After you’ve carefully considered all pitfalls and benefits of going remote, the next step is to create a transitional strategy for your team. This step is designed for teams who are going from co-located to distributed, but some of the points can be applicable to the companies who are just starting out and are determined to be remote.
Your transitional strategy will depend on your reasons for going remote. Therefore, companies who are going remote because they want to increase employee satisfaction and keep their retention rates high won’t follow the same procedure as those who are doing it to cut down the costs. So, let’s start with your reasons for going remote.
Identify Reasons for Going Remote
When you decided to go remote, you certainly had the “why” in your mind. Benefits remote companies bring to employers and employees are undeniable, so there are many reasons why you would want to do it.
If you’re aiming to reduce the costs of space, furniture and equipment, then you should take into consideration other operational costs that might pop up because you’re remote. Calculate everything. Write down the lists of costs you have currently, including office space, bills, software licenses, anything you’re covering for your employees (gas money or public transport tickets), lunches, equipment, and so on. Now write down the list of costs you would have if you were remote. Sure, you wouldn’t be paying for office space and bills for that space, but will you be giving allowance to your employees for coworking spaces, internet costs, and other things? If you have a small team, these expenses won’t be as high at the moment, but as your team grows you’ll need to set aside more money for such perks.
Another popular reason for going remote is increased employee satisfaction and retention. Research has shown that 8 out of 10 remote employees are happy with their job, and they’re not planning to switch anytime soon. In order to keep that number, you must think of ways to keep employees happy. Just being able to work remotely won’t cut it. You should think about adding some other perks to the mix.
The one reason why you should never start a remote company is just because it’s popular. Remote work doesn’t work for every company out there, and if this is the only reason you want to do it, you better don’t. Without a clear reason to distribute your team, you won’t be able to create a clear transitional strategy and keep all stakeholders happy.
Besides being your guide, your reason for going remote will also be your goal. Keep in mind that the goal should be created in a SMART form. For example, if you’re going remote to cut down the costs, you could say that you want your company to save X amount of dollars by the end of the year. Or if you’re looking to retain employees, you should look at your current retention rate and set up a higher number as your goal.
Now when you’ve set your goals, it’s time to plan. You and your team should perform a company assessment. The idea is to map out your entire organization - processes, workflows, organizational structure. After you’ve mapped everything, you must identify those workflows that must remain intact. Additionally, you should identify those that need to change in order to accommodate your new way of working.
Next up, you should analyze every job role within your company. List the duties and responsibilities of each employee, and think how their work and output might be affected by this transition. You should pinpoint the “critical” assignments this change could affect the most, and think about the ways to overcome any challenges that might arise.
After you’ve done all that, you should go through your existing policies and procedures, to ensure they are aligned with the remote working environment. But besides that, you should also create some new policies.
Must-Have Policies of Remote Teams
The first one on your list should definitely be a remote work policy. Such a policy should clearly state:
- Who can work remotely and how long
- What is expected from the remote employees
- What are the costs of remote work your company will cover (coworking space allowance, home office allowance, equipment cost, internet cost, etc.)
- Advice on the best practices (working in a quiet place, remaining focused on the work during working hours, what is the working schedule, and so on)
- Which policies should employees closely follow if they’re working remote
The more details you have in this policy - the better. That way, everyone on your team will be on the same page, even the new hires.
And talking about new hires, you must update your hiring policy. Hiring remotely differs from hiring locally in many ways. To begin with, chances are you won’t be able to meet with the candidates in person, so you must turn to video conferencing tools. Additionally, you must create online tests to ensure the person you’re hiring is actually knowledgeable about their role. You should also think about the decision making process of hiring. For example, the Camplight team describes themselves as an invite-only cooperative. They have around 12 members currently, and when they’re hiring the candidate must be recommended by one of the other teammates. Additionally, everyone on the team must agree that this person is good for the job in order for them to get hired. This is a great solution for small teams, however, for teams over 50 it’s highly unlikely that everyone can agree on one decision. So, identify the decision makers for each department within your company, as well as who has the final say in who’s going to be hired.
As the hiring process changes, the onboarding process will too. You won’t be able to show employees their new office, and introduce them to everyone on the team in person. The onboarding policy for your remote hires should be like a checklist or a map of onboarding. Cover all the steps employees must go through, like signing the paperwork, meeting everyone on their team, signing the policies your company has, etc. The onboarding process is crucial, as this is the time where your new hire will get acquainted with your organization, your workflows and the rest of the team.
Your data protection policy will most likely change as well. This new policy should be a collection of the best practices for data security for remote workers, as well as include any repercussions that might happen in case of data breaches. The policy should include points about:
- Password management
- Multifactor authentication
- Use of VPNs
- Connecting to a secure network (workers should avoid connecting to open networks in public areas)
- Disk and device encryption
- Damage control plan
You should take the time to organize some form of training for your employees when it comes to data protection. The fact is that most internal data breaches happen by accident, and thanks to the lack of knowledge. Therefore, you can never be certain enough that your employees are 100% safe when browsing the internet.
Last, but not least, if your company is using any type of employee monitoring or time tracking software, you should write a policy for that. The policy should state what type of tool you’re using, what kind of data is it collecting, for what reason, as well as who has access to it. Additionally, it should say where the data is stored, and how can employees access it. You might need to have several versions of this policy, depending on the country where your remote workers are.
Your transitional plan will be broken up in a couple of segments, starting with the planning, moving to testing, and completing the process. Each step of this process should be carefully defined, and it should include a timeline of sorts. By creating a timeline, you’ll ensure the whole process runs smoothly.
Within the timeline, state which person is in charge of which section, what are the steps that need to be taken to cross that point of the to-do list, as well as who will perform an audit and make sure that everything was handled properly.
The chances are some deadlines might need to be pushed forward, and that should be a huge concern. Estimating how much time you’ll need for each specific step of the process won’t be easy. Furthermore, unforeseen challenges could arise during the process. Don’t be alarmed by these challenges and changes, embrace them and figure out a way to overcome them.
Once you’re done creating the transitional strategy, it’s time to announce it to the stakeholders. Everyone on your team is probably already aware of the changes you’ll be making, but make sure you share the plan anyways. This way, each employee will have the specifics of this shift, so they’ll know what to anticipate and how to behave during this time.
You should also notify your existing clients that your team will be shifting from distributed to co-located. Once you do, you can expect a lot of questions and concerns. Answer all of them, and try to reassure your customers that this won’t be affecting the work you’re doing for them. There’s no need for you to share the detailed plan with them, just notify them about main next steps, how long will they take, as well as how they could affect your outputs.
Transitioning into the remote team is a project which will require time, resources, and all hands on deck. You shouldn’t go into it alone. You can put the entire team on it, and make them in charge for different steps of the transition.
That would be all when it comes to this segment of our Going Remote Series, up next we’ll talk about what should be in your remote team’s toolbox, we’ll include some essentials as well as those tools that aren’t really mandatory, but could make your life easier.