What It Takes to Become Remote-Ready
Working remotely is not just for the privileged few anymore. It has continued to gain popularity over the years but never has it been as important for companies as today. With the COVID-19 virus forcing many businesses to adopt, or at least explore, remote work, those who are yet to embrace remote working culture are faced with chaos and uncertainty. It’s evident that everyone needs to be prepared for the unexpected and become remote-ready.
Remote working is often referred to as the “future of work”. But with more individuals opting to work remotely and organizations seeing the benefits, it’s no longer just another buzzword – remote working is here to stay. In fact, a survey by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs indicates that remote work has grown 91% over the past decade.
And it will continue to grow – more importantly to evolve – as the discussion shifts from remote-friendly companies towards remote teams, and most recently towards distributed companies that have adopted a remote-first mentality.
Remote-friendly vs remote-first
To take action and become remote-ready, we first must understand the difference between the two ends of a remote working spectrum.
At a remote-friendly company, most people are working from its offices, but have an option to work remotely on an as-needed basis. The biggest drawback is that remote teammates can often feel excluded because most of the processes, tools and meetings still revolve around the office.
In contrast, a remote-first company empowers their teams to work remotely. They have mapped out everything in detail and most likely built their company culture around this new way of working. Most of these companies have decided to move a majority of their businesses from physical space to fully digital one.
It’s becoming painfully clear that in 2020 it’s not enough for companies to be just pro remote working, because people want better work-life balance. This means more flexibility in their work as well. State of Remote Work report by Buffer found that 99% of respondents are looking to work from home, at least some of the time, for the remainder of their careers.
Then again, for an established company with hundreds of employees and offices all over the world, it might be tricky to go fully distributed. Not to mention that for some industries, it’s not an option.
Luckily, remote-friendly and remote-first are not the only options as the scale of remote working is much broader. Freelancers, remote-friendly companies, international companies with offices in multiple locations and distributed teams without any offices are all examples of remote work. And each comes with their own set of advantages and drawbacks.
Thus, every company, regardless of the business-specifics, should be able to implement at least some type of remote work policy that aligns with their company culture.
More than that, it’s time to implement tools and establish processes that will help you become remote-ready. For one, we can see how companies around the world are put to the test amid this recent pandemic. And only the ones who have established some kind of remote working structure can continue to work with minimal losses.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, remote work does come with a lot of benefits.
Everything about your business, one click away
Benefits of remote work
One of the biggest concerns about flexibility and remote work is that it decreases productivity. However, research suggests otherwise. According to an annual IWG study, 85% of businesses which have introduced more flexibility in their workplace confirm productivity increase in their company. Over half of them report at least 21% improvement because of flexible working.
And we’re not here to argue that remote work comes without drawbacks or challenges. It does require a lot of preparation and collaboration from everyone in the company. Processes need to be reevaluated, and changes are assumed.
But we believe that people’s physical presence in one place is not a prerequisite to creating the best work. On the contrary, having remote teams can actually lead to more success. And for a business, there are stated benefits, as it enables to:
- hire the best talent (wherever they are);
- boosts employee engagement and productivity;
- offer your clients better support with 24/7 availability;
- play a part in reducing your carbon footprint;
Continue reading: How Can You Benefit From Remote Work?
The fact is that to truly benefit from remote work and keep the best talent, you also need to offer the best working conditions. And once you don’t have the means to leverage them with regular benefits, such as a fun office and endless flow of coffee, you need to establish the best workflow.
How to succeed with remote teams?
The physical workspace has shaped the way we communicate and collaborate for a long time. However, the same rules don’t apply to remote teams. It’s imperative to adjust to the new way of working and implement processes that support both office and remote employees. We have outlined three things that companies who want to become remote-ready and sustain this remote culture can’t afford to overlook.
Proactive communication is essential for every team. But for teams working from a distance, success is actually dependent on managers being intentional about establishing a clearly defined and actionable communication strategy.
Asynchronous communication, in other words, all communication that doesn’t happen in real-time, enables everyone to work and communicate with higher agility. It eliminates the pressure to always be “on” and is a great way to respect your team member’s time and focus. Thus, although slower, asynchronous communication tends to be of higher quality. Gonçalo Silva, Doist CTO, believes that:
“Most things can be done better asynchronously – the extra time to let things sink in, to think, to reflect, and craft an appropriate response, really pays off.”
