There are numerous colors to working remotely, from intermittent work-from-home-Fridays to completely integrated distant offices. Research company Gallup surveyed 15,000 American workers in 2016 and found that 43% of these had spent some time working remotely. In 2018, remote working is predicted to explode even more. However, this is not a new trend. A cartload of mixed data has been written about remote functioning, from pro-remote businesses such as Zapier, Buffer, and Basecamp to less enthusiastic businesses such as Yahoo, IBM, and Bank of America. They all have their reasons.
Pos and cons of remote working
- Hire talent from around the world (bigger hiring pool)
- Fewer distractions, higher productivity
- No office, less overhead
- No commute time
- Harder to communicate
- Weaker ties among workers
- Employees struggle with work-life balance
But whether your company should hire distant workers or not is just another conversation and falls beyond the scope of this article. But, I do want to assist the executive who is in the center of thinking through whether he or she would like to hire a distant team or open another office.
As you most likely already know, this endeavor comes with a ton of challenges. How can a distant company keep a healthy company culture? How do you balance responsibility and autonomy? How do you make up for the lost advantages of face-to-face interaction?
To answer the following questions and much more, I sought a CEO of some remote company known for its leading business culture and best practices. His company employs 114 individuals, more than half of whom are distant. Around 35 work in its SF Bay Area headquarters, even smaller clusters are in Manhattan, Ottawa, UK, and many more work from house, a lovely drop-in spot, or even a beach.
Below, he shares his top 8 tips to successfully handling a distant company with assurance.
1. Start Your Monday mornings using an 8:00 a.m. organization-wide Weekly Impact Meeting (WIM)
Each group communicates across the business what's occurring in their domain name--this week-- that will directly impact others. The WIM isn't a status meeting. We are not interested in hearing what you/your department is performing this week, just what you are doing that is going to have direct effect on other people, (a kind of business "heads-up"). We are very apparent that it is completely OK to report No Impact This Week. The assembly virtually never goes longer than 20- 25 seconds. Additionally, if it will help: The initial slides are Customer Voice, NPS, and merchandise performance metrics representing how we're doing against our objectives.
2. Maintain workplace culture with the help of a weekly leadership vlog
Three of my five execs are in SF, one is in NYC and the other in the United Kingdom. Last year I gave each exec a selfie stick and asked them to record --unscripted--a brief recap of the week each Thursday. These logs are stitched together, edited with memes, subtitles, direct ins/outs, and uploaded to our restricted channel on YouTube. They have become super popular: greater than 70% of our employees watch. It is a terrific way to convey the raw weekly pulse of this company, and on occasion a tool to even deliver our board of supervisors.
3. Gather all employees together once a year offline
A week will be best, but even a couple of days and nights in a remote cottage, campus, or ranch will strengthen the group. These Annual Gatherings have been enormously effective and to-date well worth the preparation and cost related to pulling off the event.
4. Renew the “why” regularly
Recently, a fantastic engineer left the company. Among the very enlightening comments from his departure interview was that our devs were frustrated with a lack of context for the job they are doing, and being distant compounded the sense of disconnection from the " why." Our monthly, 45- minute all-hands video conference plans to bridge the context gaps for the whole team.
5. 24/7 video conferencing
Every one of our seminar rooms is a dedicated "Zoom Room" with mounted large TV, high-end controllable camera, marvel conference mic. It is calendared for easy bookings and nearly always in use. Lately we spun up a real-time video link between our NYC and SF offices, so we will always see our co-workers throughout the nation... time will tell whether we keep the mics on.
6. Use the same tools
Have a consented manner, conveyed by means of a common platform(s), which everyone uses to achieve center tasks. We use Slack and Google G-Suite extensively for regular comms and shared job; Greenhouse for recruitment and integrating brand new hires; 15Five for setting goals, managing 1-1's, and monitoring performance; and Jira for project management.
7. Do not discourage subcultures, cultivate them
As long as the core values of this business are clearly and regularly articulated, and leaders equally extol and display those values, then sub-cultural expressions are all healthy -- creating loyalty, comfort, along with a deeper feeling of ownership.
8. Remote teams naturally require more explanation
A remote organization suffers most from uncertain objectives and the lack of the spontaneous connections which help explain a murky reason. So we have to try harder to frequently refine and convey our leadership, priorities, and expected outcomes. Sometimes, I've had to gather everyone to defend a decision and clarify a shift in priorities -- although not ideal, even the attempt to explain reasoning provides sufficient context (along with a forum for interaction) that nearly always enhances the perspective and garners support.
Try out these suggestions next time you are establishing your remote team.