Photo by Federica Galli
Remote work: it’s all the rage. This year, it has been pretty crazy to see the growth and establishment of this work category— which at this pace will just be called work in a short time. With new contractors signing up to freelancing websites daily and coworking spaces opening up all over the world, it is no wonder that many businesses are becoming increasingly interested in remote work and in hiring those who can work from their own desk in their current city. Not only does hiring a remote employee help you and your team guarantee that you employ the best possible candidate for the job, but it also allows you to have someone representing your company in each corner of the world.
This being said, there is a stigma with remote work. Some tend to believe that it is all about laying on the beach with a mojito in hand and a phone in the other, whereas others think that remote work is really all about business automation and putting little effort while making tons of money —the holy grail, the so-called passive income business. Both of these presumptions also tend to be wrong! Remote work can be even more challenging due to customers and workers having no fixed schedule, which can lead to burnout– another topic we will be talking about soon, so make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to get notified when we post it.
This post is about helping you see and implement the best, most productive environment for your remote team. As we follow, we will debunk the most commonly believed myths around ideal environments for remote work. With ‘environment’, we do not necessarily mean which country or café in town, but rather the context in which they work, as well as the amount of support and supervision employees are provided with. Let’s jump right into the tips we have prepared:
First, let’s think about the physical environment your workers should be in to get to work productively.
1. Creative flow
We are all different, of course, but an environment that is prone to having good creative flow is likely to be one in which your remote employees can be more productive. For example, if your remote employee is in charge of writing content for your website, it is likely that they have periods of time between two and four hours in which their ideas flow. This creative streak is what most look for, and once they find the place where this flow is most intense, it is usually their go-to remote environment! Here, the important thing is that your employees are able to experiment and find the ideal environment that allows them and inspires them to do their best work. If that involves helping them pay a co-working space, or helping them pimp their office by covering the monthly payment of their internet connection, or buying them a standing desk, just go for it: it’s, in the end, the best investment in your team and ultimately for your organization.
2. Distraction-free… or full of distraction!
An environment that does not offer too many distractions is a must for many. However, some of us also work much better in loud environments, such as in cafés or restaurants. In any case, finding the right environment is often a trial and error process. With noise-cancelling headphones and earbuds out there being now a trend, and with software apps that reduce the background noise like Krisp, there are simply no more excuses for recording and sharing updates with your teammates from any environment. If you’re writing code, or doing other normal work tasks, and cannot concentrate in a loud environment, but still like to be surrounded by people around you, there’s nothing better than pairing an Ambient music playlist from Apple Music or Spotify, with some great noise-cancelling headphones.
3. Coworking spaces
One could also consider coworking spaces as these are gaining in popularity — and availability! If you employ many remote employees either on a contract basis or on a full-time contract, consider providing them access to a coworking space as this can be great for their productivity, as many people work better from a different environment than their home, and for your business, as they can represent it wherever they are and thus potentially gain more clients from you. In fact, having somewhere to go to work that is a recurring place helps create the difference between ‘being at work’ and ‘private life’, something that many remote workers tend to struggle with. I personally use the Regus Businessworld membership, which I can totally recommend, and lets you work at any of their 3000+ locations in the world. I’ve had experience with WeWork and was there for 9 months, but the problem is that it’s not flexible as it forces you to stay at only one location, and if you’d like to use other locations, you have to use 1 credit per stay, so about $20. Here are a few of the great locations I’ve been able to work around the world while building Standups:
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
View from Regus in Fortaleza, Brazil
Now, let’s look at the working environment in terms of how you should keep up the relationship between your remote employees in the team and within the rest of the organization.
At Standups –as we are a fully remote company– we believe strongly in remote work and in making it the most efficient and enjoyable it can be for organizations, as also many of our customers are distributed and remote-only organizations.
