Tag Archive | remote work

Designing remote working practices to improve employee experience (EX) in organizations

In recent years, remote working has become a hot topic as organizations are developing new working processes and modern collaborative platforms and technology emerge. At the same time, firms are moving towards human-centric approaches and working in multidisciplinary teams to stay competitive. Due to these rapid changes in several industries, recruitment, finding right competences and retaining well-performing employees has become crucial. 

With this in context, two Service Design students, Nora Ryti and Jenny Kurjenniemi at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences, arranged two online workshops. Their intention was to research how employee experience can be improved to retain talent. They we’re looking to include findings from this workshop (combined with e.g. qualitative data from interviews) in their Master’s Theses, that focuses on the following topics: 

  • What are the characteristics and trends in knowledge work? 
  • What skills, practices and tools are needed in remote knowledge work? 
  • What are the needs of a knowledge worker? 
  • What is the role of employee experience in employer branding? 

I attended one of the workshops and explain how it proceeded in this blog post. This workshop, arranged mainly on two platforms, Microsoft Teams for communication and Miro as a visual collaborative tool, was completely online. To ensure that all involved participants had equal opportunities to join, technical aspects were considered and all participants were sent guidelines on how to set up necessary tools prior to joining the session. 

The selected group of participants, consisting of ~10 individuals, was diverse, involving knowledge workers of different ages, locations and industries. Most cameras were turned on and it felt inspiring meeting strangers, knowing that you’d soon know much more about them and their views. 

To complete tasks in co-creation, Microsoft Teams worked as a channel for communication. Both chat and audio were activated all time, and groups were set into separate calls to deepen discussion in certain assignments.  

Miro was used as a collaborative tool, where most tasks were completed on a digital whiteboard. Access was granted through a shared link and no signup was required.  

Miro was used as a tool for collaboration
Miro was used as a tool for collaboration. Screen capture from workshop.

Workshop agenda

The workshop had a well-outlined agenda including breaks and different tasks (explained in detail below). In the beginning of the session, thorough information was shared on what to expect and strictly stating that no data was going to be shared outside of the research, thus leaving participants anonymous.  

Below the assignments chronological order: 

  • Introduction round (warmup exercise) 
    • To get to know all participants, participants answered a few simple questions:  Who are you, what do you do, how has your day been and what animal would you be? 
       
  • Task 1: Express your feeling towards remote working with one emoji 
    • This resulted in a visualized canvas with various emoticons in different sizes and shapes. This task was a suitable introduction to Miro and activated all participants. 
       
  • Task 2: Insert an image explaining what you miss during remote work 
    • A set of images were copied from the internet and explained what attendees miss the most in remote work. The canvas resembled a mood board.  

Divergence 
Through a canvas produced by the facilitators (based on a previous workshop), discussions were held in different areas related to remote working such as leadership, tools, ergonomics and collaboration.

  • Task 3: Add sticky notes with ideas/concepts that constitute to a good remote working experience
    • Participants were given the task to add as many ideas as possible, by placing one idea per sticky note grouped on the whiteboard.
  • Task 4: Produce more ideas!
    • After a small break and individual analysis of what was on the board, more ideas were produced.

Convergence
To combine, structure and analyze all produced ideas, participants were divided into two groups for further discussion. 

  • Task 5: Discuss, document and prioritize three main areas (per category)
    • Separate Microsoft Teams channels were created to give focus in group discussions. In the end of this session, ideas were condensed into three main topics that were explained briefly to the rest of the group including comments.

In the end of the session, ideas were converged into three main themes.
Screen capture from workshop.

Conclusions  

Although a three-hour workshop was quite intensive after a long day of work, there were many positive aspects. Firstly, Miro as a collaborative tool seemed useful, easy to grasp and I might utilize a similar tool in future workshops myself. 

Participants were open for discussion and I believe everyone got their say. In online environments, it’s crucial that the one in a facilitator role ensure that all attendees are active. It is, although, also important to give room for silence – especially as you do not see what participants are thinking. A few second of silence can potentially constitute to great reflection and new ideas.  

Overall, when arranging digital workshops, a culture of openness, respect and honesty needs to be embraced to fully utilize its’ potential and to get things done. 

Written by Thomas Djupsjö 
MBA Student at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences 

Resources 

Brown, T., 2008, “Design Thinking”. Harvard Business Review, p. 84-92

Djupsjö, T., 2019, “Key issues and strategies for implementing the Lean Methodology in organizations “, Arcada, University of Applied Sciences 

Keller, S. & Meaney, M., 2017, “Attracting and retaining the right talent”, McKinsey & Company 
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/attracting-and-retaining-the-right-talent 

Küng, L., 2017, “Strategic Management in the Media – Theory to Practice”, 2nd Edition, SAGE Publications Ltd., London.