We have no skin in the game – links are not “affiliate”. They are for your personal review.
*Asterisks mean we will write more about that subject in the future
By now you have certainly seen dozens and dozens (even more) of articles and links concerning “Best Remote Work” practices, on “Managing Remote Workers” and about “Tech Set Up” for remote workers.
Each article is the result of the endless blogger telephone game – copy then paraphrase articles by other writers. Meanwhile you read or skim them in the hope that you’ll learn some new trick, method or see some new tech that could up your remote worker game.
Here’s a Pro Hint for Remote Work:
As far as we can tell, each one of these articles originated from the Holy Grail of remote work companies, 37 Signals, aka: Basecamp and its book “Remote: Office Not Required” written in 2013. Yes 2013.
This book covers it all, right down to remote work’s finest points. Like many things written, programmed, and conceived by Jason Fried and his co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson, this book was way ahead of its time.
They’ve actually been fully remote since their founding (1999[est.]). Seriously.
Why you need to read about Remote Work
Disclosure: We practice a scheduled, hybrid work environment. We take advantage of some benefits of remote work. We are not ready for the 37 Signals / Basecamp full Monty. But either way, employees and applicants are seeking remote work opportunities. So here we offer a few things:
- Our internal remote work checklist designed to integrate not to interfere with your business.
- Simple best practices for remote work.
- Thoughts on the productivity question.
- Knowing if your people are engaged without checking their status all the time.
- Thinking about expanding your Remote Team.
- Trying to keep it all simple and this read under 5 minutes.
The Stuff they will need for Remote Work
These lists are so obvious and ubiquitous it always makes us laugh each time we see it.
A PC or Laptop with a built in camera.
A headset with integrated microphone, wired or Bluetooth.
A desk or proxy for a desk.
A clean or at least quirky BUT organized background.
A printer with an ink subscription.
Google Meet or Teams installed or 365 available on their laptop.
Google Work or Microsoft Office (365).
Optional Remote Work Tools
Webcam (Logitec – C920s).
Lap top video conferencing light (tripod / free standing).
Desk chair with real support (prices widely vary here, something within reason).
Full list of Desk chairs as reviewed by Gear Patrol (Desk Chairs).
Proper Desk (The one our team members buy often).
Over Ear Headset with microphone boom (Jabra Evolve)
Working together as a Remote Work team
Working as a remote team for 2 weeks at a time seems to be our sweet spot. If after that, we don’t meet face to face for a few hours as a group we’ve noticed significant drop off in the following crucial or mission critical areas:
- Communication & Engagement
- 1 + 1 = 3
Communication and Engagement with Remote Work
Let’s just say that communication fall off is a real thing over time in the remote environment. Plus no one communicates the same way. Here is how we refer to them:
- Gabbers: like instant messaging and lots of short sentences, as if the number of times they hear the instant message alert is the goal.
- Concise Communicators: team members that only communicate something when they think its important.
- Generalists: the middle of bell curve that are just about like everyone else.
Each of them is good so long as there is consistency in their communication. I’m a Gabber, but you’ve probably guessed that.
Pro Hint: Whatever their style, consistency in that style is the determining factor in remote team members’ engagement. As a manager, knowing each of your team members’ communication styles and monitoring that will answer a lot of questions about their suitability for remote work and their engagement within your Team.
Scheduling for Remote Work
We read so much about scheduling in the remote environment that if you are new to the game you’d think that’s the solution to all remote work. Schedule deliverables. Schedule phone calls. Schedule meetings.
As if this is some new form of remote work productivity map. (Pro Hint: It’s not).
Remote work Scheduling needs to be at a whole other level. Beginning with the availability window discussed in a previous post , a remote work environment requires a shared calendar app. Outlook is a great answer.
It does amaze us how many people are functional but not good with Outlook. So much so that we train our people regularly on how to use Outlook. Not unlike time punch cards, Outlook’s shared calendar features are an excellent tool for reminding everyone they are part of a team. These tools work for us. They keep everyone on track.
Each company, down to its first level managers needs to define productivity in its own way. We are not here to tell you what works for one can work for all. There is no one secret.
The reality is you are managing people. People are motivated by different things. You can build a culture that rewards individual success, team success, division or company wide success. The old mantra about all oars need to pull in the same direction is true.
The secret to long term universal focus that we’ve found is finding cultural fit and nurturing that cultural / community fit. That is the best determinant of company success and productivity over the long haul.
We do have a great hack for this pre-hire and recommend that our recruiting clients use it. we are so confident in the results its use has produced that we include it at each of our Hiring Pro recruiting levels. Here is a link if you are curious.
1 + 4 = 6
Yes that cliché. But not how you may be think about it.
When you add people to your team you do so because you believe that their addition to the team will create greater results than the Team currently is bringing. You believe you have hired or promoted someone that will increase productivity of the Team greater than each current Team member (on average) provides. That they will raise the average.
When that average dips, you know its time for more in-office days just to get the Team back on track. Forget individual productivity. It’s important but with remote work Team productivity is more important. Try thinking about the unique productivity data your company collects on your Team. Understand how your Team is ranked vs other Teams. Break down that productivity data into weekly or bi-weekly data. Use benchmark as your barometer to determine your effective remote team management.*
We have definitely learned that managing a remote team is far more difficult than managing an in-office team.
We know that remote work needs to be treated like flexible work and not like a half day.
We know that productivity only happens when people are engaged.
We also know that comfortable desks and desks, connectivity, shared calendars, productivity software training and current devices / equipment that work is crucial.
There is still much to learn. We may have started this post questioning the need for “yet another blog post about remote work”. The truth is we are learning more about how to operate in the hybrid work environment every day.
We still have new hires come into the office more frequently than others.
We still require managers to come into the office more frequently than their people.
We do this because our Directors and C level folks still feel the need to be in the office. It’s like mission control for them.
But we are working on them too. Perhaps it’s generational. But a connected world should be ready made for businesses and their employees. We all need to become more comfortable with remote work. Commutes and offices are stressful places that zap the health and productivity of people overtime.
The better we can make work environments the better our collective future and productivity will be.
We will be revisiting this post as we discover new value and solutions to create that better work environment.