How businesses are going to improve from remote working

You’d be amazed how much quality collective thought can be captured using two simple tools: a voice connection and a shared screen.

– Jason Fried, Remote: Office Not Required

Attitudes to remote working have been changing for a while now. It used to be seen as an afterthought for workplaces trying to retain employees who are relocating or new parents working from home.

The office culture has been seen as an integral part of the business goals and as a result bottlenecked many employees who simply don’t need that commute in their lives.

With powerful new remote working tools becoming available, and a greater understanding of the flexibility and benefits of working from home (or wherever), a new type of work-life relationship has been formed giving employees new freedoms and flexibility to work in remote or semi-remote roles.

Covid-19 has forced a lot of businesses to quickly pivot their operations and adopt new technologies and ways of working faster than any CEO could have imagined.

Jo Palmer, the founder and Managing Director of Pointer Remote Roles, has known the benefits of working at home for some time now. Based out of rural West Australia she runs her entirely distributed company from her farm house. During the current pandemic, her company has moved away from recruitment and increased their consulting with companies on the best way to support, and empower their workforce as it transitions to working from home.

Vonto was able to catch up with her to discuss best practices and what advice she has for businesses transitioning to #WFH.

Remote working

You have long been an advocate of remote working, what advice would you give to people suddenly adjusting to working from home?

The best piece of advice I can give to new remote workers is set yourself up to succeed.

Create a space in your home for work. Whether it’s your home office or the unused end of the dining table, having a set space for work will help you get in the zone.

Steer clear of noisy, distraction-filled areas and avoid setting up in your bedroom if possible.

Be prepared to handle changes to your usual workflow. This could be as simple as ensuring you have a camera and microphone to join in on video calls, through to utilising different project management software to asynchronously communicate with remote team members.

Set up routines and boundaries around your time. Let your team know the hours you’ll be working and block out time in your calendar for breaks and exercise. Set your notifications to ‘Do Not Disturb’ outside of your working hours and resist the temptation to check them once you’ve shut the laptop. Identify how you like to communicate and as a team, set some guidelines around the ways various information should be circulated. We have a set of rules we call communication hygiene. Rules include things like no internal emails and if it takes more than three messages back and forth to get something across, jump in a video call.

Manage your energy levels and keep connected. Remote work can be very isolating at times and without the normal break room chat, it’s easy to feel the disconnect.

Team building is critically important for remote teams. Check in on your team’s headspace regularly and be open with your responses. Set up casual connections- a Friday show and tell before the daily stand up, a fortnightly bake off, an afternoon dog walk on a group call.

What changes would you like to see in company culture that could support remote working and moving away from the traditional office.

Remote work has historically lived under a grey cloud of suspicion- if I can’t see my staff, how do I know they’re working? Organisational culture, especially remote, needs to be built on trust.

What we are most excited to see is the ability for people to live and work from wherever they want. People will have proved that they can effectively work remotely during COVID-19 and now they should be able to take their job and live anywhere (and our vote is for rural Australia!).

Teams working remotely can often feel isolated or siloed. What strategies have you, and your team, developed to overcome this?

When building our team, I’ve been conscious of fostering an open environment for communication. We have a headspace check in at the start of each week, we talk daily via phone and video call and we’re regularly communicating asynchronously through our project management software. We’ve got a chat channel set up for general banter where cat memes and GIFs feature regularly, including a chatbot who prompts us for a ‘Hump Day Selfie’- a view from your remote office every Wednesday that usually yields some conversation starters.

Under normal circumstances, we try to get together face to face as a team once a quarter for planning meetings and a catch up. It’s expensive and often involves a day’s travel but has proven invaluable for our team’s connectedness.

A lot has changed for businesses during the Covid-19 crisis. What changes do you expect to become the new normal when we return to business as usual.

Moving to remote so quickly has been a major shock to the working landscape worldwide. Those who were already onboard will be humming along business as usual. Those on the fence who are open minded will embrace the best parts of remote working and the businesses who came dragging their feet, will revert back to a traditional office environment as soon as they can.

Amongst this spread, it’s likely the new normal will be hybridised working styles and teams. Companies will have implemented remote work policies and those suited to work remotely will have the opportunity. It’s easy to argue that if a job was completed successfully remotely during the pandemic, then how can you force them back to an office, but the reality is that remote work isn’t suitable for everyone. Whether it’s two days remote, three days office or half the entire team working remotely, it’s likely there’ll be much more flexibility for workers.

Out-Of-Office for good?

The quarantine period has changed the business environment faster than anyone could have predicted. These times of uncertainty allow a chance to re-evaluate what we take for granted.

That could be realising that your employees are more productive when tasks are the goal, rather than simply punching into work. It could be that your morning could be better spent preparing yourself for productivity at home, rather than on a boring commute. The most important lesson we can learn from this period is that better communication can pull the business together as a whole, even if it’s cat memes, or crisis talks.

Probably the memes though.