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Going all-in on remote work: The technical and cultural changes

Location and paperwork in a remote setting

When an in-office worker moves to a remote role, it's very common for that worker to relocate. However, different states have different employment laws, and businesses are responsible for knowing and following these laws. Taxes are also not the same. Some cities require a percentage wage tax directly payable to the city. Hiring international employees may require a lot more paperwork.

But, hiring remotely can be a huge strength, knowing that you can appoint the perfect person regardless of where they live.

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Going all-in on remote work: The technical and cultural changes

Going all-in on remote work: The technical and cultural changes

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/08/work-from-home-05-culture/

arstechnica.com

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Key Ideas

Going all-in on remote work: benefits for businesses

Remote work can be costly or cost-saving, depending on how well-equipped you are to really support it.

  • When done right, assessing the appropriateness of remote work for all your employees and implementing the necessary changes will save money.
  • Savings will be primarily in overhead categories: rent, utilities, facility upkeep costs, in-person IT labor, satellite office networking costs, maintenance, property insurance, etc.
  • The point to aim for is where the investment will bear return. Setting up employees for remote work might initially be higher, but can be balanced out by not paying for expensive desk space.
  • Remote workers may enjoy more flexibility, which may translate into increased productivity.

Defining roles for a remote work setting

Businesses can categorize employees:

  • Location-independent. Knowledge workers are not dependent on location and don't need to be in an office.
  • Location-frequent. These people spend half their time in an office and half remote. They need an in-person base to use for coordination and physical meetings. These are often salespeople, marketing people, back-office services (IT, HR, finance), and creative jobs.
  • Mandatory in-office jobs. These involve specialized equipment that you can't put in an employee's home, such as manufacturing jobs.

Far more job functions can be done remotely if company leadership will accept it. But, remote work is not for everyone. Some jobs are tied to physical locations or equipment. Some people also do not want to work from home.

Equipping remote workers

In-office employees that transition to remote work need to be equipped. Spending recommendations are:

  • A one-time stipend to purchase some office furniture and other miscellaneous work equipment.
  • Basic ergonomic training.
  • The same class of laptop or workstation they'd get in the office.
  • A monthly stipend to offset some or all home broadband costs.
  • IT support costs.
  • Basic, yet complete tech loadout, such as laptop, secondary monitor, mouse, keyboard, wired earbuds, USB hub, chair that meets ergonomic needs.

Location and paperwork in a remote setting

When an in-office worker moves to a remote role, it's very common for that worker to relocate. However, different states have different employment laws, and businesses are responsible for knowing and following these laws. Taxes are also not the same. Some cities require a percentage wage tax directly payable to the city. Hiring international employees may require a lot more paperwork.

But, hiring remotely can be a huge strength, knowing that you can appoint the perfect person regardless of where they live.

Changing the company culture

Corporate leadership must understand the need to make changes to the company culture that supports everyone.

  • Remote work means trusting employees and giving them more autonomy.
  • Trust does not mean ignorance. Leadership needs to establish clear goals and performance metrics that can be tracked objectively. Data-driven intelligence and project tracking are essential.
  • Onboarding a new batch of remote workers is challenging. You need firm onboarding procedures in place so everyone knows what tools are available and how to use them.

Remote work: working hours

  • Employees should feel that they work at home rather than live in the office.
  • Encourage employees to use their calendar software to establish breaks.
  • Employees should know when they are "on" and "off." It's unfair to expect a remote employee to address a problem at 9 p.m.
  • Don't drop email bombs. Friday at 6 p.m. is not the time to announce major changes.

Meetings and scheduling in a remote setting

  • Make work calendars visible to all.
  • Create regularly scheduled team check-ins.
  • When a meeting includes in-office and remote workers, do not treat the remote workers as an afterthought. Using one microphone for many people in a conference room, all talking at once will alienate the remote worker who will perceive it as indistinct loud noises.
  • When holding video meetings, not everyone will feel comfortable with cameras in their private space. Be accepting of green screens and/or avatars.

Team building for remote companies

  • Bring your teams together once or twice a year.
  • Remote employees should check in with in-office people to keep up to date.
  • Encourage employees to connect in online conversations or hangouts.

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Remote work is common

4.3 million people currently work from home in the United States at least half of the time, and this figure has grown by 150% in the last 13 years.  

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  • Computers and the internet have made remote work a common arrangement, and this is a recent phenomenon. PC and internet access changed the shape of work in an unimaginable way, and the techn...
Slow Adoption of Flexible Work

Today, remote and flexible work arrangements are seen as a perk.
In 2018, a survey showed that around 3 percent of Americans worked from home on a regular basis. Due to technological advancements (starting with Blackberry), employees were working from everywhere, the subway, the café, home and during the commute.

But even after we have the technology required for remote working for about fifteen odd years, we have been slow to adopt mainstream remote working. The mass-adoption needed a catalyst, and that was provided in 2020 in the form of a deadly disease.

Remote Work During The Pandemic
  • The 2020 pandemic has shown that all remote working is possible, and bosses are no longer reluctant towards it, a forced change due to the present conditions.
  • Many global giants like Google and Twitter have embraced remote work in a big way, in their bid to protect worker health and to reduce corporate liability.
  • The unpredictable nature of the pandemic and an expectation of the second wave of infections can hamper any chance to return to offices.

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Remote working is not all glamorous as portrayed in social media, and many remote workers, while being free to roam around, are lonely.

