Remote work has been on the rise over the past few years as individuals seek to change the way they work. According to a FinanceBuzz survey on remote work, 31% of remote workers considered schedule flexibility to be the top perk. Another 29% said the best benefit was the flexibility to work from anywhere.
Overall, the survey results were clear: flexibility for employees was key. And with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for companies and their employees to be adaptable has become paramount to surviving and in some cases thriving.
Many organizations have pivoted to an all-remote team structure. And now, after months of working remotely, companies like Google and Twitter are slow to send employees back to their offices. Why is that?
As Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Launch Potato and FinanceBuzz, I believe a distributed team allows organizations to bring talent to the table without being limited by geographic location. By focusing on recruiting individuals who share the organization's core values and by having the right distance learning tools in place, it shouldn’t matter where a worker is located. If they can be onboarded and excel in their role — whether they’re in another state or country — then that is what matters.
Although we were a distributed team pre-coronavirus, we shifted to becoming a fully remote team structure in the past few months. Here’s how our company goals and values set the perfect foundation for a near-flawless transition.
1. Distribute your team
Launch Potato was set up as a distributed company from day one. As WeWork puts it, “Distributed teams are composed of employees who work remotely from all around the world rather than being centralized at a single physical headquarters.”
We have a physical office in South Florida, but about 50% of our employees already worked from home (or other locations) before the entire organization went remote. We place a heavy emphasis on remote work because it’s mutually beneficial. We're able to recruit the best talent from around the world instead of being limited to only South Florida. In turn, our employees can decide where they want to work from without a commute.
If you love what you’re doing and can properly and professionally manage your time, then your location doesn’t have to be restricted. Work from a hotel, the beach, or your home office. As long as the environment is conducive to our core values, including Hustle and Team Unity, we welcome and embrace it.
Because we’ve always had a welcoming attitude toward remote workers, it wasn’t a big leap to convert the entire team to a remote workforce. Many of our office employees already worked from home occasionally, so they were quick to adapt.
2. Create watercooler moments
Distributed teams can make sense for many businesses, but that doesn’t mean they’ll immediately function without hitches. With certain technology, such as Zoom, it’s easy to set up video calls with remote team members to discuss a project or initiative. It’s instant communication that keeps everyone on the same page.
Still, that doesn’t replicate the impromptu interactions and casual conversations employees may have around an office. These watercooler moments can promote team chemistry and further collaboration within the workplace. The inherent issue with a remote or distributed company is the lack of these types of moments.
To overcome this issue, we’ve had to be creative. Here are a few ways we bridge the gap between in-person interactions and remote work environments:
- Company retreats: Annual and semi-annual company retreats are a great way to get one-on-one or group time with your co-workers and team members. It’s a laid-back environment filled with learning opportunities, group activities, and social outings. We’ve had to push back our latest retreat due to COVID-19, but it’s already rescheduled for the future.
- One-on-one video calls: We encourage every new hire to meet every other member of the company in initial Meet-N-Greets. For our remote workers, this was already done via Zoom calls. When we first started this practice, you could meet everyone fairly quickly. Now, as our numbers have grown, it may take weeks before you meet all of your co-workers. Still, we find it’s invaluable to put a face to a name and learn everyone’s roles, even if you aren’t in the same department.
- Slack channels: Slack is our No. 1 communication tool within the company. It’s easy to use and allows for instant collaboration across multiple, customizable channels. We use our #watercooler channel for chats about anything and everything. It also presents an opportunity to play fun games and get to know each other a little more. You can learn some interesting things when you’re trying to guess whose workspace or pantry it is in a shared photo.
- Virtual hangouts: For those who are interested, we also schedule virtual hangouts. This could range from a Friday Snack & Chat to a Thursday Virtual Happy Hour. Attendance is optional but highly recommended. It’s an easy way to video chat with co-workers about whatever you want. You get to enjoy a snack and beverage of your choice, as well as the company of your fellow employees.
All of these practices were already in place before our transition to a fully remote team. Because we were a distributed team, we wanted to make sure our remote workers didn’t feel left out or excluded from our in-office workers.
It was difficult to properly convey the message that our in-office atmosphere wasn’t different from our remote counterparts’ experience. However, any remote employees who visited the office could quickly tell the workflow and environment was in fact very similar. The office is generally quiet and most communication is still done through Slack, even when people are in the same building.
3. Use the best tools
It’s essential to stay organized and keep productivity levels high with any business. But when you bring remote work into the picture, it becomes even more important.
It’s a misconception that remote workers are living the easy life, basking in the sun in exotic locations. Another recent FinanceBuzz survey about the remote work lifestyle found that 78% of remote workers are working more than 40 hours per week. And many have to deal with disruptions, such as pets (47%), delivery people (39%), a partner/spouse (32%), or children (21%). Working remotely is no walk in the park. You have to manage your time effectively and prioritize your top tasks.
Time blocking has always worked well for my own productivity. I set aside blocks of time in which I focus only on specific tasks and don’t allow for interruptions. It works well, but without the proper tools, I wouldn’t be able to get my tasks done in a timely manner. It’s a combination of using CloudApp, Slack, Asana, G Suite, and other tools that help me be as efficient as possible.
Multiply that efficiency by 50 or more people — when we’re all using the same tools and our preferred, shared methods of communication it becomes extremely effective for the business. The fact that these tools function just as well in a remote team as they do in our office structure really prepared us for the switch.
4. Take advantage of all the CloudApp features
The many available features of CloudApp have made it one of our go-to tools for workplace efficiency:
- You can use screen captures to quickly highlight vital information for your team members without having them sift through useless data.
- On top of that, you can annotate your screenshots to point out exactly what you liked or didn’t like about an ad or something similar.
- You can also blur out sensitive information before sharing a screenshot.
One of my favorite CloudApp features is the screen record option because it’s a powerful tool for more effective collaborations. Screenshots can be helpful, but a video recording is the full experience. You can use it to help onboard a new hire or to teach something new to existing employees.
For example, it’s easy for me to screen record as I go through the user experience of a mobile app. I can then upload directly to the CloudApp mobile app, share the link of the recording with my team, and discuss what we liked or didn’t like about the different aspects of the screen recording. That cuts out the need for everyone to download the app in question and click through everything themselves, which saves a lot of time.
All of these are features we use all the time — we used them before remote work became a worldwide necessity and we still use them today. Remote workers don’t have the luxury of physically pointing something out to a co-worker, so CloudApp features make the communication process a lot smoother.
Now, with potent tools such as CloudApp already in hand, we’re able to take the in-office processes we’ve become used to and replicate them in a fully remote environment. And we don’t lose any efficiency along the way. Without these tools, I’m not sure a move to being completely remote would have been as feasible.
When your company values promote a remote working environment, the transition to a wholly remote company is that much simpler. There will always be a few hiccups, but having the right tools already implemented can help iron out the process. If you’re looking to create a more distributed team or for a new remote job, we hope our experiences help you find the most value in remote work.