How to Transition Your Onsite Company to Remote Working

Cubicles in the office

Remote work, or telecommuting, has been the fastest-growing sector for some time now, driven to a large part by the arrival of first Millennials and then Gen Z into the workforce. It isn’t just the youngsters that have been asking for increased flexibility, though. Surveys carried out by Global Workplace Analytics show upwards of 80% of staff want to be able to work from home, at least part-time. As a result of this (with the added incentive of Covid-19), many companies are making the remote work transition.

Whether you’re transitioning to working from home in response to the current pandemic, or you’re looking to make it a longer-term prospect, you can learn from the companies who have done this before you. As a remote recruitment agency, we’ve gained a lot of knowledge helping companies to do just that. So here are some tips on making the transition to remote flexibility.

How to Transition Your Team to Working from Home

Remote work isn’t all or nothing. In fact, there are three types of companies when it comes to working remotely:

  • Office-based teams. Everyone works in an office, but you may use remote work tools to connect with customers or team members in another location.
  • Hybrid teams. Some people work in the office, while others work at home.
  • Remote Companies. All staff is working from their separate locations.

If you’re starting off as an office-based team, your first step is to check how remote ready you really are – you might be surprised with how close to the transition you already are. Companies transition to remote work will need:

A Remote Work Policy

One of the key aspects of remote work is good communication, and that starts by making it clear exactly what you expect from your remote employee. Will they be keeping head-office hours, or do they just need to overlap at the beginning or end of the day for meetings? Can they work when they want to, or are you wanting them to do set working hours? How are you going to measure performance? What communication channels are you going to use? Are you going to give a stipend to purchase stationery or office furniture?

In addition to those factors, you may also want to consider the use of social media, confidentiality, the security of data, and a dress code for video calls or meetings. There are remote work policy templates that can give you a useful starting point.

Remote Work Tools

The rise of cloud-based and SaaS solutions means that much of the technology that we use for work is already remote-ready. Here’s our list of tool-types that you might want to consider to keep your remote team ticking over.

  • Voice and Video Conferencing
    Great communication is important to all types of business, but it’s the life-blood of remote working. When you’re sharing an office, you pick up so much information about your colleague’s state of mind and progress without even thinking about it. When you work remotely, you need to take time to stay in touch. Zoom and GoTo Meeting are popular choices for video conferencing, but others are available.
  • Asynchronous Chat Tools
    Not everything needs to be done face to face, sometimes it’s better to just send a quick chat message using something like Slack or the Ping feature on Basecamp. This gives your remote worker the option to answer that message at a convenient point, so they can stay ‘in the zone’ for longer.
  • Task Management
    If you’re already using one of the popular task management tools like Basecamp, Asana, Trello, or Monday. Com then you’re already remote ready. These tools can be accessed from anywhere, using computers or mobile devices. If you’re still on a pen and paper system, now’s the time to move to something a little more modern.
  • Collaboration
    One criticism of remote work is that it makes collaboration more difficult – but that’s no longer true. There is now a whole raft of tools that can help you collaborate with your colleagues, no matter where in the world they are. You can now use screen-sharing for training or demonstrations, give presentations via a webinar, have the team gather around a virtual whiteboard, or add notations to documents.
  • Version Control
    Software developers are familiar with the need for a good version control tool; making sure that your remote team isn’t over-writing each other’s changes is going to save a lot of headaches. Github is perhaps the best-known name in version control, but it’s not the only one.
    It isn’t just your code that needs to be kept straight. If you’re working collaboratively on documents, graphics, marketing and pretty much anything else, you’ll want to keep your drafts in order. Tools like PleaseReview and SamePage will help to keep everything in order.

Sharon Koifman, DistantJob’s President, shares his insights and experiences regarding remote working tools:

Communication

In case we hadn’t already stressed it enough; communication is ‘make or break’ for remote working. Not because remote workers are like ants, and if they don’t have a trail to follow, they’ll be lost – quite the opposite. Remote workers tend to be self-starters and great problem solvers. If they lose touch with the rest of the colony, they’re apt to do their own thing. That might be great, or you might end up with a lone wolf situation.

The flipside of that is over-communication. You don’t want to be interrupting your team when they’re happily getting on with their job. At worst, you’re making them feel like you don’t trust them to do their jobs, and at best you’re stopping them from being as productive as they could be.

We find it’s best to have a clear communication policy that outlines which methods of communication should be used and when. You don’t want something urgent to get lost in the spam of the #watercooler Slack channel, or your email to be inundated with jokes. Decide how things should be communicated, and work with your team to come up with a frequency of keeping in touch that works for everyone.

One other thing to keep in mind with communication is that when most of it happens via text you don’t have the body language to give you context. Misunderstandings can happen, as tone of voice and twinkle-in-the-eye don’t come over well in text. Instill a culture of pausing to re-read before you hit send, and using Hanlon’s Razor to make sure people don’t take offense where there is none.

Always From Home?

The truth is that a good worker is a good worker, whether they are working from home, poolside in Bali, or at their desk. However remote work can be isolating, and that means that it isn’t for everyone on a long-term basis. That doesn’t mean that they can’t work remotely, however. It might be that spending some time each week working from a library or coffee shop is enough socialization to keep your remote worker happy. Alternatively, co-working spaces are available in most locations, either full-time or on an ad-hoc basis.

The Right Hire

If you’re looking to add more remote workers to your team, and you’re in the market for a developer or other technical talent, then we can help! We’re a boutique recruitment agency that specializes in remote technical recruitment and we can find you the right candidate in under two weeks. Sounds good? Get in touch today to find out more.

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Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon is a remote work advocate and thought leader and a specialist in persuasive writing. She has an MA in Creative Fiction, is a children's author, and a writer of award-winning short stories.