Most companies have already shifted their employees to work remotely from home due to the pandemic. But, there are still many companies that are not well-versed in the nuances and intricacies of working remotely. They need to understand the subtleties of building and scaling virtual businesses. This panel discussion transcript will help you to know the experts’ opinions on this crucial issue. Have a look!
According to the reports, more than 50% of the workforce is at present working from home. These employees are now asking employers for a flexible work environment. However, many companies are not well prepared to deal with new work situations efficiently.
They must have a clear understanding of how the remote workforce works efficiently. There are issues regarding remote communication and bringing the employees together. Companies are struggling to keep the trust of the employees in the organization and what they do. The burning issues such as virtual hiring, communication, team culture, team meetings, etc. need to resolve. There are, in fact, many aspects of remote management that companies need to understand well.
To have an in-depth understanding of these issues, Designhill organized a panel discussion on 25th September 2020. The topic of discussion was – Building & Scaling Remote Companies: Tips & Strategies for Future. During the discussion, the industry experts like Ali Greene, Khalid El Khatib, Jeroen Corthout and Sacha Connor, shared their experience and offered tips to tackle the problems in going to the remote.
The experts shared their views on the current state of the remote workforce and how to build a strong company culture during the pandemic. They also advised on scaling your virtual business. You will also get to know about the tools and resources to get the best out of your remote workforce.
Here Is the Video of The Panel Discussion With The Experts
Here Are The Valuable Tips From The Experts On Building And Scaling Your Virtual Business
Designhill: How companies can have a successful transition from offices to work from home?
Have a strategic approach to remote working
Sacha Connor: I think we need to start off thinking there is a spectrum of remoteness. It doesn’t need to be fully remote or not remote at all. Before the pandemic, a lot of organizations were already working in geographically distributed or virtual teams. They might not have recognized it as such. But pandemic then moved a lot of organizations fully remote. I would have never told anybody to jump into being a frog without having the processes and policies and skills and tools in place. But a lot of organizations found themselves in this situation.
So, as they are thinking about what to do next, I think that they need to take a strategic approach. They should make decisions about the workforce and workplace strategy for the future. It does not need to continue to be fully remote or co-located. There could be something in between that works for the organizations.
Then, they need to think about the infrastructure regarding policy, process, and tech. They should be clear about how to adapt to remote working or hybrid teams. And, within that culture, piece it to the skills development, helping people to know how to collaborate, communicate, lead, across that distance.
Designhill: What are the challenges of going remote initially?
Jeroen Corthout: Obviously, the infrastructure and building out the culture that can deal with remote working is very important. What is equally important is when we made that complete switch from being a company that works out of the office to go remote with customers. I was rethinking all the internal communication processes to make that very systematic.
When we were working out of the office, we sort of did that consciously. And we would not do a lot of remote working then. Sometimes people would work from home if there was a reason, but not too often. Because we felt that working in the office, sort of that accidental communication, was very important for us so that everyone stayed up to date. That completely changes as you go remote. You don’t have these like water-cooler moments that much anymore.
Keep the information flowing
Since you are at a much more distant distance from each other, you need a way to keep the information flowing through the company. That will help give you a few ideas and there’s a whole lot of things you can do. This way, meetings end up very nicely in shared documents. So, for those who could not attend the meeting, we don’t consider that they have to read this whole document, nobody will.
When summarizing the documents, we think about what it is that the other people need to know and that way, people stay up to date. We have things like daily standup meetings, where everybody shares what they did the day before. They share what they do that day, which is very interesting to sort of get discussions going.
We always make sure that people stay aligned. And then this is done more on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. We have operational meetings, where we replan what we’re going to do. We do more strategic meetings. Those meetings are all placed in such a way that a lot of decisions are taken.
And then in between, we don’t need to have these huge discussions in Slack because that doesn’t work. I think a tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams or so is not meant to have a very deep discussion, quick ones, but not very extensive.
Designhill: What sort of companies could be better to start remote during or after pandemic?
