How to Transition to a Fully Remote Team

It’s been a few months since the novel coronavirus pandemic took charge of the human race, impacting almost everything from our purchase priorities as consumers to how we work.

Speaking about the latter, the state of crisis coerced a global work-from-home experiment that has since altered some long-held misconceptions about remote work.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the sole impetus behind remote work propelling to the forefront. Recent numbers suggest that the amount of people who work remotely at least once per week has grown by 400% since 2010. What’s more, 42% of employees with a remote work option plan to work remotely more often in the next five years.

In this post, let’s uncover the why behind these numbers about remote work, with some essential tips to implement and tools to leverage during this transition from an in-office to a remote working company.

The Rise and Benefits of Remote Work

Whether you operate as a brick-and-mortar store or an online business, remote work can be beneficial for your team. Judging by the four core benefits of remote work outlined below, it really comes as no surprise that remote is all the rage today, with or without the pandemic.

Employees Enjoy the Flexibility

With the ability to schedule their workday as they desire (given they complete their tasks on time and are there when their team needs them), remote workers have a more flexible lifestyle.  They gain more time and headspace to spend with family and loved ones, take care of their physical and mental fitness, learn new skills, pursue their hobbies (such as writing eBooks or building mobile apps), etc.

Even daily chores such as picking up the kids from school or grabbing groceries become easier to manage. In turn, employers enjoy the added benefit of getting a higher quality of work from employees who are happy working on their own terms — a win-win.

With all this added flexibility, remote workers consistently report higher job satisfaction levels and loyalty than on-site workers. 74% of respondents in a 2019 Owl Labs survey say that a remote work option would make them less likely to leave their employer.

Improves Productivity

In essence, working from home (or a location of choice) leads to lower stress levels, fewer distractions and office politics, a more agreeable work environment, and more efficient (to the point) video meetings.

In a CoSo Cloud survey, 77% of remote employees report they’re more productive when working remotely, and 52% of them are less likely to take time off. Moreover, Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report suggests that remote workers can be 25% more productive than their onsite colleagues.

Simply put, customizing your workplace to your preferences can enormously boost your productivity and creativity levels. For the company, a more productive team means more and better quality work gets done in a lesser amount of time.

Simply put, customizing your workplace to your preferences can enormously boost your productivity and creativity levels. For the company, a more productive team means more and better quality work gets done in a lesser amount of time, leading to more sales.

Reduces Costs

Working remotely means no daily commute, which, in turn, results in sizable savings of time and money for remote teams.

The time saved not being stuck in traffic and dodging/partaking in office politics can be used to start the workday early and get more stuff done. Furthermore, zero commute means no need to shell out hard-earned dollars to fill up the gas tank every other week and maintain your ride.

Also, as a remote team employer, you further cut costs and increase profitability because there’s no need to rent or purchase office real estate and tackle all the associated overhead expenses.

Source: Buffer

Brings in a More Diverse Talent Pool

Remote work allows you to gain access to the best talent and not be bound by physical borders. Today, interviewing and hiring remotely for roles like software development, content writing, and online marketing is commonplace, and you can build a high-performing, fully remote team that welcomes diversity.

For employees with the right skills and experience, the opportunities to land a dream job — one that allows more flexibility in terms of working hours and pays in accord with the international standards — are almost endless.

With the right communication and collaboration tools (discussed later), coupled with mutual trust and commitment, remote work indeed is a win-win scenario for both employers and employees.

How to Transition to Remote Smoothly

With the four benefits of going remote having practically spoken for themselves, it’s time to take a look at four steps you must take to succeed at your transition to a fully remote team.

Build Communication Guidelines

Your company’s remote success largely depends on your ability to facilitate open and timely communication amongst your team. Effective communication is pivotal to keeping your remote team engaged and connected.

Of course, it’s not reasonable to expect all team members to be available 24/7, nor expect them to respond to every email within a couple of hours.

