t be in our office.

There’s plenty of research out there around the benefits of remote work, but we wanted to prove how trust and flexibility are more important than an employee’s physical location to yield results. After each Remote Week we survey employees to learn about their experience, and, in turn, we reform our own remote and flexible work policies for the rest of the year.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

An emphasis on quality, not quantity, will boost morale

A workplace where everyone is trying to work more hours than the person next to them rewards a poor work-life balance and ultimately fuels a toxic culture. We found that remote work helps to encourage a healthier work-life balance by emphasizing the quality of the work employees produce, rather than the time it takes them to produce it.

Remote Week solves this in two primary ways. First, the experience offers a unique opportunity to focus completely on output instead of input. When everyone works remotely, no one is policing how many hours employees are logging. That’s a good thing. Managers should be able to trust that everyone who works for them is giving the job their all, whether or not they’re being physically monitored while they do it.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, when we encourage flexible work during Remote Week, we’re sending the message that we genuinely want employees to use their benefits; they’re not just there because they look good on paper. Nearly 70% of our 320 employees reported feeling happy and relaxed during Remote Week, which is evidence that this sort of initiative can do wonders for positivity and morale, helping to make remote work into a proven concept rather than just a buzzword.

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Employees will find their remote productivity zones

Having some respite from everyday office distractions is one of the big positives coming from the experience. Last year, more than 50% of our employees reported that they felt more focused during the week than they did in the office.

For some employees, the buzz of the office is distracting, and working in a location of their choice allows them to focus and dedicate their full attention to their most complex work.

Encouraging employees to work wherever they feel most productive and inspired ultimately creates a more successful workplace, and this is something that more companies should embrace.

Communication will always be key

This may not be the most groundbreaking idea, but it’s a critical one: Making the time to communicate with others when working remotely is essential. For managers, this means setting clear expectations, conducting the standard daily check-ins, and being available when you say you will be.

More than 88% of employees surveyed upon the completion of last year’s Remote Week indicated that tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Slack were highly effective at enabling real-time communication and providing the kind of invaluable face time that is easier to come by in a physical workspace.

With adequate communication and the tremendous amount of workplace technology at our fingertips, there’s no reason businesses can’t be effective even when dispersed across the globe.

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Employees will invest in personal growth

In a similar vein, many of our employees indicated that one of the best things about Remote Week was skipping their commute, sometimes saving them up to two hours a day. When working remotely, employees were able to dedicate that time to professional skill development, hobbies, exercise, and more, further reducing stress.

This year, employees across all departments had access to the LinkedIn Learning portal, an online educational platform that helps professionals discover, develop, and refine business, technology, and creative skills through expert-led course videos. We encouraged employees to spend time advancing their passions both inside and outside of the work environment, so when it was time to come back to the office, employees felt rested and ready to hit the ground running again. Many team members took advantage of this time, watching a combined total of 311 hours of professional development videos that covered everything from information security, content marketing, and project management training, to effective listening.

Each year, we find that Remote Week proves how collaboration and productivity don’t need to take place under the same roof, and the week has proven to be one of the most productive weeks of the year. Employees return with high energy, excited to see their co-workers and hear how others spent their time away from the office.

Bob Hickey is the COO of Bynder, where he brings more than 25 years’ experience in enterprise technology brands, from early stage to scale-up and acquisition.

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