Ali Greene: When thinking about all of the potential industries, and what is better service for remote, think of the industries that knowledge workers can draw on their insights. They have the freedom of their own time and location to be inspired and use that inspiration and knowledge to further the product or service their business is offering.
It is quite hard to make certain things remote if your car breaks down, and you need a mechanic. Trying to do that with someone over Zoom is I personally don’t want to try. So I do think that it is important to acknowledge the privilege of the remote shift for knowledge workers.
In terms of timing, I’ve been working remotely for almost five years now. And I think that companies during before and after the pandemic can always be prepared to go remote. This is the advice that I would have for those companies that are thinking about it or excited about it. I love acronyms, thinking about that frog example, which I love. Another acronym I think companies that aspire to be remote to do is they have to bet on the remote.
And what I mean by that is they need to think through the behaviors. What will be rewarded in company culture, what behaviors do you want to make sure people are replicating virtually? And how do your behaviors naturally change? When you are forced to build relationships through tools, like the tool we’re using today and video conferencing instead of spending time in person, i.e. the expectations? What types of office hours should people keep? What will be the cadence of communication? What does done or success look like for a certain project.
Think of technology
And once you figure those things out, then start to think of tools and technology. I am a big advocate of meeting people where their level of expertise is with tools. It may be that your company has slightly older people who are a little bit scared of all the new technologies like Slack or zoom. But you can do a lot just by being intentional with phone calls, email, and tools that people already know.
So how you use those tools is more important. Your concern should be about the norms like security policies that will protect the company’s data and documentation. That way you don’t rely on a certain person.
Designhill: What are some of the warning and rewarding parts when going remote?
Corthout: Well, I think that it requires an investment to be remote. My company was 40% remote before the pandemic, and my team was 60% remote. So, we’re 100% remote today. And what I think is important to consider is this isn’t remote business as usual. Some people don’t want to be remote but who are remote today.
Evolve your policies
We had to evolve our policies accordingly. So for example, we implemented a caregiver policy for folks who have kids where daycares are closed. That allowed them to work flexible hours. We provided internet stipends, office stipends, yoga and meditation classes, cooking classes to sort of help people destress, and not just work from home. So, I think that is an important consideration to make.
It requires both an investment and a lot of flexibility on an executive or CEO’s behalf to be okay with two kids at home. Then, starting work every day at 10, or taking a three-hour break in the middle of the day. In addition to that, there are enormous considerations here about things like a VPN.
I work for a technology company. So, a lot of people, a lot of CTOs and CIOs were coming to us first in March and April when we went remote initially. They wanted to know how do we get thousands of people around the world on to a VPN? How do we scale our servers? How do we invest in the cloud in a scalable way? Therefore, I think that having a sort of pragmatic conversation around the investment from a monetary, technical, and people’s perspective is important.
Designhill: What is the rewarding and scary part of going remote?
Opportunities for the best talent
Sacha Connor: I think that it opens up a lot of great opportunities in terms of getting the best talent from anywhere. Now, I worked 18 years with an agency side, and then 14 years of the Clorox company, the $6 billion company that’s located in Oakland, California. The San Francisco Bay Area of California is very expensive to live in. This opens up now getting talent from anywhere that you don’t have to require people to relocate to this really expensive living area, your business is going to improve because of that. So I think that is a rewarding part.
I think increasing employee engagement, reducing turnover by allowing more flexibility than was ever given before. So I’ve been working remotely for 10 years now, I became this remote work pioneer for this large company. They hadn’t allowed that before. And it increased my engagement with my work because I had this extra level of flexibility to live where I wanted to live and keep the job that I loved.
Therefore, because of the pandemic, I think that it’s accelerated for a lot of senior leaders. They think about this differently thinking about where they use us to put up these barriers around. You need to be within a geographically close location to headquarters. Now, that goes back to kind of the scary part. It’s a huge culture shift. It is a mindset shift and the culture shift.
