Disclaimer: Our own company Engagepulse has a remote team spanning 4 countries and counting. As employees, we have led remote teams for other companies in over 9 countries.
Our advice to organizations building remote teams
- If you have recently started offering remote work options, don’t expect your employees to fit into the framework automatically and instantly. The set of behaviors required to make remote work effective needs to be modeled, and this takes time - depending on your company size, culture, and also geopolitical considerations.
- First-time remote workers will get zoned out/distracted/detached in the short run- be prepared to accept this and act on it.
- Yes, you will need to recalibrate your priorities and timelines to accommodate a remote working model.
- Have a living document that captures the rules of engagement for a remote team is indispensable. Keep the doc updated: gather feedback, check for effectiveness, tweak and evolve.
- For employees who get into the groove, a remote job is very sticky and most of them will work hard to keep it and will be long term employees.
- Yes, people can be more productive provided you hire the right bunch (we will do a separate post on the qualities to look out for), and have a good work framework in place.
- You cannot ghost the relationship forever, you will have to invest in regular get-togethers and outings so that the team feels connected.
- A culture of autonomy without micromanagement usually is the best candidate for remote work. If you don't have a similar culture already you may struggle.
- A remote team will demand constant leadership connect to keep them aligned and engaged. If your leaders are introverts and do not enjoy talking to employees or meeting them once in a while, it will be tough to keep it all together for long.
- Be ready to embrace a bit of entrepreneurship (in fact, in our experience, entrepreneurs make for the best remote workers). Google engineers, for example, are allowed to work 20% of their time on their independent projects. If you look on the bright side, your employees will be upskilling themselves, making them more efficient at work. If you take a step ahead and give budding entrepreneurs wings, you will have smart applicants flocking to you and helping you build innovative products. There is enough evidence on the internet about companies that are effectively doing this.
- Make your remote workers feel that you are helping them build their "own brand", and they will go that extra mile for you. Invest in a framework that helps them showcase their talent and achievements to co-workers and the outside world. For eg. If you have remote devs, help and encourage them to post in dev communities, contribute to open source, etc.
- You might find it more difficult to run certain functions in a remote model. We struggled with our dev team till the time we got a strong leader to keep things together.
- Your hiring process should be tuned to attract and onboard people who can work autonomously (or have a history of working autonomously).
- You might need to albeit grudgingly, accommodate a bit of slack in the first few days when people will grapple with this newfound freedom and take random breaks from work. The best way to counter this early is to have a strong calendar adherence policy and an OKR (Objectives & Key Results) model in place.
- Your job does not end with writing the rules of engagement at work. You will need to constantly communicate-seek feedback-assess-realign-repeat.
- If you have been relying on a lot of manual or offline work, you will now have to look for technology that can help automate tasks and help your team collaborate online.
- If possible, make it a point to physically meet people when they are being hired or at least once a year.
- Effective communication is the key to success. Have regular sessions where employees talk about their ideas or any other topic to draw out passives early. A remote model cannot afford to have people who want to hide and every team member has to be visible.
- Your applicant volume is bound to go up and your screening process will have to be tweaked accordingly. Don't be surprised if people are willing to work for you even on a lower salary in return for the freedom and flexibility the role brings. In fact, now the world is your oyster and you can hire talent from anywhere!
- While you are saving on real estate space, you will have to invest in strong internet connectivity and video conferencing tools/hardware. Don't avoid human interactions at any cost. Face-time on video calls is indispensable and everyone should be able to see and hear each other. Events, when you will want everyone to see and hear each other, are: new hire introduction, a promotion, companywide announcements, companywide goal-setting exercises, etc.
- You might end up making some wrong hires and you will need a system to be able to identify them fast without being biased. A solid ramp plan, a well-defined probation period and an OKR (Objectives & Key Results) model will be needed to make data-backed decisions.
At Engagepulse we started with a remote team ourselves and our platform is designed to fulfill the needs of an organization scaling a remote team of its own. Drop us a note to learn more!