So, you need to create some guidelines for communication, including things like the standard time slot(s) of the day when employees are expected to be available for a team discussion, how long they have to respond to essential communications, the tools to be used, etc.

Let your team know they can reach out to you or each other for anything. Encourage team members to share constructive feedback without hesitation and be open about anything that’s hampering their work efficiency.

Also, allowing a more informal approach to team communication, with memes and GIFs, usually leads to better transparency and team unity. So, address the permissible tone of communication in your guidelines too.

Provide a Clear Budget for Remote Members

You won’t hire an in-office employee and then not provide them with a desk and computer. Likewise, while you can, you should not skimp out on providing remote employees with the tools and setup they need to work efficiently.

Most remote workers pay for their internet connection and devices, and employers typically pay for the software and cloud-based tools used. Still, you can stand out as an employer who truly cares by creating a budget for employees so they can set up remote offices with the equipment they need, such as ergonomic chairs and high-speed internet.

In fact, under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are required to ensure employees are working in a safe and healthy environment, even if it’s their home Employers are also required to reimburse their remote team for all their direct work-related expenses, including the workstations they build for themselves at home.

So, it’s a good idea to check for laws in your state regarding and accordingly provide a stipend to your remote employees to cover the costs they incur in setting up a remote workspace.

Create a Remote Work Policy

Apart from establishing communication guidelines, it’s a good idea to have some ground rules laid out for your remote team covering other areas. This way, you’ll thwart possibilities of misunderstandings and discord between you and your team.

So, invest some time to draft a basic remote work policy that addresses the essentials like:

  • Cybersecurity best practices include using VPN and two-factor authentication, guidelines to avoid email phishing, details regarding human resources, etc.
  • The level of flexibility allowed in working hours and whether you’ll be using a time tracking software.
  • Client confidentiality and business information security.
  • How you’ll track output and quality of work expected.
  • Specifics about employee training, evaluation, and recognition.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of things you need to address in your policy, and as every company culture is unique, you’ll have to think of other important questions that can be answered in your policy, which will ultimately help keep everyone on the same page (more often than not).

Manage Expectations and Build Accountability

A synergistic remote team is one in which every member knows exactly what their role is and how they contribute to the big picture. Thus, it’s vital to once again communicate expectations and responsibilities to your new remote team, so they don’t stray off course.

The Telegraph recommends, “You need to have very clear contractual models in place for remote working. These can be based on time, outputs, engagement, results — but ensure everyone knows what the deal is.”

Apart from communicating your remote work policy, communication guidelines, and work-related expectations from your remote team, you need to manage your expectations when going remote for the first time.

That is, don’t expect all your employees to be at the top of their game right from the start. Some team members may need a few weeks to adapt to the new work settings fully.

At the same time, build a sense of self-accountability in your team. Let them know that you trust them to get the job done and that you value the team’s output instead of fixating on the daily working hours.

In other words, cultivate a remote work culture founded on trust, favoring flexible working hours with more work-life balance. It shows that you care about your team, not just the business profits they bring in.

Source: AmTrust Financial

A Couple of Mistakes to Avoid

Knowing how to transition to remote is important, and equally important is knowing how to avoid some of the common mistakes employers make when transitioning to remote work.

Overlooking the Importance of Virtual Team Building Activities

There’s more to a successful remote team than work — the working experience and culture are equally crucial. Creating a fun remote working culture with an emphasis on team unity is vital not just for improving everyday productivity, but for the long-run growth of your company.

For that, you cannot disregard the value of hosting fun, virtual team building activities that bring everyone together for reasons besides work.

As such, developing a sense of camaraderie and bonding in a fully distributed team can be a tall order. But if you want your remote team to work synergistically, they must continue to stay connected even when they’re hundreds to thousands of miles apart.

Frequently hosting virtual team building activities is a tried-and-true way to strengthen the solidarity in your remote team. These activities could range from virtual happy hours and competitive online gaming (such as a first-person, racing, or role-playing game) to fun quizzes and dumb charades.