Skill training is now different
And back to skills training, a lot of people have been very well trained on how to be people within earshot and shout at each other. It is a big difference now to be leading, communicating, collaborating across distance. And that’s what I do. A lot of my training programs around are taking all of those normal leadership skills. Then, they put a twist of distance, and help people to understand how they have to behave differently, use tools differently, use their communication skills differently.
Designhill: When it comes to remote work, how can an organization ensure that communication is very effective?
Joroen Corthout: I think it is about making a distinction between synchronous communication and asynchronous communication to make the right choices there. So, when you are together in the same office, you have much more synchronous communication but that goes down in remote working. This has advantages because you basically can focus better during your work, which has advantages in specific jobs. I’m in the tech industry, for developers, it’s a massive improvement if they don’t hear people talking all the time.
A lot of companies shift, then, to things like Slack. Many internal emails nowadays have been replaced by that. But the danger is that you switch from emails, which you can go to at any time asynchronously to a system where chat messages keep popping up all day. You naturally get distracted, there’s always the discussion going on. Also, you have this fear of missing out when the discussion has already happened. That’s very dangerous.
Companies are popping up, like twists from the guys who have to do it, for instance, to try to build a sort of another model there. But even if you use something like Slack or Teams, I think it is also a matter of making the right things within the team.
Zoom is a useful tool
So for instance, in terms of tooling, we do our meetings, usually on Zoom. It is nice because you can put it next to other stuff. While if you, for instance, use something like Google Meet, and it’s a tab in the news, switching tabs the whole time off. We have Zoom open on the side, I usually have my colleagues on top of each other there. I can all see their faces while we’re having a meeting.
And on the left a Google Doc open. You see people’s faces, you can read their body language, everybody has their camera on. We still sort of have some sort of body language and all that. Then on the left, there is an actual discussion going on, while the actual discussion is, of course, talking. But that’s where it crystallizes. Every single part of the discussion is written down.
When we decide not to do stuff, we document. You sort of get to something but also for posterity, you can go back to it. But to go a bit further on ways of keeping the communication going.
If you are doing external communication, there are great tools to communicate with people together in one place. We use intercom for our support conversations, but many alternatives. We use the sales layer, of course, for some of the other communication, for instance, when we reach out to partners, and all that was sales fair is a sales serum. So it’s sort of sales that we do thinking, what are the tools we use? Some discord, I mentioned this earlier, it’s a bit of a funny one.
Recreate office environment
But in many ways, recreating the office environment sometimes if you want, it is nice. With discord is by nature, a gaming thing where gamers get together on a channel and they talk. However, it can also be nice to open up such an audio channel with a few people if you want to have a chat. So you don’t need to, like do the whole jump on Zoom thing. All you just open an audio channel and you can chat with each other. I think that’s largely your get up as well. But that’s a very tech-related thing.
Designhill: How can companies and businesses ensure effective communication within the teams?
Go for asynchronous communication
Jeroen Corthout: I think it is asynchronous versus synchronous communication. The research shows that zoom fatigue is real. People get sick of being on video calls all day and the cost of being pinged on slack or Microsoft Teams, or G chat or whatever, or text or whatever. WeChat whatever text you are using has an enormous cost on productivity.
And so we go for asynchronous communication. We use our tool Stack Overflow for teams, which is a knowledge management solution. It integrates with Slack and teams, and anytime someone asks a question. I work in marketing, it might be like, hey, where’s this infographic, or is this product sock to certified. For example, someone would say, hey, that’s a great question for Stack Overflow for teams. And it lives sort of within that. It replaces a wiki, but it lives within that system.
People can ask questions in real-time, they can upvote what’s most useful. We find that it saves us a lot of time so that people are asking and answering the same questions over and over again. The other piece of advice is that it should be intuitive. We are a big fan of Slack here because we have such a developer culture. But we can leverage the status tools and status updates. When I take a lunch or I go for a run in the middle of the day, as I’ve started doing, especially as it’s nice here in New York, I let people know.
