As shown by research done by Citrix on a worldwide level, in 2020 90% of organisations will offer their employees some kind of option for working remotely, significantly reducing their office’s physical spaces.
Also, reality tells us that this tendency has been pushed mainly by employees. They are the ones looking to improve the balance between work and life (greater flexibility in their schedules, no need to relocate, and less interruptions).
But at the same time, it is interesting that this also benefits the company, lowering their costs in rent, maintenance, cleaning, among other things.
To this can be added the interesting competitive advantage of being able to hire new talent that before was limited to a specific geographical area where the company has offices.
Six years ago, we decided to close our office and begin working exclusively remotely. Without a doubt, it was the correct decision and we continue to work this way because for us, there is no better office than not to have one.
Although I have mentioned a few sources regarding this global tendency and there are advantages to be gained for both parties using this method, it is even more interesting going from theory to practice.
This is what I aim to share with you in the following, taking from 4 lessons that we learned over the past years (successes and failures) so that you too can successfully start and implement this in your company today.
1. Replace personal interactions with digital tools.
The first challenge that you must solve is in being able to go from the offline world of the office to a new context of being online where independently each one of your employees in the world (United States, Europe, Asia, Latin America, etc.) can be included, where everyone must be on the same page.
For this you should invest the time it takes in order to choose the best existing applications that adapt with precision to your company. They are the tools that at the end of the day will allow you to organise yourself with efficiency and be more productive than your competition.
In order to solve this, after several rounds of trial and error with different tools with our team of 34 people, we in the end chose Basecamp, which we continue working comfortably with today.
It is there where we organise all of our projects and goals for the coming 6 months. Through this tool, you can see what each member of your team is working on and verify that they are advancing as they should, according to that which was planned.
On the other hand, for day to day communication we use Slack. This allows us to have spontaneous team interaction.
Finally, for documents and organisational procedures, we have everything stored and up-to-date and accessible online via Google Docs.
Something we implemented just a few months ago, which has struck our attention greatly with excellent results is to assign each new employee a “buddy” within the organisation (this “buddy” should have over 1 year of experience in your company in order to fulfill this role correctly).
In this way, when the new member has a specific doubt or even if they are feeling lonely/lost by working without a physical context like an office, they will always have an assigned “buddy” available to them. This is very useful especially in the first months, after that everything goes on without any major hiccups.
Note: Currently we have made the decision to eliminate meetings with the goal of achieving greater productivity which is a direct result from drastically reducing interruptions. However, if you need to have meetings with your team members, we used to use GoToMeeting and it was very useful.
2. Nothing can replace knowing someone personally.
As the days, weeks, months, and years go by, you will come to understand that even with the best technology, nothing will ever exist that can replace knowing someone personally (face-to-face), where personal experiences are shared with your work mates.
For this very reason, in our company we implemented a policy to have 2 retreats per year. It is on these occasions where we take advantage and define the most important points for the coming 6 months:
- General goals for the company.
- Specific goals for each employee and their responsibilities.
Although these 2 points are key for planning over the short and medium term, being able to interact with your team with activities outside of work is just as important.
From board game tournaments to outside activities, over time you will see how this helps to create tighter bonds between the team members as well as in defining the culture of your organisation.
Another factor to highlight is the possibility of coordinating these retreats so that your team can become more familiar with your clients in distinct places of the world.
For example, if the majority of your employees are in the United States but a great percentage of your clients are in Europe, then a great idea for a place to take a retreat would be Barcelona, Rome, or some other big city so that you can take advantage and interact together with clients, seeking to better understand their needs, worries, new challenges, suggestions, etc.
If you want to learn how to successfully plan a retreat, I recommend reading this note by Buffer where they share their experience.
3. How to hire new employees.
When it is time to hire, it will not be like it was before, with a face-to-face interview with the applicant.
Working remotely, the interviews will be over Skype, but unfortunately there will be no added value to this interaction other than the back and forth of questions asked by both you and the candidate.
So, how do you successfully hire someone remotely? In the first place, I suggest looking for candidates that are recommended by your own current team members. Once you have expired all of those options, an excellent source of candidates is WeWorkRemotely, which provides good results for us.
Now, once you have a potential candidate, the most important thing is that you are able to verify that they are a person who generates results and is capable of doing a task proactively, on their own. For this, the best option is to assign them a project directly.
First, we begin by giving them access to our tools such as Basecamp and Slack, which we use to assign them a project lasting about 1 month and then we evaluate the final results.
It is important that you document the whole process. Not only in order for them to advance in the first month, but also another separate document in Google Docs which describes the process they should continue in the case that the candidate does pass the trial with success.
If you do not have defined procedures, every time you want to evaluate a candidate, it will be a huge waste of time for you and your team. Because the reality is that it is convenient for you to evaluate the most amount of applicants as possible so that you can keep the best ones.
Remember, the priority is hiring doers and not people that can only show they have various degrees. In working remotely, the goal is that they can be productive on their own.
Another suggestion is that they should be able to write clearly. Today, most communication happens on the internet in a written form, if they do not have this gift then it will definitely be a burden on how fast your team advances. If you cannot decide between 2 candidates, always choose the one that writes the best.
As a point of reference, we have learned a lot from the company Zapier, who share in this article their process for hiring employees who will work remotely in great detail.
4. How to evaluate your employees.
As we have discussed in the previous point, the best way to assess someone who works remotely for your company is not by focusing on input (quantity of hours worked, nor because they are at the computer all day with Excel sheets out in front of them), but on output.
As much so for your future employees as for your current ones, the measure of whether they are working well or poorly must always be based on their results.
The goal is based on the ability to define the correct methods with which you will be able to measure results. For example, the number of tickets answered by someone working in customer service, the number of commits that a programmer made on the code or the quantity of new clients (at an adequate acquisition cost) that the marketing director generates.
But more interestingly is the fact of being able to balance these measured results against comments made by their peers (not bosses!). That is, those that work with this person on a daily basis.
When you have an excellent work team, it is easy to recognise who is truly collaborating and who is lagging behind.
Assuredly, if you can measure the results of your employees and add to that the comments from their colleagues, you will have an excellent indicator for who is doing their job correctly and who is not.
Recommendation: something that we learned quickly is that in working without daily interactions (side by side in an office), it becomes all the more important to give constant feedback to your employees.
What they need to improve on as much so as recognising the things that they are doing correctly. If you can write them 2 or 3 lines of text per month providing them with feedback on how they are doing on their tasks, this would be ideal.
About the Author:
This content was redacted by the Co-Founder of eMT, Cristian Ángel Rennella. Entrepreneur in Latin America for more than 10 years. Currently angel investor for projects in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.
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