Coronavirus has brought the human race to its knees. Borders are shutting down, schools are shut in most of India, and even toilet papers are going off the shelves. However, one area where the pandemic is helping us look ahead, that’s remote work!
Many companies are forced to go remote due to the crisis and many are still reluctant to do so. Going remote for the first time? Having built and managed remote teams since 2014, I thought I’ll list down the first steps to help your team stay productive while working remotely:-
Defining the remote work intent
Why are you going remote? Is it a temporary arrangement and you want to go back to office work? Is it something you were planning but now the plan is on a fast track because of coronavirus? If it’s first, you would want to replicate the office environment in remote setup as much as you could. This article may not be useful for you. If going remote is your way forward, you are opening yourself up to great rewards!
Being clear about your remote intent is crucial. Unless you have a clarity about the same, it’s not worth spending time and locking resources to transform the way your company works.
Documenting remote work policies and procedures
Once you are sure remote is the way forward, it’s necessary to document policies to avoid confusion. The documentation should include best practices, communication policy, leave policy, processes, policies related to work hours, etc. The documentation should clearly list down the tools that you would be using to stay productive while working remotely. I use Slack/Trello/Zoom/Google Docs combo. Some of the pioneers in remote work have their own remote work guides:-
It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy At work by the makers of Basecamp is my favorite remote work focused book! Highly recommended!
Goal Setting and Performance Measurement
Remote work demands different measures of tracking performance and setting goals. Instead of micromanaging, managers need to be creative and give the power of goal setting in the hands of the team members. OKR is a great tool for remote teams. It pushes team members to set their own goals and be accountable for them. That way, there is little ambiguity left when you sit down (oops zoom!) for performance measurement at the end of the quarter. For day to day functioning, I recommend the Scrum approach to stay on track to achieve the objectives and key results set. Measure What Matters by John Doerr is all you need to help you with OKRs.
While communication is important in any setting, it takes a hot seat in remote-first companies. First, communicate with the clients about your decision to go remote. Once you have the documentation and performance management system ready, it will be easier to assure the clients that their work won’t suffer. Define project-wide and company-wide OKRs to meet (or exceed) client expectations.
Second, communicating the intent behind going remote and how the future looks like to your team members is essential. We take communication for granted in an office setting. To compensate for that, we tend to overdo meetings. To reduce ambiguity, create a simple but intuitive remote work guide specific to your company/team with links to all the documentation.
If you are going remote for the first time, it’s highly likely that your managers/team members are not ready for it. You need to do coaching on 2 fronts:-
- Coaching managers to manage remotely. I gave this talk back in 2016 in Thailand on managing a remote team.
- Coaching employees to stay productive and accountable in the new setting
For managers: Communicate but do not overcommunicate. Do not micromanage. Respect the working hours of your teammates. Learn to delegate. Help people be the ‘managers of one‘. Help teammates plan their routine and respect that.
For teammates: Learn to put a routine. Learn to not having your manager around. Learn to balance personal and professional life. Stay engaged with your teammates.
There are some good resources here.
Setting up a remote work environment
Going remote does require some setup. If the budget allows, reimburse your team for laptops, noise cancellation headphones, comfortable seating, a desk, or a coworking membership. Configure all the tools you are going to use to stay productive and create accesses. Test the setup before going all in.
Get Things Done!
Congratulations! You are remote work ready! Get things done and have fun! Remote work works!
I’m Mayur Sontakke, CFA. I chose remote work back in 2014. Since then, I have built multiple remote teams and ventures. I run NomadGao, a coworking/coliving place in Goa, with a mission to make remote work popular in India and India popular among global digital nomads. We are doing our bit in the fight against coronavirus, including spreading remote work. I also advise companies on working remotely. You can reach me at email@example.com. Cheers!