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

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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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 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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  • Over-communicate.
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  • Have a time overlap with your team.

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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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  • Establishing clear rules of engagement for communicating with the coworkers or the managers, according to the levels of urgency.
  • Providing opportunities for remote social interaction by talking about non-work activities, thereby reducing the feeling of isolation among remote workers.
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