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Nomads
  • We assume living alone provides us with freedom and independence, but the ground reality is quite different. Nomads, while staying and working alone, meet new people, but don’t make any real friends. 
  • Many nomads have false assumptions about an office activity or event, and not being able to see your coworkers in person every day, leads to being ‘out of touch’.
  • Constant working in isolation leads to irregular sleep patterns, mood swings and eating disorders due to a lack of routine and structure in a day.
A Healthy Balance

Remote working may have tremendous advantages but research suggests that human beings aren’t meant to work in isolation. Working socially with co-workers who are good friends leads to higher engagement and satisfaction in one’s job.

For remote working to be successful, it needs to be tailored to suit one’s particular needs and personality, finding a good fit, while taking care of one’s mental well-being.

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Suddenly Working From Home

There is a sudden shift towards remote working in workspaces all across the world, with many people abruptly thrust towards it without warning.

Experts share a few tips on how to transition ...

Mimic Your Office Culture

For many of us, the office becomes a fun place due to a sense of community, purpose and fun interactions that make up an office day. To try and mimic your office culture virtually:

  1. Set up Slack channels for water cooler conversation
  2. Schedule virtual movie days, when the same movie is streamed with the chat option on.
  3. Try to recreate virtual versions of what employees miss the most in office, like a coffee break, for instance.
Being Social While Remotely Working

Being social at office lubricates official conversations and the work itself. The more we spend time with colleagues having non-essential chatter, the easier our work becomes with them.

It helps to be creative and infuse fun into a virtual interaction. Any official conversation, like a manager meeting his subordinates in a one-on-one meeting, can start by asking about the person’s life (something unrelated to work), so that a connection is built.

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The shared context

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Working from home misconceptions

Working from home does not mean you are a remote worker. For a lot of people “working from home” is synonymous with not really working, but instead sitting at home in comfy clothes and doing anything but working. Because no one is really watching you.

Rules for remote work
  • Assume remote, even if you have only 1 person that is not coming to the office. So make sure to share all the information from meetings in a written format.
  • Have a private, quiet, dedicated space for working in your home. Preferably with a door that closes.
  • Have the right digital equipment.
  • Over-communicate.
  • Make sure you get to actual meet your colleagues face to face.
  • Have a time overlap with your team.

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Hire the right people

Design your hiring process with remote candidates in mind. Look for 3 main things:

  • A strong skill set relevant to their jobs: you need to feel confident that they can ...
Put extra effort into onboarding

Remote workers won’t have the opportunity to be involved in spontaneous conversations or team lunches, but there are other things you can do to help them settle:

  • provide info with new job critical stuff: team member introductions (personal bios, photos, advice for new employees), HR training links, task checklists, long-term goals, and more.
  • assign mentors to new hires, who schedule regular video check-ins, make themselves available on Slack and make new employees feel welcome.
Default working setups

Remote workers need a dedicated, quiet space to do their work, so it’s important to set some guidelines:

  • encourage workers to join coworking spaces;
  • encourage workers to set a dedicated insolated space at home for work, with suitable furniture;
  • fast reliable internet access;

They can still work from a coffee shop every once in a while, but they need a good default setup. 

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Pros And Cons Of Remote Work

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Communication Tools

To make your remote workers really feel connected, use instantaneous messaging tools that organize conversations into customizable channels. You should also create channels that allow your remote workers to chat about topics unrelated to work so they can benefit from the social aspects of work and strengthen their bonds. 

Hold Weekly Video Meetings

Face-to-face interaction is an effective way to make your remote workers feel more connected. Holding regular video meetings will allow remote workers to get that face time they're missing and form bonds with their co-workers.

To build even stronger connections during your weekly video meetings, don't talk only about work. Add a personal touch like allowing team members to share any good news they have. 

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Tools Of A Good Remote Worker
  • Being Tech Savvy: A Good PC/Laptop, the latest tools and software for the job, and a reliable internet connection are a must for most remote working profiles.
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Getting an early start
Getting an early start

Plan your morning the night before and stick to your plan. 
If a new task comes in that isn’t 100% urgent, designate a time that you’ll work on it uninterrupted or try to delegate the probl...

Deciding where to work
  • If you know you’re more likely to work from home, invest in comfortable furniture; you feel good it will inspire you to get work done.
  • If you want to join a local co-working space but are intimidated by the price point, ask about smaller memberships to start.
Prioritizing tasks

Don’t let your skepticism about productivity hacks get in the way of finding a technique that suits you and helps you get things done.
If you’re still having a hard time identifying priorities, try working backward by identifying work that’s definitely not a priority. Eliminate those items and assess what’s left.

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Changes you may see

If and when you return to your office after the pandemic, you'll probably notice some changes.

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Working from home

Before the pandemic, only 4 percent of the US workforce worked from home at least half the time. However, the trend of working from home had been gaining momentum for years.

It is estimated that within a couple of years, 30% of people will work from home multiple days per week.

Continued remote work
  • Before the pandemic, a lot of company management and leaders were skeptical regarding remote work. But the skepticism will go away because companies recognize that remote work does work.
  • The economic impact of the pandemic will likely force employers to cut costs. They may reduce their rent by letting workers work from home instead of layoffs.
  • Employers had to spend money on new technology and equipment to work from home - a departure from the norm.
  • Employees themselves are also spending more money to create better home offices.

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