4 Ways the Digital Workplace Has Pushed HR Teams to Evolve


Teams everywhere have migrated to remote or hybrid workflows due to the pandemic, some better than others. Jen Dennard, co-founder and COO of Range, discusses how HR leaders can successfully navigate their workplaces so they can thrive in the new completely digital workplace.

As companies accept that the digital workplace and distributed work are here to stay, many HR teams are tasked with supporting and empowering this new world of work. At Range, we partner and learn from HR teams at some of the world’s most innovative companies, including Twitter, Medium, and Carta. Here’s what innovative people and HR teams are doing in response to the digital workplace.

1. Investing in Asynchronous Communication

For years, HR and people teams have trained and educated leaders and teams on processes like tracking goals and running performance reviews. However, the digital workspace requires a new skill: asynchronous communication. Companies are realizing that while working from home, it’s difficult to expect everyone to always be available for meetings, not to mention it leads to Zoom fatigue and lack of dedicated focus time. Instead, companies are investing in tools to support asynchronous communication, whether that’s Slack, email, or tools like Range or Asana.

Asynchronous communication is communication that can be read, responded to, or generally engaged with at any time. Companies are investing in setting guidelines for when and how to communicate. For example, a team might share a document that outlines when to use Slack vs. when to use email.

Beyond software, people teams are rolling out new guidelines for different processes. For example, people teams are creating “How to Run an Effective Remote Meeting” guides with simple tips like using a check-in round to allow everyone to speak, adding in social connection moments like icebreaker questions or a simple game, and creating clear agendas.

In every case, people teams are realizing that teams and leaders need help identifying best practices and support when rolling them out.

Learn More: Using Smart Video to Develop Employee Engagement and Intimacy in the Remote Workplace

2. Rethinking the Workweek

As digital work makes work possible at any time, people teams are starting to explore waysOpens a new window to better support teams through different workweeks. For some teams, they’re investigating four-day workweeks or taking every other Friday off. Others are looking at windowed work, where collaboration and meetings are limited to a few hours a day, empowering teammates to have focus time when they need it and flexibility for priorities including parenting and health needs.

In each case, people teams often start by experimenting with a few teams instead of the whole company. For example, you might start with one 20–30-person team and experiment with limiting meetings to specific hours like 11 am to 3 pm. As the team explores that, you’ll see what breaks and what new resources you need to create to support the team with this way of working.

3. Reallocating Benefits

Without an office, many companies are suddenly left with a surplus from unused dining budgets or office leases. As a result, people teams are creatively reallocating their budgets to serve what people need in a digital workplace: benefits that can be accessed online or at home.

In some cases, they’re investing in mental health, using services like Modern HealthOpens a new window , KipOpens a new window , or Ginger.ioOpens a new window to support their teams. In others, they’re investing in more flexible benefits like “wallets” that can be used for meal delivery, wellness purchases, and more.

Supporting caregivers is top of mind for many companies, leading them to invest in benefits to ease the caregiving burden, like the Virtual Babysitters ClubOpens a new window or online classes like HomeroomOpens a new window . Each of these benefits is designed to ensure that employees are still taking care of themselves while working from home.

One way for leaders to approach this with their own companies is to create a small cross-functional team with teammates from across the company, including people of different backgrounds or needs (e.g., parents). Ask that group to come with a few top recommendations for new benefits or highlight the top needs individuals have.

Learn More: 5 Workplace Trends That Have Set the Tone for 2021 and Beyond

4. Learning From Other Teams

While HR and people teams are often used to working in offices, focused on events or office space needs, many teams have been operating remotely for some time, for example, distributed sales and engineering teams. As a result, people teams are reaching out to their partners in product development or sales to learn from their best practices. At times, they’re even forming cross-functional task forces to help solve immediate problems for teams, things like feeling lonely or siloed communications. For example, at Range, we’ve formed a “teamwork guild” with members from different teams. The guild shares observations about what’s working well with remote work and what’s not and then creates solutions. It’s been a powerful way for teammates to feel agency over how we work and reduce the burden on HR to always have the answer.

The digital workplace is changing how HR and people teams operate and how they support their companies. With a changing landscape, HR teams are also learning to operate more Opens a new window agilelyOpens a new window , in short sprints, just like product development teams. The shift is creating an environment for innovation and rethinking what’s possible.

That said, people teams are also supporting other internal teams during a challenging year. That means they’re often dealing with burnout themselves, even as they lead training sessions on burnout or answer early morning calls from teammates. If you’re a member of a people team, remember to take time for yourself, and if you’re not, send your people partner a quick note to say thank you. It’ll help make this journey a little easier for them.

How do you think HR leaders successfully navigate to digital workplaces? Tell us on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window .