Best practices are professional procedures that are “prescribed” as being most effective, however remote work is reimagining these procedures in its own flexible way. Research shows that 70% of professionals work remotely at least once a week, while 53% work remotely for at least half of the week. Remote work is growing in popularity, and many companies such as Automattic, Buffer, and GitLab are going completely remote. These companies succeeded with a set of guidelines, and some of these guidelines and best practices in managing a remote workplace are discussed below.
HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
The hiring process should be designed with remote candidates in mind. The skills that candidates have should be consistent because they will need to be able to solve problems independently. The worker should have an affinity to work in a remote environment, and workers that usually fit this role include workers who have had experience freelancing or those who had worked in a distributed environment.
Hiring someone who will work independently is extremely important. As the CEO of Zapier rightly puts it, “Hire trustworthy people and trust them to do their work”. Another CEO and co-founder, Jeff Robins, used to look for talented workers who were self-motivated and are also great communicators. He states that self-motivation is key as micromanagement is next to impossible in a remote work environment.
Finding people that share values is important, especially in a remote environment. When teams share values, workers will be on the same page most of the time and there will be fewer missteps.
FOCUS ON NEW WORKER ONBOARDING
The first few weeks of a new hire should be spent on onboarding activities, such as teaching them new and important skills, letting them learn the tools that the company uses, conveying goals of the company to them, etc. Assigning mentors to new highers is also a good thing, as it not only makes new employees feel welcome, but it helps them acclimate more quickly.
During the onboarding process, remote workers must be taught how to optimize their time more effectively. New workers should not only be trained in professional skills, but they should be trained in interpersonal skills as well. This will prevent the build-up of a toxic work environment down the road.
HAVE REGULAR MEETINGS
Agreeing on feedback points and times with workers instead of popping in unannounced makes the workplace a bit less distracting, and will also encourage a calmer and creative workflow. A single source should be used to document procedures, how-to’s, workflows, and onboarding that everyone can have access to. Regular company-wide meetings are important as well. One example of a company that does this is Verificient, which has a weekly hangout where they do quick talks, interviews, and demos.
Q&A sessions should be held between executive leadership and remote workers at least occasionally. These sessions help workers know what is going on and let them know that they are being listened to. Sqwiggle’s co-founder Eric Bellier states that every Monday they have meetings to discuss the week ahead. They have meetings on Friday too, but it’s mostly to slack off and have fun as a team-building exercise.
USE THE RIGHT TOOLS
Even though remote workers are usually far away from each other, there are tools which bring each worker closer together and enables them to work with each other as if they were physically in each other’s presence. Some popular tools include Slack, Trello, GitHub, Zoom, and Google Docs. One of the most helpful technologies to have in a remote work setting is video conferencing. This technology helps workers see and speak with each other in real-time like they would if they met face-to-face. Video and live calls should always be used as much as possible. Each manager must be available to talk when working and they must be responsive to their respective teams.
Other types of tools that are important in a remote work environment include chat and collaboration tools, video calling, screen sharing, project management system, automated onboarding software, HR software with employee self-service, and recognition and reward system tools. However, to keep the workflow smooth, companies should implement a remote monitoring solution like RemoteDesk to make sure that employees are spending their work hours efficiently.
FOSTER PERSONAL CONNECTIONS
One way to foster personal connections is through team collaboration. Plans and goals of a project should be shared with team members individually and in a group. This helps team members know that they are part of something and helps them feel needed.
The manager should try hard to prevent a clan culture from appearing. Clan culture begins when teams or groups start to blame each other for missteps and failures which creates a stressful work environment. Buffer tackles this with pair calls, where each worker calls a randomly assigned person in the company each day to talk about the previous day, their personal lives, plans for the day, etc.
Workers should also be encouraged to over-communicate. Janet Choi, Chief Creative Officer of iDoneThis, states that the key to a great remote workplace is over-communication, which makes up for the physical and psychological distance between workers.
HOLD WORKERS ACCOUNTABLE
Workers must be trusted to do their work, but check-ins are important from time-to-time. There are tools that managers can use to track progress in projects, such as Trello, Confluence, and Slack. Workers should be empowered to make decisions on their own and be held accountable for each decision. A time and productivity tracking tool like RemoteDesk can help employees compare their performance with the whole team. A self inspiring work approach can cause workflows to speed up and many workers can go the extra mile for a project.
Giving workers jobs that they don’t usually do is good too. Verificient, for instance, has all of its employees enrolled in soft training courses. Performance on these jobs should be held to the same standard as their main jobs.
HAVE OCCASIONAL FACE-TO-FACE MEETINGS
Face-to-face meetings involve the company getting together for professional reasons or leisure. These kinds of meeting opportunities should be encouraged. Many remote companies have at least one get-together a year.
Automattic, for instance, has 700 employees in about 62 countries. Once a year, the company brings their employees from all over the world together for a Grand Meetup. They also hold several smaller meetups for teams during the year. Face-to-face time is just as important in a remote setting as it is in a physical work setting. Work retreats that bring workers together at least once a year increases the morale of the whole company.