Set communication management culture
Also, I try to sort of cascade to my team and normalize that it’s okay to take breaks, that it’s okay to say to people, hey, leave me alone. It is certainly not sustainable to be online from when we wake up at seven in the morning to when we go to bed at midnight. Therefore, you have to set a culture of managing the communication, and the tools today allow you to do that.
Designhill: Since the pandemic is there, how should we meet clients and close a deal?
Ali Greene: I would ask the question to the person, why do you think that asking someone’s time and the inconvenience of finding a place to meet is the better solution. So, we think about it, because it’s the way things have always been done. But are people meeting up for coffee and having deep conversations about solutions that need solving and how they can partner together? Or are they meeting because it’s sort of like sales life on autopilot?
Change the business perspective
And so change the perspective of business as usual, and reinvent the wheel that has probably been broken for so long. That way, I think people can start to get that time and energy back in their day. You want to approach connecting to a past client because you have value to share, you saw an article or a webinar, such as this one.
You remember your client being nervous about moving to a remote work strategy. Then, you ping them and say, this has nothing to do with my service. But I saw it and I thought of you and making sure those connections are authentic and genuine. That is a great way to continue to build the relationship remotely. It could be as quick as sending them cool information, useful information.
Also, meeting face to face could be meaningful as we haven’t had a good conversation in a while. You can trade some tips on how we’ve been handling all of the things going on in the world. Then, if and when it’s appropriate, you can do things like product demos virtually even better. You can do things asynchronously.
When it comes to product demos, create a video of you using that product. This way, you let your client look at it in their own time when they have the brainpower to focus on it. Then, they can come back to you synchronously with questions. So, I think it’s all about being creative and authentic when it comes to keeping those sales relationships alive.
Designhill: When it comes to remote working, how to engage employees?
Sacha Connor: I think we should step back and define what we mean by engagement. This is because oftentimes when we say engagement, it drives everybody to think about the fun or having these virtual happy hours. But actually, it’s more than that. If you think about what engagement means, it is about giving your all in your role. Also, it’s statistically tied to productivity, employee retention, and profitability.
Have trust in the leader
There was a great study done with 19,000 Global employees, by ADP research. It showed that employee engagement, as I just defined, was dismal. So, if you worked on a team, it was found that 17% of your employees were fully engaged at work, and the rest was just kind of showing up. What they saw statistically, though, was to get that number up from 17% to 45%, was that you worked on a team, and had a deep trust in your leader. And that’s what helped with this engagement.
The deep trust in your leader was defined as the leader can play to your strength and what the leader expects from you. None of that is talking about virtual happy hours. So it’s getting back to kind of the foundations of team culture, creating a mission, a purpose-driven culture, your team values, and reinforcing those values.
And of course, having fun is part of that. But a piece of the fun, for example, should ladder up to reinforcing the values of the team. It should reinforce creating that trust between your senior leaders and the rest of the organization. So I think you need to have a strategic approach to the activities that you are doing.
As far as getting people to engage with them is concerned, I think it gets back to making it flexible. This is because it is not normal remote work. It is extreme work-life integration as a parent of two school-aged kids right now. It is an enormous amount of juggling going on right now. And so we can’t expect everybody to be available all the time to even do the fun stuff. So we need to allow flexibility for people to engage when they can and opt-out when they can’t.
Designhill: What tasks you guys are doing for your employees to keep them engaged?
Jeroen Corthout: I’ll just talk about something completely different to keep it interesting. We have a biweekly discussion with our employees about how they are doing in terms of focus. It is also about knowing how we can help them stay engaged. We had this discussion today as well. And I’ll try to summarize some of the things that often come up.
The routine of work is lacking
One of the problems of remote work is that you don’t have this routine of going to work. That makes it very different for people to separate things. Some people in our team, for instance, just jump out of bed and sit behind a computer and go. At the end of the day, they find it hard as well to sort of make the switch, which makes them less engaged. This is especially if the place where they work is the place where they also sit to watch series and play games.
