Remote work 1-2-3: first three steps to going remote
Learn what defines a successful implementation, from designs to ongoing issues, that would be considered for the health of the team.
If your product is digital, you can easily go remote. It is harder when you’re working with something physical.
Finding the right work-life integration is a key benefit of remote work. It could be a challenge if not handled properly.
Team building is a challenge for any new company, and it's particularly challenging for a remote team.
Be aware of team dynamics and potential feelings of isolation- health should always come first.
Before you design a new business around a global workforce that operates remotely or transfer an existing business to a remote workforce, there are some important questions that must be considered. Some are part of the design and others are ongoing issues surrounding the health of the team, but all of these have to be considered.
- When is remote work appropriate for a company?
- How do employees establish a healthy work-life integration?
- How do we ensure a strong team dynamic across remote locations?
These seem like difficult questions to answer, and indeed there's more than one answer. There are many guides out there that can help you pinpoint practical solutions for your immediate situation.
But first, there is one key question that needs to be answered – why should you consider developing a remote global workforce?
Why go remote?
Before discussing whether remote work is right for your company, it’s important to understand the potential benefits. Remote work can deliver great results if it is properly implemented and a good fit for your company.
For example, medical billing consultant MediRevv implemented a work from home project and carefully monitored the results. After one year, they published a report at the end of 2017 on their generally positive experience. They found a 5.3% increase in productivity and a 1.2% increase in quality, based on predetermined measurements.
Their advice for a company who wants to follow their footsteps include:
- Pilot the remote work with high performers
- Have performance metrics in place to judge success
- Keep in touch with technology issues
- Maintain transparency
- Continuously improve
With their experience in mind, these are the factors you should be considering about your own business.
When is remote work appropriate?
Generally speaking, if your product is digital, you can indeed go remote. When there is a physical product produced, such as a restaurant or a machine shop, it will be difficult to have employees who are not in the same space sharing the experience.
That’s not to say it’s impossible, as demonstrated by the robot delivery system Kiwi Campus. When robots veer off course, a driver can take over from anywhere in the world. There are times when you can indeed have a global workforce even with a physical product, but it takes vision and dedication to make it work.
However, a company is much more than its product. Before you make the decision to go remote, you have to consider your management style. If you value performance or mission-based methods of managing employees, a remote system can work well. Managers who need to see their employees at their stations to judge productivity will never be satisfied with remote work, especially a global workforce in different time zones.
Similarly, communication styles play an important role. If knowledge can be shared effectively in writing, remote work is relatively seamless. A need for verbal communication makes remote work challenging, particularly across language and schedule changes.
Lastly, your team has to be comfortable with the technology they have and know how to use it, as presented in the study above.
How do employees establish a work-life integration?
There is nothing more important to successful remote work than making sure that the right integration is achieved.
Do your employees need an office away from home to perform appropriately? Do you have a performance-based system that includes their feedback on a regular basis? This is not just a question of maintenance, but a factor which has to be considered into the development of any global workforce from the very start.
It is critical that every manager of a remote work team have processes in place to measure and check for appropriate feedback. When this is implemented at the start, the quality of feedback is higher and the overall success of the remote global workforce is assured.
How does a team fare in remote work?
Team building is a challenge for any new company, especially for companies that have a remote global workforce and no physical contact. It is very important that this is considered from the very start of any remote operation.
One study of 1,100 workers published in the Harvard Business Review found that remote workers often feel isolated and “left out” of the company and its daily operations.
The study recommended that active programs were necessary to prevent isolation, including:
- Checking in with workers on a regular basis.
- Using video calls when possible.
- Developing clear goals and expectations.
- Being available to employees.
- Making good use of technology.
In short, it’s important to be aware of this problem and build it early into the expectations of employees from the very start. By paying attention to both the team dynamics and the personal feelings of employees with a transparent and open line of communication, the problems associated with remote work can be avoided.
Bringing it together
Remote work has unique issues, especially for a global workforce. There are situations when remote work is not appropriate based on the product, management style, or communication needs of a company. It is critical to provide the resources necessary for the team to have an appropriate balance between their work and personal life. It is also very important to be aware of team dynamics and potential feelings of isolation.
When making the decision to go remote, all of these need to be considered. There are clear benefits to remote work for many companies if the global workforce is properly implemented, outfitted, and maintained.