We understand the challenges of remote work ourselves, and we are building the best solution for distributed teams. We created a platform —web & mobile apps— that lets remote teams stay in touch and keep each other updated and engaged using video stories. These video story updates around work such as their successes, advancements, are balanced with breakout life-related topics. We help remote teams to communicate as close as technologically possible, to help them communicate as much as possible as if they would in a physical office. This, however, requires some work from the management side, as it requires to set the right processes and pair it with the right platform. This makes up our first two tips:
- Make sure that you have everything set up to communicate well with your team, and going async by default, as we explain here
- Have regular check-ins that are encouraging. There’s a fine line between encouragement and micromanagement.
As a manager at a remote team, you should aim to create a stronger connection between you and your team members by being present and supporting their work/life balance. Of course, you should not be too involved in their private lives, but making sure to acknowledge that you want them to achieve a high standard of living and that they should not be working or responsive to emails and pings 24/7, is a great way of showing you are a caring leader and that your organization has a culture-oriented in the well-being of its employees.
There’s an increasing struggle within companies that are doing remote work – they are trying to stay engaged with one another, but due to the physical and time zone distance it’s hard to do this with live video meetings, using software like Zoom, Hangouts or BlueJeans – yet they need to have, have these style of interactions, hopefully daily. Slack and other text-based chat apps are great, but they’re text-only conversations - resulting in teams only knowing their chat-personas, and that is not enough to solve the culture and engagement issues associated with remote work. This is the main reason why our customers subscribe to our product. Our platform allows them to have async video and voice discussions in a flexible and productive way, using the populate Story format, while helping them to be more engaged, thanks to being able to see and listen to each other flexibility through their day, with no need of jumping on a call at odd times thanks to async video and voice messages. Here are a few examples of how our customers are using Standups for communicating internally:
- Thank you channels: to acknowledge and make it transparent in your organization when someone helped you, or when they did a great job in a project, with a customer, etc.
- Friday company meeting, with an AMA with c-level managers, usually the CEO, where all your remote employees can record video questions, and the manager sharing back his/her thoughts to the company via video
- Company announcements: around new versions of policies, new employees, new products or projects, giveaways, and general improvements, ask me anything (for the CEO, or other higher management)
- City/hub related discussions: this is especially useful when companies have different hubs, and there’s something going on in the city that hub is in, such as a Christmas market evening together, or doing lunch every month with all the employees working remotely from that city.
- One-off internal conversations/discussions like next company retreat location, city team events, new company policy proposal
- Breakout topics which is key for a work-life balance and keeping a healthy culture. Create rooms for conversation around hobbies, interests, how you’ve been doing in the last days, books, cooking, sports, etc.
Running your company internal conversations in an asynchronous way brings in improved productivity levels to your organization, especially when done in public & and in a transparent way, as well as some great flexibility to your employees, making teams more productive, tightened and happier.
If you employ remote people that can travel to your city or area, or if they tend to work from home but they all live in the same city, investing in a healthy work-life culture is something you should strongly aim for. For example, hosting a holiday event is something simple that shows that you care and where your entire team can have a great time together. In fact, it has been proven that hosting holiday parties are strongly correlated to generally happier work teams. More and more companies are starting to fly everybody to a common location every year, even two-times per year, to unite their remote teams in person.
Generally, the environment for a remote employee should be encouraging and should push them to be proud of representing the company. By scheduling regular check-ins, implementing a process with software or platforms on which you can all share your successes, achievements or blockers of the day using video or voice, with the rest of the team and organization will inevitably connect and tighten your team more –especially given that teammates are not on-site– creating a strong, loyal and more transparent organization.
Many envision and dream about the best environment for remote work. Most people think that working from a beach, or another idyllic place, is what makes remote work great. But while building Standups I have learned that it is more about how you run your team than the specific location. It’s about how you set the right processes and pair it up with the right toolset.
In the end, it’s essential to keep in mind that communication is key within your remote team, and you have to do it in the right away, by doing it in an async way by default, but also being direct and transparent when communicating with your team. This is at the root of everything we do here at Standups! If you want to learn more about how we do this, such as the features our software includes, take a look at our product features.
Or, if you are completely new to remote work, take a look at why it is all the rage now and how to leverage it.