A 100% remote company

Published on 2020-03-17 by Zuzanna Ilków.

Don't believe the experts. There is virtually no chance for a company that has never operated remotely to start doing it right away, let alone doing it well. The only thing waiting for such a company is learning from mistakes to avoid them in the future.
At the beginning it is worth emphasizing one thing: if a company is not involved in production and customers do not visit its premises on a daily basis, it is certainly able to rely solely on remote work. However, such a transition is not always successful, and this dooms companies to work half-heartedly. Why is this happening?

Mistake 1: No space for remote work

What is the biggest concern of entrepreneurs? That the remote worker does not actually work.
The fear is not entirely unfounded. According to Airtasker research, a remote employee takes more breaks than their colleague in the office (but in practice the difference is not great: 27 compared to 22 minutes a day).

It gets even worse when we combine remote work with regular household chores. Let's face it: you can't work 8 hours at home and look after your child at the same time. This is absolutely essential that a remote employee has a separate physical and personal space for work, as well as the time devoted solely to that.
In a crisis situation, it is better to find 3-4 hours for pure concentration on work than 8 hours of constant distraction. You cannot expect satisfactory efficiency from someone whose family and housing conditions sabotage their efforts.

Error 2: remote work in a rigid office framework

Adhering to rigid office policies, such as working hours, can also lead to a decrease in employee efficiency, and so in the effectiveness of the whole company.
A well-planned and conducted transition to a remote organization of work will allow 100% replacement of the office regime. But it is essential to let go of the inflexible office rules.

Normally, none of the white collars works effectively 8 hours: there are breaks, interruptions, chats, not to mention that some people come a little earlier, others much later.
Take, for example, Useme.com, which works fully remotely on bank holidays and in crisis situations.
The management of this online service divided employees into 3 teams by the company area (customer service, marketing, IT). Teams are given full freedom to organize the work, under the condition that all daily tasks are to be completed, just like in the office. In practice, it turned out that not everyone has to work 8 hours a day and even the crisis periods of childcare can be well-managed.

Error 3: Infrastructure? It will all be ok

No, it will not. It is impossible to transfer all the duties home straight off, if all the data is on the hard drives of desktop computers in the office, and the accounting is based on paper form invoices. Employees are also reluctant to use their own cell phones or computers for work purposes.

To be a fully functional remote office you need:

  • A company telephone, cellular or VOIP network that will allow you to connect to your office phone from other places
  • A shared disk that will serve as a space for file sharing
  • An online calendar showing the allocation of tasks and absences of team members, or another project management tool
  • Mobile electronic equipment: good headphones with cleared out ambient sound and a laptop together form a portable call centre station. A desktop computer is not needed at all in office work
  • If necessary, other programming and network tool relevant for the company or industry

In emergency situations, it is worth remembering that nowadays there are almost no services that could not be organized in a remote way. This applies slowly even to the state administration!

Sometimes it happens so, that the transition discussed here is not a choice but an unexpected obligation. Then, when you have to switch to working remotely all of sudden, additional support may be outsourcing. Use websites with the offers of remote services, such as Useme.com, Freelancer.pl or form a network of collaborators for specific tasks (e.g. translators, polygraphs, DTP specialists).

Error 4: we will take care of everything by phone

No, we will not. But even so, we will forget to pass it on.
Establishing the rules of communication within the company is the area most often left to chance. Yet, this is, after all, a key sphere for the operation of each company.

So what if Ann sets something up with Tomas over the phone, since Kate and Pete do not know about it? Still, everyone has to deliver this information to the clients. Even if we call everyone, this information will eventually get lost in the multitude of data and tasks. This way we return to point 3 - IT tools necessary for the company.

Currently, there are many interesting solutions on the web. Even if we think that we are too occupied to review them all, we should definitely find some time for it soon.
Do you know Slack, Jira, SalesManago? It is critical to choose one of them to avoid dividing the internal communication channels into many, i.e. phone, mail, SMS, communication program and even an internal forum. Otherwise, where to look for actual and valid information?

This must be determined at the very beginning of the organization of remote work. The lack of such solutions is the root cause of all communication problems in the company.

From a traditional to a remote company

Are you starting to appreciate the benefits of operating as a remote company? Great, but don't make impulsive decisions and send all your employees home yet.
To know what to do, you must first prepare for it. Any successful, fully remote company started (at least partially) from traditional work organization and tried the prescribed processes in practice.

The only known organization that contradicts that is the American company Zapier. In this case, however, the exception proves the rule. A company and its organization of work must be adapted for the purposes of operating from home. Those who have not taken care of it beforehand, will not be able to fully put in place all tasks and processes.

Nothing is lost: collect experience, learn from mistakes and get used to remote work. Your employees will also appreciate it!