Feel and see your progress
That is when it goes wrong because then they feel like everything is a blur. So we help them avoid that. Additionally, what also weighs on people very much is the size of tasks. When you are working all by yourself, feeling progress is always important. But when you are really by yourself, and you need to keep up that energy, stay focused on seeing progress all the time.
We give a lot of sales advice and it also applies there. For instance, you tell a salesperson you need to sell for 10 million this year. It’s very hard to stay motivated based on that. While it’s much easier to stay motivated if you say you close one deal a week, or bring three new leads a week. This is because then you can see that shorter progress.
And if you don’t see that, you very quickly start sort of slacking off. For instance, we have a big project going on now internally, a whole new permissions feature. It is a very big thing and the developers are working on that. They start feeling the sort of downwards pressure. Even though we split up the project into smaller tasks, because we know about this, it’s still really hard. When you always see that you can finish something jumping to the next thing, then that helps.
Designhill: What would be the potential solution to hiring the right talent for the team when it comes to remote work?
Ali Greene: Hiring is opening up candidates to find jobs that they are very passionate about and are excited to have. Therefore increasing their engagement. For employers, it is allowing themselves to see the whole world as their candidate pool. It is also making sure they are finding people who are excited to do that type of work and have the right skill set for that type of work. Additionally, it offers an opportunity to increase the diversity of employees. I do see fears on both sides of the table.
However, when it comes to the process of interviewing remotely, employers have their fears. They fear that they have not done the interviewing online before. So, they do not know where to start. For employees, they too have their fears. I joke that they don’t have that opportunity to see what it’s like. One of my favorite hacks, when I was talking to people about interviewing in offices is go use the restroom at the office. This way they can see if people are coming in there and complaining about their coworker or their manager.
Go to the place where people are having coffee. See if people are saying hi to each other or if they are ignoring each other filling up their coffee and going back to their desks. That’s how you can see what types of conversations and what types of innovation happened in the workplace.
Make interviewing realistic
The best companies will remove the screen of mystery for candidates. This is because they are also interviewing the company that you know it’s a choice now on both sides as we continue to open up the world. What I think needs to happen is to make the interview process as realistic as possible in terms of the following type of work the company expects candidates to do.
You allow them to say I enjoy this work or I don’t enjoy this work. This gives employers opportunities to say this person can do the work or they can’t do the work. It helps keep it more objective, removes some implicit bias from the process.
There are various strategies that you can use to do that. You can take your homework assignments. The best companies are starting to pay for the effort to complete these projects and knowing that people are putting in dedicated energy to do it.
The other thing is giving on glimpses into what it might be like to work there. And so considering a consulting to full time hiring approach, or inviting people to join team meetings as an observer. Let it be a two-sided interview in a conversation in that way to make sure that before you enter this agreement, you understand what you are getting into.
Designhill: How can an organization bring that trust factor on board?
Khalid El Khatib: I think on remote hiring, we’re super comprehensive. So I don’t have much to add there. I would say about when someone is on board. I mean, having robust onboarding documents that people can view on their own time is important. That goes back to our asynchronous tool, Slack Overflow for everyone on board, and has everything in front of them that they consume. They can consume in real-time.
Companies want to go remote
The other thing that I would stress is that companies increasingly embrace remote, whether that’s a hybrid model or an entirely remote model. It’s competitive out there. And due to the remote, we got a lot of talent from all over the world. Previously, there were not a lot of remote technology companies, especially jobs like SRS, or sales folks, most of those folks had to be in office. That’s no longer true.
Evolve your policies
So, I’ll stress that people need to evolve their policies. They need to unlock budgets for employee engagement, and other perks. If they do not have remote components, like an office type in an internet site, they are going to likely lose talent to other similar companies who are doing remote better.
Designhill: How to go about maintaining that enthusiasm for the company’s vision, and culture within the remote employee?
