It Takes Two Parties To Make Remote Working Succeed

There are some good tips for those starting a remote job over at Fast Company. I definitely agree with many of these, including getting dressed for the day (it doesn’t have to be full work casual, but should be more than pajamas) and setting a schedule.

It’s on the individual to make a remote working situation a success. That’s not disputed. Just as important, and often overlooked as more and more stories come out about the rise in work-from-home situations at companies big and small, is how the employer prepares to make that situation a success. That, in my experience, means a few things:

Communication Channels

This is common sense, but people need a way to talk to each other. While some companies might feel remote staff means missing out on those moments of serendipity that happen when one person runs into another in the hallway, that hasn’t been my experience. Just as many, if not more, of those moments have happened over IM or Slack than ever happened in an the space between offices or desks. That’s because these channels allow for people to share those ideas at the moment they have them. Maybe that’s while you’re working on a document in another browser window or sharing GIFs to amuse yourself, or it’s in response to something you saw on Twitter.

Back in the day these tools included wikis and IM chat. Now it’s Slack or Facebook Work or something else. Whatever the case, make sure there are tools in place that allow for team communication.

Culture Channels

Just as important are those platforms that are less about daily work-related communication and more about sharing culture. Remote staff don’t always get a chance to interact with everyone else who’s not directly connected to them but still want to participate in office jokes and conversations. Slack is also an option here, as are Facebook Groups. Whatever the case, make sure there’s a place where everyone can jump in and feel like they’re contributing to the culture of the company. Just because someone isn’t in the office doesn’t mean they don’t want to belong.

Leadership Checkins

There may already be a process for someone to chat regularly with their direct superior. What shouldn’t be forgotten are intentional instances where the remote worker can chat with those a couple rungs up on the corporate ladder. These are the interactions that are more likely to be missed by someone not being in the office, the moments where a VP stops just to say “hi” because she hasn’t talked to you in a while. Yes, these are somewhat harder to schedule, but making an effort to facilitate this can be a positive for everyone and reinforce the connections between the employee and the company.

Regular Travel

So many of the stories I’ve been reading about remote work cover companies that are based, for instance, in Chicago’s Loop but still almost completely hire from the greater Chicago area. In those cases those are often employees that are being given new work-from-home latitude. How about those companies that are more spread out geographically? Basecamp and Automattic are two regularly-cited examples, but a number of other companies have looked outside the area of the corporate headquarters for the best people, not just the best who happen to live within 50 miles of a particular building.

In those cases where it’s hundreds or thousands of miles that separate the employee from the company’s primary physical location it’s important to factor in travel. Slack and other channels are great, but bringing people out to hang out in the office for a few days is invaluable and should be a regular feature of the remote experience.

Unique Goals and Reviews

Remote staff are unique. While I would never advocate or suggest that they not be held accountable to goals that relate to the success of the business, there are some areas where the metrics of success need to be adjusted. That person might not have the same access to a pool of new business, even if they’re the hottest web designer you can find, and so shouldn’t be judged on that criteria come review time. Whatever the particular example, make sure that you’re not holding someone to a measurement that is outside what they’re capable of achieving. Not everyone contributes toward that success in the same way and embracing a remote staff may necessitate reevaluating how universal those review and advancement criteria are.

Anything to add?