This post is an excerpt from my book DISTRIBUTED.
If you are an already established business with an office and a team in place, you have many options to test how to work remotely. Since the distributed model has one key element that differentiates it from classic business setups, you have to pivot the model with your and your team’s location.
Home office for everyone
Issue out home office for everyone. The longer you provide this opportunity, the more you will learn. Monitor the whole process and gather as much feedback from your colleagues on their experiences as possible. Do the work as you would do it in the office, do not change or deprioritize anything. Use the essential business tools that you would use to manage a fully distributed team – more on these tools later in this book. Everyone has to start working in the office hours, but this time, everyone stays at home or in a co-working office. Provide co-working office expenses for those who need it – especially for those who have little kids at home. The key here: everyone has to ditch the office for a while but keep productivity levels normal.
Before you do the pivot, set up the essential business tools the same way just like you had a fully distributed business. More on these tools later in details.
Do a full month. If you are brave enough, just with the month up front. If you want, you can do one day first, then a week, then a month.
It is essential not to skip on the first days unless the productivity levels drop dramatically and there are serious issues with running the business.
Most teams who worked in an office together before will lose productivity levels on the first days, even weeks. Don’t be afraid, that is normal. Everyone has to learn the way to work online, it doesn’t come naturally. Also, you are upsetting an established order here, so a small amount of chaos is mandatory.
Openly share all the feedback with the team and try to learn from the mistakes: what went wrong, what the flaws were.
Do not track time. Track projects and outputs.Some managers just love to see their employees working in the office and when they set up remote working, they insist on time tracking so that they can virtually monitor employees’ progress on current projects. Guess what: they do make progress. They often interrupt work with random duties but at the end of the day, your project will be delivered. Remote workers work even more than office workers – they just spread the hours more widely in the day. And after all, the number of hours worked doesn’t matter. The outcome does matter though.
Create a pivot report with all the feedbacks and survey your team members on how they felt about the one-month remote working. Analyse the findings and if you feel comfortable with the results and there’s a stabilization in the production levels at the second half of the remote working period and an increased employee satisfaction within your team – then remote working is good for your company, and you can go full on.
Hire someone remotely
Hire someone remotely and integrate them to your current team. If you have a new open position, consider hiring someone remotely. Make sure, you hire the right candidate – more on how to hire remotely later. Then once the new candidate is ready, have an onboarding session with the new employee. Treat him as you would treat a new employee, show them around in the office – at least virtually – and let them join meetings through video calls. Manage the projects with the new employee online. Meanwhile, gather feedback from your team on their experiences with working someone remotely.
Establish the same business tools to manage projects just like you had a fully remote team. Let your “normal” team adapt and accommodate the newly hired remote employee and not backward.
The key with this pivot is not to find out if you can work with a remote employee. The key here is to find out whether your current team can work with a remote employee– therefore, whether they could work remotely.
Normally, you will have glitches on your office team. If you hired someone remotely and you did it right – the candidate is already familiar with remote working. Your team, however, does not. But, glitches can be fixed. Make sure you will gather enough feedback and information on how the work is conducted and what were the issues – so you can learn and solve them.
After a month, sit down with your team – including the remote employee – and discuss the past month. If you think the pivot worked and you have successfully integrated the new remote employee in your team and also your current team remained satisfied, you can go full remote now.
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At Anywhere Consulting, we help entrepreneurs to launch, build and grow their remote business. We provide support and consulting services as well as educational products to overcome the challenges of remote businesses. If you are a freelancer who wants to launch a distributed business or you already have an established business but want to grow remotely, we can help you.