First things first: Practicing remote work tells you a lot about the people, the culture, the processes, and the structures of a company. Remote work can result from a humble, respectful, and confident philosophy of how a company is treating its team.
While craftsmen, nurses, or bus drivers cannot work from everywhere, we as a digital company are in the pole position of flexible working hours and locations and should use this unique benefit.
Practicing remote work is definitely not a no-brainer. We have done a lot to make it possible and are still working hard on it. It’s in permanent beta status.
From the very beginning, the home office was an essential part of our company’s DNA, and we believe that empowering remote work should be the next step. We absolutely love our Berlin-based office. But we know there are times where you have or want to work from another spot. Sometimes for a few days, maybe for a long time.
We have a strong commitment that the best working location is where you feel comfortable and can unleash your creativity and talent, no matter if it is our office or a totally crazy place in the middle of nowhere.
A conducive culture
To be honest, this could be a separate blog post. Let’s keep it short and focus on the part that seems to be interesting for remote work.
There are different ways of how you can lead a company.
In the worst case, you force your team to do the things you want to do all the time. The good news is: they will definitely do what you want. But they only do what is needed and only for as long as you force them to. That is not an environment where remote work can exist because you have to control and command your team every second – welcome to the army!
In the best case, you create an environment where the whole team shares the same vision and values. You trust your team and give them the freedom to define their own way to do their job, as long as it matches the common goals and values. That is a situation where remote work is possible.
Our company culture is less about physical benefits like a gym or a fridge full of energy drinks, but it’s about our shared values.
Required things to practice remote work successfully
If the company culture subserves remote work, you need smart structures and processes to run smoothly. You should define these together with your shared values in mind. Don’t try to establish roles, structures, or systems, which don’t fit your company culture.
One essential part is the definition of Standard Operating Procedures and documenting every process as a handbook because it reduces unnecessary communication and prevents silos of knowledge. There is another nice side effect: While you are writing all this stuff down, you think about it again, and maybe you will find ways to improve it.
We try to write and maintain documentation for every critical task and decision taken in our self-built company wiki Skara. One day, it hopefully contains the blueprint of the whole organization.
Asynchronous communication is necessary for remote work. It also gives everyone full control over their time and dramatically reduces interruptions. The result is more concentration and focus, which ends in less stressful working days. Indeed, asynchronous communication sounds more like a technical condition. Still, you have to shift your whole fricking organization culture and processes to support this kind of communication if you lead your company like a drill sergeant in our first example above.
Remote work needs smart but human project management that also pays attention to asynchronous communication. Working with agile project methods provides this benefit and allows you to measure productivity in a way that suits remote work. It’s less how much time you spend in front of your computer, but more if you can complete your tasks in a given time. We’re using Scrumpy as project management tool, which supports kanban or agile project methods, like scrum.
Security and data privacy
Protecting our personal and company data is a must-have, especially when working remotely. Everyone in our team should have a company MacBook and, if needed, an iPad, which always should have installed the latest operating system, enabled password protection and disc encryption. There are many more things to do, like informing and teaching everyone how to handle data privacy during their remote work to stay GDPR-compliant.
You should support the team to establish a comfortable and healthy workplace. For example, you can write a guide to set up the home office with the correct sitting position, eye-friendly lighting, desk location, etc. Everyone should be allowed to order necessary hardware for their home offices, such as large screens, keyboards, computers mouses, laptop stands, or headsets, paid for by the company.
If everyone is working in the office or working remotely, you can drive one strategy that suits all. But what happens if some people are working remotely, while some people are working in the office? There is a lot of water-cooler conversation in the office, which produces social glue. You have to ensure that the remote employees don’t lose the social connection to the office-based team. We try to handle this situation with weekly and monthly digital team events and voice communication channels, acting like our office corridor. We also try to talk a lot about our feelings and personal thoughts regarding various topics.
To be honest, this is something we need to do better. We are still not using those processes and tools as consistently as we would like.
If your company has this kind of culture and is ready to establish those structures and processes, you definitely should practice remote work. Don’t be afraid. It’s just the logical result and the next step to be the company you want to be.
From our personal point of view, the most important thing is that doing our passion as a job is team play, and everyone should have a sense of community. Support your team, be humble, be kind, and be honest in your communication.
All the best, stay safe and stay well.