Have a company mission
Sacha Connor: I think it is really important to make sure that you have a company mission. So, depending on the size of your company, you might not have developed that yet. Or, if you have one, make sure that it’s really visible. The mission and corporate values should be visible and transparent.
I think GitLab came up a little bit earlier, but they are a great example. They have their online employee handbook, for example. You can go there and see an example of very searchable, lots of information for people to be able to find on their kind of some of these cultural aspects. They can learn how we communicate together and what our values are. But you need to be able to reinforce those values every day.
Role model those values
So, that is role modeling those values and recognizing people who are living those values. And then I also teach how you take those kinds of company values. If you are in a larger organization, a lot of the companies that I work with have thousands of employees. They have been around for 50 to some hundred years and have an ingrained culture.
But how do you take those values and then take them and live them at a team level? So, having some foundational setting sessions with your team about what our team values. Know how you are going to reinforce how we’re going to work together to reach our team goals. And again, back to role modeling and to reinforcing through recognition
Make culture through action
Jeroen Corthout: To be very honest with you here, we built our culture before we were remote. We are still with the same people. I don’t know whether we have the best example. But I think culture is mostly built through action. It’s not something where you can make a list of values and make it clear to everyone nice. But it’s mostly by adhering to these values, that you make sure that everybody follows it.
We try to have a very open culture, for instance, where everybody can bring up what they think should be changed. But that only works when every time that somebody says something, you acknowledge it and you do something with it. If you don’t, then that sort of culture does not come about.
Write down your values
And another point I wanted to make in terms of vision and mission. It is a matter of having it written down preferably in a brief thing. You can have a long version, but also a brief one is nice. So you can refer to it easily. I know that in some companies, they repeat it at the beginning of each meeting. We don’t put it in there.
I think at our scale, we don’t do that. But the bigger your company becomes, the more time you have to start spending on research and re-communicating that message. So everyone keeps living it, especially the new people. That sort of all I have to share about that, I think.
Designhill: What strategies or tips would you share about having an effective virtual meeting in place?
Jeroen Corthout: When it comes to virtual meetings, my first tip is to go asynchronous before calls. And so anything that cannot be done in a meeting shouldn’t have a meeting for it. I think this is something already people in offices tend to joke about and complain about. But it’s even more true. You can add in the impact of Zoom fatigue, staring at your screen all day. The physical as well as the emotional, and distributed teams across multiple time zones is there. So do not have meetings for information that’s one-directional and things that are simple and easy to comprehend.
Then, it frees up all of this space to be intentional about why you are meeting. I think a great relationship building is a great reason to have meetings. I’m a huge fan of people’s kick-off. So, the first time you are working with a new group of people, whether it’s within the same team is cross-functional to get together. Talk about what my communication styles are? How do I like to receive feedback? How should we update each other? How should we ask for help? Those help build the relationship, or intentionally even getting a little level deeper.
So a lot of the team building activities we talked about, they tend to focus on sharing information. For instance, one of my favorite new hobbies is learning how to read tarot cards. But it’s not going to make anyone feel more connected to me necessarily. Instead, asking questions and having vulnerability-based trust and using meeting times to explore that vulnerability.
Building trust with one another is the best way to keep those video calls more engaging, more collaborative, and frankly, more fun. Then, when it comes to really serious business stuff, things like tone and emotion and the harmony of your voice can still tell a story. But that you lose out with technology. Save complex business decisions, brainstorming sessions, and things of that nature for video calls.
Again, pick up on more subtle cues, like making sure people are engaged in the video. Check for eye contact, people smiling, or worse, are they always joining on their video with their camera off, people are going to be bored out of their minds. It shows that as an employee, I’m disengaged from this information.
It should be a trigger for a manager to check in with that person and ask them how they are doing. And so bringing that human element back into the communication, even though we’re a lot relying on the computers to make the communication work.
Designhill: What are the difficulties faced in running remote companies?
