In a recent study published by OwlLabs concluded that 65% of on-site employees in the US want to work outside the office at least once a month and the majority of them would love to try this even for once per week. There is no denying that a change in how we work is here. Remote business is embraced by startups who manage fully distributed teams and entrepreneurs who grow their business remotely. But how can an already established company keep up with the trend — how do you turn your company into a distributed business?
The transformation process is a simple 5-step approach, but it is full of risks and possible setbacks with great rewards at the end. It’s not much different than launching a new product or an MVP. Except for this time, your company is the one that’s getting (re)launched.
Step 1 — Learn the why.
The first step is risk-free and lots of fun — and it’s essential. Learn how the distributed business model and managing a remote team can help your company to grow. In a nutshell, backed by countless of studies done on remote workers, your team will be more productive, much healthier and you will have the chance to manage a truly diverse, multicultural and inspiring team. The change will influence your company’s growth — in real numbers and ROI. On the top of the increased productivity, you will have higher margins, access to the global talent pool and a much flexible business model.
Learning about the benefits of a distributed company is free. My company, Anywhere, helps entrepreneurs like you to make the change and go remote. All of our resources are free, including our long-read book, which you can get from here.
Step 2 — Evaluate your current setup.
Distributed business is not for everyone. If you have a medium-sized team, your company operates in the technology- or creative services space; chances are you are good to go. It is easier to make the switch if all your current processes are running online anyway. For everyone else, evaluate carefully.
Do you have full support internally? Make sure that everyone in your current team would support the change. The simplest way to secure this: ask them. Do internal meetings and surveys if they can and would work remotely if needed.
Do you have full support externally? You are an established business with existing clients — will they able to work with you remotely. You have to make sure that switching to a new model won’t lead to churn.
Put the current setup up to the whiteboard. Map out your current operations and look for those which are essential. You won’t touch these for now. Find those areas where you can allow a few days or weeks of setbacks. If you have operation areas like this, that’s where you will test the new model.
Once you got everyone onboard and mapped out the current setup, you can prepare for the change.
Step 3 — Prepare for the change.
The distributed business model is all about location — the lack of location. You need to prepare all your current operations to remove the location out from the equation. There are two minor steps you need to do to achieve this.
One, you have to educate the current team. It is not enough just to let everyone to buy-in to this. You don’t want to change your current team. You want the team to go remote — so help them to do so — doing internal training programs and preparation is a must at this stage. There are countless courses for employees helping to stay productive while working remotely.
Two, you have to work in your office as there would be no office. It might lead to silly situations but stick with the plan. If your current project management is not fully online, build the infrastructure first. You would be surprised how many companies have slow or non-existing cloud-based solutions for their resources or how many teams still use offline whiteboards to map out entire project plans but don’t turn that plan into an accessible online roadmap. Setting up the new tools and methods would take a while but even if you don’t make the switch at the end, just by setting up these new processes will kickstart your growth.
Step 4 — Test the new model.
This step is required only to manage risk when you make the final switch. You have to test the model out first. Testing the model is easy: you have to skip the office for a while. The goal of the test: go remote for a short period and learn how to manage the inevitable road bumps. Your productivity might even fall a bit, but that is normal. When everything falls into place, you will be surprised how quickly it recovers and even surpasses your previous standard.
There are a few ways you can do the testing — all depends on your current setup:
You can let some people or your full team go remote for a period. A week is a minimum but a month would be the best. They have to skip the office entirely and only work remotely. Support them on this journey: for some, having an office is critical — let them work from coworking offices.
Hire someone remotely. If you were about to extend your team with new members, why not hire your next employee remotely? Integrate the new employee into your current team. The critical thing to test here is not how the new employee can work with you but how your current team can work with someone remotely.
No matter which option you choose, sit down with your team and gather feedback after the testing. At that point, you will have all the processes established to go remote, and your team also had an impression on how to work remotely.
After the testing, you can make an informed decision if you still want to transform your company.
Step 5 — Build a remote business culture.
The final step is to make the decision — at this point, I highly recommend to go all-in. Become a fully distributed business. By going all-in, you can change not just your processes and operations but also your culture. The critical element for any distributed company is their culture — that is how they retain their remote team and grow their business.
Remote business culture is not about your office — it is about diversity, transparency, self-responsibility and the way you work. Build and share this culture with everyone and help other entrepreneurs to learn from your success.