While asynchronous communication truly is beneficial, encouraging focus and higher productivity, synchronous communication still has an important role. For example, establishing, improving and maintaining company culture would most likely be impossible without any direct communication.
Other situations where synchronous communication becomes relevant and should be a preferred means of communication include emergencies, 1-on-1 meetings, and brainstorming sessions.
Lack of transparency may easily bring down any team’s motivation. And for remote teams who are working from different places and often at different times, transparency becomes the key.
Because without access to all the data, people may not be able to develop a broader vision of the project in hand and see the value their work brings to it. Thus, instead of keeping your employees on a “need-to-know” basis, your whole team should be aware of the goals, progress, and strategy to maintain a sense of working as a team.
Transparency also goes both ways. And each team member, although working remotely, should be able to report on their work output. This makes them accountable for their work and should boost productivity.
Fortunately, this kind of communication and transparency is what technology and web have made much easier.
Everything about your business, one click away
Without a physical space that brings everyone together, technology becomes your workspace. And to thrive with remote teams, you need to have the right digital infrastructure. Which means ensuring the digital tools you’re using are suitable for both work environments.
Unfortunately, there are still many companies who don’t leverage the tools designed to improve the team’s efficiency. Zogby Analytics study found that 41% of remote teams are left to coordinate via text, Skype and Facebook messenger, instead of being given mobile platforms specifically designed for remote project management and communication.
Companies need to be more critical about the number of tools they implement. Because every additional tool increases the risk of information being scattered around. But everyone should have access to the same information. It’s the only way to avoid the potential back-and-forth that quickly lowers efficiency when people are distributed across places.
Thus, map out your business needs and find the best solution. And just remember that sometimes less is more. The benefit of using a single source of truth is that everyone is monitoring the same timelines and working toward the same goals, enabling collaboration.
Next to a strong communication strategy and the right tools, it’s essential that managers also establish an environment of collaboration. However, there is a difference between healthy cooperation and micromanagement. And we couldn’t agree more with what Brenna Loury, Doist Head of Marketing, has said:
“The expectation that remote workers be constantly available during work hours negates one of the greatest benefits of remote work: The ability to disconnect to focus on actually getting things done”.
Thus, remote working companies should focus more on what their team is producing, not when they are producing it. Which means extended trust to everyone in the company.
Although it’s difficult to trust your employees when you can’t see what they are doing, it has become paramount. Because employees are no longer interested in working for companies that don’t give them the level of trust and motivation they want. As highlighted in the Harvard Business Review, employees who are less trusted by their managers are less productive and more likely to leave. Thus, as a business find a way to establish an environment of trust from the beginning. And make sure that trust goes both ways.
It’s difficult to understand how your team is doing when you don’t see each other every day. It’s equally challenging for the remote employees – they have no immediate indication of whether their work contributes to the success of your team.
Therefore, establishing two-way honest and regular feedback is crucial. And regardless of how you decide to do it, the key is to provide continuous feedback rather than holding off until your annual yearly reviews. This way, people can immediately take action, instead of defending themselves about the decisions they made a long time ago.
And although giving feedback can be challenging, it comes with many great benefits. Among other things, it’s said to lower turnover rates and lead to more engaged employees and higher motivational levels.
Clear objectives and goals
Although every employee working from distance can decide when and where they want to work, they are still part of a larger team. Thus, to assure that your team stays on track and works in collaboration, it’s important to communicate expectations upfront.
One easy way to help your team envision and achieve success is by setting clear goals and objectives and establishing realistic timelines. Further, aligning these objectives and goals to the company’s vision helps to avoid miscommunications and ultimately enables everyone to work independently with greater confidence.
Remote working has gained a lot of popularity over the years. But no company expected this to become the only option with next to zero warning. In reality, if it wouldn’t have been for the virus, it might have been something else. But we shouldn’t dwell on the past. What’s important is how we choose to move forward. Hopefully, it was a wake-up call and a push for a lot of companies to invest their time in becoming remote-ready.