5 Keys to Successful Remote Work
Practical strategies for a successful long-term remote workforce.
In late 2009, I spent 3-4 months looking for a job. I secured a handful of interviews but received zero job offers. So instead of finding a job, I made one and started my company, Cloud for Good, in 2010. As our business and demand grew, I started hiring people, but I was not working from a tech hub, and finding local Salesforce talent was a challenge.
I was helping create positive change through technology for nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions across the United States and Canada. What was the point of limiting my search for supporting talent to my backyard? I turned to remote work, and I haven't looked back since.
Cloud for Good has operated as a distributed (I use the word distributed and not remote because we don't have an office place) workforce since its first day. Fast forward to today, we have 200 full-time employees spread across 43 U.S. states and 5 Canadian Provinces. To succeed in this work environment, you should keep a few keys to success in mind and a few common mistakes to look out for.
1. Remote work is not for everyone
Work is what you do, not where you are. Many individuals, and the companies they represent, discovered during the pandemic that the in-office work experience cannot simply be moved into a remote model. It takes a certain kind of person to succeed in a remote environment, someone who is self-motivated and able to excel without a supervisor looking over their shoulder. One must desire to thrive independently and have a meticulous dedication to time management.
The in-office work experience has a certain inherent structure, whereas structure in an at-home work experience must be carefully created and maintained. On the flip side, business owners considering moving to a remote work environment must take stock of their people and evaluate their ability to transition to remote work.
2. How you make connections matters
Onboarding and offboarding staff virtually are a much different ballgame than the in-office variety. How do you create connections in a remote environment? How do you establish a culture and express your company's core values with staff in disparate locations? How can you bring new employees up to speed on best practices and processes within your company?
One must consider the nature of a remote or distributed environment and its unique impact on each person at the company. There should be a dedicated department designed to focus on onboarding employees into the remote work environment and assimilating them organically into the broader company culture. Encourage connection through tools like Zoom and ensure at least once a week, you dedicate time for all staff to join a central call where updates can be shared, and staff can look each other in the eye. Allow your staff to create spaces for themselves through Zoom groups based on personal and professional interests. Remember to conduct regular engagement surveys to ensure no one feels like they're operating in isolation.
3. Be intentional about goals and objectives
Directly tied into how your company remotely onboards and offboards is the importance of intentionality as it relates to goals and objectives. Of course, every business prioritizes this, but it becomes even more critical in a remote culture. Expectations of every staff member should be established clearly from the start. Ask yourself what success or failure looks like for each team member, not just the company.
How can you help put staff in the best position to succeed, and how can that success be tracked? The remote work model does not benefit from a supervisor knocking on the door and checking in. Video communication platforms can facilitate these scenarios deftly, but those conversations must still be built upon the foundation of clear expectations.
4. Provide the requisite tools for success
Following the theme of expectation setting, it should be made clear what tools are best for the job and what tools are appropriate to use at what time. Staff working from home need reliable and secure technology and a reliable protocol for using the technology effectively and efficiently.
Even something as simple as asking a question can become tricky, considering the number of tools and communication methods available. Is it best to ask or notify the team on Slack? Should they post a comment in the CRM or send an email? Waters get muddied quickly, so have a solid protocol in place.
5. Remember the value of in-person interaction
Even in a completely distributed organization, the value of bringing together cannot be understated. People are social beings, and we all desire connection. It's critical that we, as business leaders, embrace the continual rise of remote work while understanding that the virtues of the traditional in-person model are still valid.
Creating an in-person connection helps to complement the cost-saving, barrier-breaking advantages of remote work and reminds us that we're all connected in more ways than we realize. Whether you've embraced remote work or are considering a transition, there are always new challenges to overcome and new possibilities to unlock.
No matter where you are on your journey, keep these takeaways in mind to stay ahead of the curve and achieve success through remote work.
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