Remote Work: How to Create Happier Employees Who Get More Done

Deep Dives,

Remote Work: How to Create Happier Employees Who Get More Done

Remote work can be an amazing opportunity for organizations and their employees but it isn’t for everyone. Pete Zimek, CEO of Novi AMS, has been working remotely for over two decades. He shared his thoughts with the Florida Society of Association Executives at their 2019 Education Conference. 

Considerations & Benefits of Remote Work 

Remote work has many benefits for both employers and employees. Employees benefit from zero commute time, higher productivity, and improved quality of life. Employers are able to cast a net for a wider applicant pool and can benefit from lower costs and improved employee retention. 

The technical implementation of either of these solutions is incredibly simple. You should be up and running in a few minutes. The real cost is making sure that you have the proper internal resources in place to staff the other side of the chat. You likely won't see a steady stream of questions. Instead, messages will be sporadic and can sometimes come in all at once. We take a team approach which has been very helpful scaling up and down with demand.

Questions to Ask

Despite these benefits, employers should consider some key factors when determining if remote work is right for their organization, including leadership styles, logistics, team dynamics, and member expectations.

Employees can take advantage of the following questions when considering if remote work is a good fit by asking themselves:

  • Do I have the self-discipline and self-motivation for remote work?
  • Does my home life support remote work?
  • Do I have the ability to create dedicated office space at home?
  • Do I need physical connections or a physical environment to stay engaged?

Remote Office Set-Up

When setting up a remote work environment, you'll need to consider everything from the tech stack your employees will be using to whether you may still need to consider access to brick and mortar space. While there are many logistics involved beyond a laptop and internet connection for a truly effective environment, the following points will help you outline how to get started. 

Digital Infrastructure

Creating an effective digital infrastructure is one of the key factors for successful remote work. Your employees and teams should all be provided guidance and access to create a home office tech-stack that meets established standards. There are many tools for a healthy remote environment that you can and should use including:

  • High-speed internet access with a router is a must. Will you be providing a stipend for home internet or cellular service?
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) products. These cloud-based, subscription software products help your team manage everything from passwords to projects and email communications and may include: LastPass, Microsoft Office 365, Zoom, Slack, Asana, Trello, Jira, Miro, Google Drive, Dropbox, Salesforce, and Pipedrive. 

You will also need to determine what hardware your employees will be utilizing including computers, printers, and cell phones, and how your organization will obtain and dispense these items.

Home Office Environment 

Encourage or require your employees to create a dedicated home office space. Provide guidance or recommended products to create a comfortable and ergonomic workspace. You may even consider an allowance for office equipment that would be necessary to create a safe and comfortable space for your employee.

Employee Expenses

Many organizations will permit some or all employees to have a credit card or method of payment for expenses so office supplies, travel, and other business-related expenses can be easily charged and tracked for reimbursement.

Brick and Mortar Space

Consider brick and mortar space. Some companies or organizations that function 100% virtually rent or retain workspace or an address at various community co-working spaces. This is a great opportunity to have a dedicated and professional in-person space to meet as a team or with clients in-person. Does your organization require storage for marketing collateral, hardware that isn't in use, etc.? Consider retaining a storage unit.  

Managing Remote Employees

Managing a remote team doesn't have to be scary. The correct upfront investment in the right people, and more importantly, the right culture, will set you up for success. First, really invest in establishing a culture (if you don't already have one) of transparency and trust amongst your staff. This should feel palpable to new hires as well. When looking to hire and expand your virtual workforce, consider the following as you evaluate applicants.  

Hiring a Remote Employee

Beyond the incredible skill sets they may bring to the table, examine applications for: 

  • Trends in steady work history.
  • Does the potential new hire have experience working in a remote environment? Even if they don't have paid experience, don't discount volunteer work they may have accomplished. Perhaps they have experience using methods or tools common to a remote work culture from unexpected sources. 
  • Get to know your potential new hire and their "why". Try to uncover what their ideal work environment is and why a remote culture appeals to their goals and professional work style. Does their personality feel like and overall good fit for remote work?  

Once you've invested time into shaping and hiring a strong team that can be managed in a remote environment, you must spend time setting yourself and that team up for success. Even the best teams don't manage themselves and there are often established processes and procedures that are informed by your company culture to make sure everyone is meeting goals and communicating well.

Consider some of the following tips to keep things running smoothly:

  • Daily "standup" meeting – while you may not be officially "on foot", the spirit is the same. Keep these meetings short, sweet, and with the goal for each team member to address important tasks that have been finished, are in progress, or are about to be started.
  • Slack and Zoom status messages - Keep team members and supervisors aware of your status by sharing your availability here. Maybe you're in a meeting, or you stepped away for lunch, you can easily update your status so teammates know when they can catch you.
  • Team shared PTO and Outlook Calendars – This is helpful for grabbing time on a colleague's calendar for a meeting or getting a feel for the general cadence of the week so you can plan tasks and projects.  
  • Establish clear policies – Create an easily shareable, searchable, living document that outlines company policies and procedures. A product like Tettra, which is an internal knowledge base creation tool, is very effective.

Inspiring Remote Employees

Never before have there been more avenues and mediums to inspire and empower your teams. When approached with thought and creativity, your remote team can be some of the most inspired professionals in your industry, no matter the miles between you. Company culture is built on a foundation of purpose (or your "why") trust, transparency, and ultimately a shared vision. Share your story. Be accessible. Be authentic.  

Here are a few ways you might consider accomplishing this:

  • Scheduled 1:1's – Plan for focused time with each employee to discuss goals, task direction, and feedback. These meetings are a two-way street for the employee and supervisor to have an honest conversation about projects, opportunities, and more. 
  • Virtual meet-ups – these can include group lunches, "happy hours", coffee breaks, etc. Perhaps some of the office chooses to attend a virtual conference together and zoom chats about favorite presenters during the breaks! Get creative! 
  • Share wins – Create a slack channel to share wins; sponsorships, benchmarks achieved, event tickets sold, etc. Celebrate a job well done, together.
  • Have fun – make use of those awesome Slack emojis and GIFs (office-appropriate of course!). A little levity goes a long way and laughter is always the best medicine for that slow Monday. Don't forget to have fun. 

Remote work is a rewarding and incredibly productive way to run a business. Spend some time considering if this method of operation aligns with the strengths and goals of your organization. Whether you already run a remote team or are considering a transition to a virtual work environment, consider these tips and processes to start strong or enhance your current process.