When COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic, many businesses were forced to figure out how to continue business operations with a remote workforce. Initially, everyone assumed that employees would return to the office once the pandemic subsided.
Instead, a “new normal” was established. Businesses got comfortable with remote staff, and the staff got more control over their work schedule and work environment. Commute time was eliminated, allowing more time to work on personal goals and interests: exercise, time with family, reading, gaming, etc.
Now that we’re past the “emergency” phase of remote work, some companies are insisting that employees return to the office. However, most people aren’t interested in losing the flexibility and autonomy that remote work provides. The remote workforce is here to stay, and businesses must adapt their processes to ensure employees’ success.
We have adopted a few best practices to help our team be effective in their roles, feel connected to their teams, and “get” the company culture.
Have the Right Tools and Workspace
We recommend a laptop, noise-canceling headphones, and an external webcam. Most people need an extra monitor and a light source for quality video during meetings. The happiest remote workers have a dedicated workspace (like a spare bedroom) that is quiet enough for online meetings. Everyone must have a desk and a good office chair.
A good collaboration tool is essential for communication around the company, and especially within teams. There are many application choices, but the most popular are Microsoft Teams and Slack. We recommend Microsoft Teams because of the tight integration with other Microsoft products like PowerPoint and SharePoint. It also is a great phone system replacement for ‘landline’ connections.
Set Proper Expectations For Remote Work
How formal is your company? Communicate what the proper dress code should be for external meetings vs. internal meetings. We recommend that meetings with remote workers should always be with video and microphone on – with the exception of unsafe situations (like driving).
All teams should have a mandatory 15-30 minute ‘huddle’ every day. In huddles, all team members communicate their work schedule and any roadblocks.
Everyone needs to know the core hours that each remote working team member will be active each day. Determine and get agreement from the team on expected response time to communications to and from each other and with customers.
Onboarding New Remote Team Members
It is essential that new team members are immersed in the company culture and have time to build relationships with other team members.
We recommend a 1-2 week onboarding process during which new remote employees work side-by-side with other team members. During this period, new remote workers are shown the tools and processes used for everything they do, and where to find this information.
We like to send a welcome packet to new people with cookies and company gear such as shirts and fun swag that demonstrate our culture.
Collaboration and Culture
The most difficult problem with remote work is the loss of the natural connectedness and camaraderie people enjoy when working in a physical space and having frequent interactions – in meetings and informally in the hallways. It is important to have opportunities for remote work teams and possibly the entire company to meet in person regularly.
We recommend teams meet every 3-4 months for a team dinner, followed by a day of being together with team-building activities. Annually, one of the meetings can be extended to another day, and the entire company gets together for team-building activities.
We like to finish our company gathering with a happy hour, a catered dinner, and unstructured social time. These events allow for remote workers to generate that company culture even when they’re not spending work days in the same physical location.
Companies are beginning to understand that remote work is not a passing fad. With remote work as a company benefit, businesses can attract the best talent from all over the country and the world.
From the employees’ side, it allows them to have more flexible schedules and avoid time-wasting activities such as commuting. It also allows them the flexibility to better balance their work life and personal life, spending more time on activities that are important to them.