Khalid El Khatib: About 300 people were working at my company all over the world. And we know that it’s not enough to just talk to the people who work for you or to telophase. It is not enough to say that talk to your manager to get pulse checks and how people are doing. We have implemented a tool that I love called Officevibe. It has supplemented the sort of traditional approach to employee engagement and runs a survey once or twice a year.
We know how transient people are and how quickly the world is changing from COVID. We need to be able to sort of see how people are doing in real-time. So, every Thursday, we send in Officevibe surveys with this third party tool that gauges employee engagement across five questions. It could say like, I trust my manager, I have the tools that I need to do my job, I have a friend at work, those sorts of questions.
And we can also hyperfocus it on things like diversity and inclusion relative to what’s happening in the US in remote work. All of those survey responses are delivered to managers and executives at the company monthly. It is like a real-time suggestion box. We can see how we’re tracking relative to March when the pandemic started, June, and July. At that time, there was a lot of fatigue about working from home. We can compare that to where we stand today and adjust the dials in real-time. So I’ll drop that in the chat. But that’s a tool that we’ve come to see a lot of value in over the past several months.
Designhill: How should leaders think about hybrid meetings, different than fully remote meetings?
Sacha Connor: Hybrid meetings are much harder than fully remote meetings. I spent eight years being in hybrid meetings, and I felt the pain directly about being in this hybrid meeting. So, I think the hallmark of a good meeting is it is effective, efficient, engaging, and inclusive. And that engagement and the inclusive piece is really hard when you have these hybrid meetings. During pre-pandemic, when I would work with teams, I would try to get them to think about how to create this even playing field. This was the way to have everybody call in from their own unique workstations, even if they were co-located in a building together.
But that was a very big culture change for the right team and I’ve worked in a headquarters before where people like to huddle together and rooms. It was very hard during the pre-pandemic to get people to think about even doing that. I think whenever post-pandemic things happen, this will be more of an acceptable idea for even when people are in an office setting. They are co-located and still call in from their unique workstations.
In the case that you do, those still have these hybrid meetings, some of the tips that I provide include having a buddy in the room. I was a remote work pioneer for the billion-dollar cleaning division of Clorox. I was the only fully remote member of this leadership team. Everybody else was co-located in a room together.
Buddy in the room
So, I would have a buddy in that room who could make space for me to be able to be heard. This is because sometimes it’s really hard to break through the video through the audio into the room. I had a backchannel to that person where I would say I’m trying to get a word and my buddy would say, hold up guys Sacha’s is trying to say something here.
Or, that buddy in the room would also, if somebody was scribbling on a wall whiteboard. People love whiteboards or having sticky note parties to brainstorm. That person will be responsible for taking pictures of that for me or turning the camera to where I needed to see it. So having a buddy in the room will be helpful, too.
Designhill: How to keep remote workers plugged in to the work?
Ali Greene: I get this question all of the time. How do I know that my remote workers are actually at home working? How do you know that your employee sitting at a desk from 8 am to 6 pm is working? I had plenty of office jobs that I am proud to admit now probably embarrassed to admit. There were moments that I was not working on that computer, I was sitting there looking at the time waiting to be let go from my duty in the office.
We have already shared so many data points about the engagement of remote workers being hired. This is because they are allowed to have more autonomy, flexibility, make this combination of life and work, work for them. There is a natural and intrinsic drive to do better, to be better, to be excited about the results of the work.
Start from trust
If you start with a place of trust, and not from a place of distrust, your employees will exceed your expectations. And this is not just an opinion. This has been proven in a lot of studies. Very recently, a group called the International Workplace group did a survey. 85% of the businesses surveyed said that flexible remote work policies have increased their productivity for them. I think to make this work for you again, it goes back to some of the building block concepts we’ve talked about.
When are certain things to do and what breaks down projects into milestones? How do you check in on those milestones? Talk about what the obstacles will be and see who internally you can ask for help with a cadence of communication. So that adage of no news is good news is not true with remote work. This is what I hope to accomplish next week, we’re still on track to meet this external deadline. Such things are already a great simple script that your employees can use to check-in asynchronously. They can remove that need for micromanagement. Managers are learning how to trust people when they are not physically in front of them.
