Before remote work and dispersed teams even existed, “telecommuting” was little more than a bold idea. In the late 1970s, the concept of teleworking was coined by former NASA Engineer Jack Nilles, who inspired the first-ever remote work experiment using a national insurance agency’s call center employees. Still, nearly 50 years later — and despite Nilles’ wildly successful experiment — only 7% of the American workforce worked from home more than half the time.
Then, in March 2020, COVID-19 reached pandemic proportions, affecting nearly every part of life for countless U.S. citizens, including work. Remote work quickly became an overnight necessity, forcing companies to scramble to adjust their culture and maintain some sense of productivity or risk being left behind like their now-empty office buildings. Companies like Slack, Google, J.P. Morgan, Instant Teams and Amazon already led the way in the remote-first workplace. Today, nearly a year-and-a-half later, seven out of 10 employees still work remotely, and there’s a thoroughly explored roadmap to help businesses create a successful remote team. Instant Teams is remote-first and has been since our founding in 2016. By learning from other companies — and their mistakes — we’re eager to share four ways you can set your business up for remote success.
Remote Work Don’ts
Though companies saw the need to pivot in 2020, doing so was a trial-and-error process. While some companies thrived in their efforts to build successful remote teams, many more experienced the consequences of the swift rise of remote work. Before learning how to set your business up for remote success, take note of some “dont’s” to make sure you aren’t focusing in the wrong place.
- Don’t rely solely on tech
- Don’t assume a seamless transition
- Don’t silo remote team members
- Don’t focus on the professional benefits alone
4 Ways to Set Your Business Up For Remote Success
1. Have the Right Team
Without the watercooler and face-to-face time most in-person teams need to thrive, remote team success starts on the granular level; with the team members themselves. Self-starters, adaptability and organization are vital characteristics of successful remote workers. In a fully dispersed environment, it’s impossible to directly supervise your team, notice their struggles or help them grow and expand their skills. Having a remote-ready team helps set your business up for remote success and eases the in-office to remote transition to keep things running smoothly.
If you’re building this team from the ground up or adding new members who’ll be working entirely in a remote environment, consider partnering with a niche talent sourcing company specializing in remote roles. Not only can these partnerships enable better recruitment and retention, but they save you the resources you would otherwise expend to find these employees.
2. Use Tools to Your Advantage
Though teams in every work environment use workforce, task management and CRM tools, they become even more important in a fully remote workplace. Without these shared resources and processes around them, it’s hard for team members to remain united and productive.
You can use internal team messaging, video conferencing and cloud drives to keep all employees on the same page with current projects, regardless of where they work. Perhaps even more importantly, they’re crucial to maintaining a healthy corporate culture which is essential to building a successful remote team.
Outside of setting your business up for success by extending team culture to remote employees, the right digital software helps provide accountability and organization to keep projects moving forward. From providing strategic alignment and clear objectives to offering realistic project planning and quality control, the real question you should be asking about project management tools is not if you can afford them, it’s whether you can afford not to.
3. Prioritize Open and Efficient Communication
While internal messaging and video conferencing tools go a long way in setting your business up for success, they’re pointless without the proper foundation. We already know it’s all too easy for remote team members to feel isolated and siloed in their roles: Set the precedent that if they’re struggling, you’re there to be a resource for them.
Use check-ins, project updates, day-to-day activities and real-time pulse checks — with both synchronous (Zoom meetings or voice calls) and asynchronous (email and internal messaging) communication — to keep communication flowing. Also consider offering digital “open office hours,” or dedicated times when team members have the freedom to pop on for a minute or chat for twenty during the week. These organic moments are crucial to setting your business up for remote success: Project roadblocks, team tensions or life updates are more likely to come up in a no-pressure environment.
4. Build a Strong Corporate Culture
Personal connections between employees are vital to the unity of your team, especially in a remote setting where face-to-face interactions and organic relationships are that much harder to build. Workplace engagement guru Gallup hosts an annual employee engagement survey. A new question, “do you have a best friend at work?” was added over the past few years and targets team member motivations. After tabulating results, a reported 36% of interviewed professionals told Gallup they’d be willing to take a pay cut to gain a work bestie to help them enjoy their role and grow together. Gallup also concluded that team members without this close connection are far more likely to seek new opportunities.
How can you help employees to form these close relationships, both with their peers and managers? Focus on having fun, optimizing collaboration and leading by example to build a foundation of solid teamwork and culture to promote — and maintain — your remote team’s success.