Long story short, bringing your team together on a video call (say, on the last Friday evening of every month) for such team-building activities is a great way to keep everyone engaged and create a positive remote working experience.

Not Providing Frequent Employee Recognition

Just because your remote team is out of sight doesn’t mean their efforts should be out of mind. In a recent report by Achievers, “lack of recognition” was the third most common reason employees chose to leave their employer, and 82% of employees wish they received more recognition for their work.

To keep every team member engaged, productive, and motivated to continually give their best, see to it that their contributions don’t go unrecognized. There are various ways to show gratitude to your employees, so they know they’re a valued member of the team.

For example, did an employee complete a killer social media campaign create a beautiful landing page that’s already bringing in a ton of sign-ups? Then take the time to write them a personalized message to show your heartfelt appreciation for their efforts.

Source: The Balance Careers

Another great way to provide recognition while also supporting local businesses during these crises is to send gift cards with a personal “thank you” note that your employees can redeem once they feel it’s safe to venture out again.

As such, many employees prefer to be recognized for their work with personalized gift cards instead of a plain cash bonus, as it renders a personal touch from the employer. To show your appreciation, you can also get a tasty yet healthy meal delivered to your team, and they’ll be glad to have one less meal to cook, with some stress off their plates.

Also, when shared publicly (such as on a company-wide email), recognition drives motivation further for everyone on your remote team, leading to more of the same desirable behavior and work ethic in the future from other team members as well.

Thus, don’t make the mistake of forgetting employee recognition when transitioning to remote work. If anything, it’s now more important than ever before.

Tools to Make the Transition Easier

Once you’ve decided on your communication guidelines, remote work policy, and expectations, it’s time to decide on a toolkit for your remote team so they can work together efficiently, save hours of back-and-forth on email, and avoid tons of frustration.

There are countless tools available today that are specifically designed for remote working success. Here are a few handpicked tool recommendations to facilitate instant communication, seamless team collaboration, and secure cloud storage of your files.

Communication Tools

You can always rely on the good ol’ email, but you’ll likely agree that email isn’t ideal for quick two-way communication and is really rather drab.

And when your team is communicating over a digital medium instead of in-person, it’s crucial to have a tool that fits the remote work culture you wish to cultivate — one that’s flexible and informal, focused on timely and high-quality output, and better work-life balance.

For that, consider using a tool that has a fun vibe while being feature-rich and cost-effective — like Slack or Flock. These are channel-based instant messaging platforms with video and voice calling, file and screen sharing, and integrations with countless useful apps.

Collaboration Tools

Likewise, for remote project management and task collaboration, consider using tools like Asana or Trello. These are excellent for prioritizing, assigning, and tracking tasks in the form of kanban boards.

Source: Trello

With these tools, managing projects and maintaining accountability across your remote team becomes straightforward.

Cloud Storage Tools

Many files may be too large or too sensitive to be shared via email. Centralized cloud storage tools like Google Drive or Dropbox offer secure and convenient access to important documents and files, so team members have what they need at any moment and from any location.

A notable benefit of using a cloud storage platform is synchronization. Files can be updated and collaboratively edited in real-time, with easy accessibility controls so that you can limit viewing/editing/sharing access to particular team members or clients.

Also, ensure not to have too many different tools as it can make you more susceptible to cybersecurity risks and even create confusion for the team. Pick a few tools and stick with them.

Go Remote or Go Home

Puns apart, no one knows how long the current state of crisis will last, and even when it does subside, remote work would continue to remain preferable (98% of people would prefer working remotely, at least part-time, for the rest of their careers) and even non-negotiable for many people.

And so, embracing the already growing trend of remote work (that’s being furthered by the pandemic) with open arms, by keeping in mind the best practices and mistakes to avoid, along with the tools needed to succeed, is your best bet to create an engaged, motivated, and high-performing remote team that continues to thrive.

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