Khalid El Khatib: You have to trust people. You look at the output and you put performance reviews. But at the end of the day, you have to trust to get the work done.
Designhill: What do you think about how the future of work looks like post COVID?
Sacha Connor: I believe for the vast majority of companies, their future is hybrid. So, it’s not saying as a frog, it’s hybrid. We’ve talked a little bit already today that hybrid is even harder than being fully remote. You are on an even playing field. When you go back to being hybrid, you have some unconscious biases that pop up.
Our brain’s natural tendency is to put more importance on the people and things closer to us than those that are further away. Therefore, we put more importance on the people or things you’ve heard from or seen more recently. And that all makes for a very difficult organization structure. But I think that’s going to be the reality of it.
Invest in upskilling
So, as people are preparing for this future, post-COVID, you need to be thinking about investing in upskilling. Make sure that your organization knows the right leadership, communication, and collaboration skills to overcome these biases that I just mentioned. You have to create a location diversity and inclusion plan. So that’s part of DNI that we don’t usually talk about, but is now obviously coming to the forefront during the pandemic.
And then you should consider having a senior role, which I like to call the head of the hybrid. The head is responsible for integrating across all locations and creating that Workforce Strategy and overseeing execution. I know there are a lot of tech companies that are starting to create these heads of the remote. But I actually would push that further and say ahead of hybrid for most companies is even more important.
Designhill: What do you think about how the future of work looks like?
Jeroen Corthout: I still think it’s a very hard question for us in tech, for sure. Hybrids will be the future. I do see that a lot of more traditional companies will probably not go that way. My wife, for instance, is working for a big materials company. I don’t see these people going remote nor hybrid. A lot of companies in the same building as we are, I don’t think will go there. I do believe in a part of the company’s future.
Ali Greene: So I agree with a lot of what’s been said already, I think from a very logistical point of view hybrid in terms of some people choosing to work in offices, others choosing not to, will be the future, I like to question that by saying that if one person is remote, the whole company is remote in terms of how you are sharing information, documentation, expectations being inclusive. I think a lot of the points that other panelists have brought up are important.
Set clear expectations
But I do like this idea that if one person is not in the office, we have to think and act as if none of us are. With that said, the basis of what I hope happens in the future, is companies are trusting their employees more. They will treat people like adults that are excited to push the service or the product forward. That is because they believe in the vision. I hope that we see companies learning how to set more clear expectations on how they define professional success with their people and projects.
I hope we don’t lose this human element of vulnerability and authenticity that we’re normalizing during the trying times of the pandemic. Being able to open up and be yourself at work and lean on each other for support is a human element of the business. I hope it never goes away.
Khalid El Khatib: I believe in a hybrid work environment moving forward. And I also think that we will see a rise in quality. The economic landscape is tough right now, and I suspect it will continue to be where we see some companies survive.
I think that everyone is going to soon know someone whose company is doing remote work right there. What that means for companies who aren’t doing it is that people will leave and go to companies where they are getting up. In the same way, people are sort of evolving their business strategy to meet this tough economic moment. People are going to involve their employee policies as well.
These are the key aspects of building and scaling a virtual business. Consider these suggestions to enrich your organization’s experience for your remote workforce.
While emphasizing on the importance of going remote in these trying times, do not forget your brand identity and its visuals such as logo, business cards, brochures, websites, etc. These visuals must be impressive and unique to make a lasting impact on your audience.
To create great visual identities like a logo, you can outsource your design works to Designhill, the leading creative marketplace. Launch your design contest for designers and get your logo etc. designs right away in a few days as per your brief.
Companies are trying hard to build remote businesses and scale it as well in the pandemic. But they need to understand the fine points to make remote working smoother in a lot of ways. They need to ensure that employees communicate effectively and the level of trust is maintained. The choice of the right remote communication and other tools matters a lot and the company’s culture and values matter a lot, say the experts.