WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ‘REMOTE-FIRST’?
WHAT DOES A REMOTE-FIRST COMPANY LOOK LIKE?
Whether or not you plan to fully allow flexible work options at your company, it’s good to have the processes in place that make it possible to work outside the office in case it’s unexpectedly necessary. Conisder various unavoidable events that can keep workers from their desks: traffic james, public transit delays, sick children, inclement weather. With a minimal amount of preparation, your workforce won’t have to grind to a halt on account of a sudden contingency. This concept is called “remote first”. And in a remote first arrangement, the office becomes one of the many places for people to get their work done – not the primary place.
How to be a successful remote-first company
- CREATE A TEAM AGREEMENT. Working together in the same place enables us to see what people are working on. People’s actions are implicit, so it is easy to infer how they behave. When we go remote, we have to make our behaviors more explicit: leave nothing implied so that there is minimal room for confusion. A team agreement outlines what kind of information we share, how we communicate with each other, and how we know what each other is doing.
- HAVE A CENTRAL KNOWLEDGE BASE. Remote employees can be at a major disadvantage when it comes to Information sharing. One way to avoid information gaps in a remote-first organization is by having a central knowledge base where all employees can find important company documents, meeting notes, etc..
- HAVE GREAT INFRASTRUCTURE. When it comes to technology, the advice for individuals is the same as for companies: invest in high-quality equipment. We want crystal clear, easy communication on our teams. In order to have that, we need great internet, and high-quality accessory tools like webcams, headsets, and conference room equipment.
- FOCUS ON ASYNCHRONOUS COMMUNICATION. When we work in the same location, communication happens ‘synchronously’, or in a steady stream of information. Decisions are sometimes made on the spot in hallways or during watercooler talk. This can’t happen in a “remote-first” company, when meetings need to be organized to get everyone together, but having too many meetings also has its downfalls. Getting better at asynchronous communication means fewer interruptions and more control over our workday. It also gives everyone time to process and reply to information instead of going with knee-jerk decisions that can often be made in timeboxed meetings. Another added benefit of asynchronous communication is that conversation will be documented and can be made public.
- HAVE SHORTER MEETINGS. In order to make remote meetings work, we must first acknowledge that meeting online is not the same as meeting in person. Meeting in 2D can lead to eye strain, boredom, and fatigue, not to mention distractions are rife. In order to keep your audience fully engaged, it’s a good idea to keep meetings short. And if your meeting runs longer than 45 minutes, remember to take a 5 to 10-minute break to allow people to stand up, stretch, and refresh.
- HAVE FEWER MEETINGS. Before you have a meeting, ask yourself, “do I really need this meeting or can we communicate asynchronously?” Status updates can be made via a tool, such as Slack, whereas more important information could be shared in an email. If you’re giving a presentation during a meeting, try recording it before the meeting begins so you can use your valuable time for discussion and decision-making. Getting better at asynchronous communication gives us more control of our workday and gives the team more time to process information instead of making knee-jerk decisions.
- HAVE ONLINE MEETINGS ONLY. Hybrid meetings can be really difficult and we recommend avoiding them if you can by getting everyone to do it remotely. If this is an issue due to multiple time zones, try having two meetings per day with some overlap of people from each meeting. This way, part of the team can meet in the morning and one or two people from that group can meet in the afternoon to prevent information gaps.
- WORK OUT LOUD. Working out loud is a way for us to make our actions visible to our colleagues in a useful way. It should be easy to know what we’re working on and what kind of progress we are making. In Cal Newport’s book, A World Without Email, he argues that we need to minimize the ping-pong effect of sending messages back and forth to each other all day. Almost everything concerning knowledge work has a workflow – and teams need to define that workflow. So with async, it’s not about replacing meetings with emails. Yes, we are trying to minimize meetings, and we are also trying to minimize unnecessary messaging. And we can do this by creating good workflows. Productivity is personal. Companies provide the objectives, and teams focus on the workflow of getting those objectives done.
- BE DELIBERATE ABOUT TEAM-BUILDING. Working together in the same place presents serendipitous moments and sharing an elevator can turn into grabbing a coffee together. Seeing each other on a daily basis enables us to build trust and increases camaraderie on our teams. But when we’re remote, we have to work extra hard to become a cohesive unit. Even though we can digitally connect with people all over the world with the click of a button, it’s sometimes more difficult to connect on a personal level. In order to do this, we must find ways to get to know our teammates and define our team culture. When we deliberately engage in virtual team-building activities, we bring everyone together and bonds start to form.
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