For many companies, allowing employees to work remotely is attractive but nerve-racking. While remote work policies allow for employee flexibility, it does raise questions of where and what boundaries need to be in place.

Can employees work remotely some of the time or 100% of the time? Do employees still need to be within the same locality? How often should teams get together in person, and when they're not in person, how will teams communicate effectively? Do employees actually feel like they can work remotely, or do people have unspoken biases against it?

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These questions are all important points to consider when you think about enabling your organization for remote work. Below, we've outlined some best practices to make remote work and collaboration successful at your company.

 

How To Enable Remote Work

1. Understand that remote work is a competitive advantage.

Reasons behind what you're doing matter. When it comes to enabling your company for remote work, it's important to know and believe in the reasons behind why you're doing it. Is it to keep your current employees happy? To reduce the costs of running an office space(s)? Or perhaps, it's to expand your pool of talent for recruiting purposes.

Whatever the reason is, if you view remote work as a competitive advantage, then you and your employees are more likely to put the effort into enabling successful remote work. It's not just about saying it's okay. It's about making your employees feel the autonomy and flexibility they need to actually work remotely in practice.


2. Create a culture of trust.

We've talked to many companies about what helps to create a remote culture in the first place. When we asked Patrick Cournoyer, COO at Peakon about what helped them create a culture that supported remote work, it all came down to trust.

"We have this inherent trust with all of our employees. We don't manage based on time or hours in the office. We manage to work outputs as opposed to time," said Cournoyer.

Like many young tech companies, Peakon has an unlimited vacation policy. Rather than limiting how much time employees can take off, they trust employees to take however much time they want while considering their tasks and responsibilities. The policy puts the trust in the hands of individual contributors rather than HR specialists or managers.

Their remote work policy reflects similar ideas. Rather than saying employees must be in the office or work X hours in a day, Peakon measures employee productivity based on impact and outputs.

It is these trust-based policies that make enabling remote work doable. Managers don't have to worry about remote workers "not really working" when they're at home because it doesn't matter. As long as the employees can effectively meet deadlines, show their impact, and complete projects promptly, it's irrelevant to managers when and where the employees got their work done.


3. Overcome challenges using technology.

The advantages of remote work are pretty clear:

  • Hiring decisions don't have to be made based on location.
  • Employees can work flexibly and with autonomy, which ultimately increases employee happiness.
  • Employees don't have to uproot their lives and move to work for a specific company.
  • Autonomy becomes a high value in remote and flexible work cultures.

But what challenges does remote work bring? Many tech companies have embraced remote work and hailed its advantages, but the challenges and how they can be solved are not as readily discussed.


4. What technology is necessary?

However, there are several tools that make remote work more effective and collaborative. On a day-to-day basis, many tech companies use the following tools for communication:


  • Email
  • Slack
  • Phone Calls
  • Video Conferencing
Types of Internal Communication
  • Email is necessary for communicating long ideas, announcements and with external partners.
  • Email often lacks the informality of in-person, friendly conversations. Slack helps them make up for that and encourages off-the-cuff communication regardless of location.
  • Slack, though, isn't great for larger discussions. And, it can't be always be used for 1:1 communication, because the written form loses body language, expressions, and intonation that is key to communication. In that way, voice and video calls drastically improve the conversation.

For your video conferencing calls, one of the most important pieces of the equation is your Meeting Room setup. Can your remote participants see and hear in-room participants clearly, no matter where in the room they are sitting? Can they accurately see all the body language and non-verbal queues going on in the room just as in-room participants would be able to? After all, 55% of human communication is based on body language, not voice.

For an audio and visual solution that does enable successful remote work, check out the Meeting Owl -- an all-in-one 360º video conferencing device built with the remote experience in mind.


5. Use open, synced calendars to designate when someone is available.

One problem often cited with remote-enabled companies is that collaboration is made more difficult due to not knowing when other team members are working or not. The way to combat this? Calendar syncing.

Traditionally, you could find a coworker based on the location of their desk in the office. Now, if you want to talk with a coworker or find them, you simply need to look at their synced calendar.

Advise employees to mark what their working hours are on the company calendar and mark when they're busy or not. By making everyone's calendar available to each other, it enables teammates to simply work around each other's schedules and easily find time to connect.

Syncing Google Calendar Screenshot

Additionally, you can use Slack for internal communication and tell your employees that during an employee's working hours, they must be available on Slack to stay connected during the workday. If they're not available, it should be marked on the calendar.


6. Congregate in person on occasion.

At the end of the day, there is no replacement for in-person communication and work. But that doesn't mean the benefits to remote work are outweighed by the disadvantages.

Many remote-oriented companies get together every so often. Remote work culture doesn't mean team members never see each other in person. It just means not favoring management ideals over employee happiness.

Nothing can build relationships like meeting in person. For any company trying to build a remote work culture, you must build in time every so often for teams to get together in person.

Do you have other best practices to enable remote work? Tweet us @OwlLabs to let us know your ideas. And learn how to achieve work-life balance while working remotely next.

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