100% Remote: how to successfully transition a team!
Thinking of closing down your offices & going remote-first? Read about how to avoid possible legal & financial pitfalls. Prepare for upcoming changes.
Opening and closing offices is a trademark skill set of any operations professional. All who’ve endured some kind of office move can tell you it takes a high level of preparation, coordination, and countless spreadsheets to ensure everything runs smoothly. However, a new challenge is emerging for people operations teams as remote work becomes more commonplace.
What happens when companies lean so into their remote-first workplace models that they deem having physical locations completely unnecessary in the long term? More so, if you’re part of the People Operations team and are asked to close the offices in favor of becoming 100% remote, how do you do it? Where do you even start?
To save you some painful missteps, here are some important questions to consider and discuss with your companies’ decision-makers before making the move.
Why are you closing down the office(s)?
When having these back-and-forth discussions with the key decision-makers, it’s critical to think deeply about the ‘why’ behind the decision. Closing down offices will be disruptive and how much resistance your team has hinges a lot on them understanding what thought went into this big decision.
While cost saving is a very attractive reason from the business side, discussing money saved can come across as pretty ho-hum to most employees. They likely won’t see how these cost savings impact them. Why should they care?
The answer is to SHOW your team HOW the saved money will be used. Will it be funneled into better benefits, training courses, or hiring additional team members? Basically: how will the saved funds push your company forward in a positive direction?
Now take it a step further. What is the ‘why’ beyond just saved money? Where is your company headed and how does this decision to close down the offices align with that direction? If you and your key decision-makers can’t succinctly provide a clear rationale to your team, it’s likely a sign that you need to go back to the drawing board.
Do you have the right team of experts in place? Do you have a realistic office closure timeline?
Closing down offices is already a complicated cross-functional effort, usually between People Operations and Finance. However with the added layer of remote, Legal usually comes into play. Laws and regulations haven’t quite caught up to remote work and changes all the time.
For instance, in the US, services like virtual mailboxes can be used as an HQ address. The service processes your mail and keeps you in compliance with federal regulations by having a physical mailing location for tax purposes. For a US company that wants to shut down all offices, this is a compelling option, but this of course could change at any time. Having a team of experts on hand is critical to ensure you’re thinking through the closing down process from every angle.
It also means having the right people in place to carry out the work itself as well as a project manager to manage all the moving pieces. This means mailing in the correct forms, updating databases, working with landlords, reviewing contracts, arranging office closure services, and a whole lot more. The project manager will need to ensure they ask the right questions and understand the workload involved to ensure a realistic timeline is mapped out.
Usually a lease end date provides a hard deadline to complete the closure. Discussing the lease end date should be part of the key decision-makers’ office closure discussions to ensure they aren’t setting up the project manager for failure. For office closures in general, a good rule is whatever time you think it will take to complete the project, double it to account for hiccups along the way!
Are you evolving your current work processes and policies for a remote setting?
Remote isn’t just about closing down offices, giving employees laptops with remote tools, and calling it a day. If a core part of your work culture revolved around an office, this means your day-to-day ways of working will need to change.
For your employees, are you working with them to adapt good remote working habits? For your managers, are you addressing the complications of managing remote teams and providing resources to ensure they can make the transition successfully? For your people operations and security teams, are they up to speed on the legal implications and requirements to avoid potential liabilities? Moving to a remote setting requires a hard look at the way you’re doing business and making the necessary changes.
While there is a project manager and team responsible for the actual office closure, the closure itself will require company-wide efforts to ensure a successful transition. This is where the project manager can be especially critical with the backing of the key decision-makers. The supported project manager can go to each leader and call on them to assess the needed changes for their specific departments to transition. Also, leaders making it clear that departments having autonomy to make decisions can provide a feeling of collective change vs. a top down decision. Everyone feels responsible for the office closure and a drive to work together to change for the better.
Want more on this topic?
For the full in depth interview that also covers consistent remote policies and legal compliance, click here.
Kimberly Bringas is a Remote HR Expert specializing in building successful remote teams using her three-part framework of being proactive, intentional, and human. Her areas of expertise include: developing
remote specific HR best practices, building and stewarding vibrant and inclusive company cultures, partnering with managers to foster trusting and accountability based relationships and conflict management. When she’s not putting the Human back in HR, you can find her salsa dancing, planning her next travel adventure or experimenting with a new recipe!
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