7 Ways to Create a Productive Remote Office
In a remote office, you need trust, a mix of video calls and focused work time, the right onboarding plan, tech, remote work policy, and appreciation of work-life balance.
Here, we’ll review what a remote office is and seven tips for running it successfully.
What Is a Remote Office?
A remote office is the virtual version of your onsite workplace. Through the magic of WiFi, your remote team can crush their to do lists and goals from workspaces in multiple time zones. The difference between a good and a great remote office, however, is in planning and intentions.
Learn more about what makes for a great remote office with these top management techniques.
Tip #1: Know What Kind of Workers You’ll Need
Once the limitations of hiring someone within commuting distance of a physical office are out the door, your world opens up. From full-time and part-time employees to freelancers, you can decide what each role looks like and find the right person regardless of their zip code.
When deciding between hiring someone as a salaried employee versus a contractor, ask these questions:
- Do we need someone more flexible on an as-needed basis? (Freelancer)
- Should this person serve as a leader in the company? (Full-time employee)
- Are we solving a short-term problem like a website refresh? (Freelancer)
- How important is it for us to have daily communication access? (A freelancer might respond within a business day, but an employee on the clock will answer faster.)
- Do we have enough work for this role to be part-time or full-time?
Tip #2: Trust Remote Workers
If you’re a micromanager, a remote office will be a challenge. Pinging someone on Slack every five minutes to ask what they’re doing and to “make sure” they’re working is counterproductive. It also makes workers feel unappreciated.
If you don’t trust the person to tackle their responsibilities on their own in a remote office, you’ve got a problem. People find all kinds of ways to avoid work in a physical office space, too, so you need to have a baseline level of trust. During the interview process, ask about how a candidate works independently and how they communicate with others.
Hint: Want to know what workers are doing without driving them crazy? Use the 5-15 reporting method.
Written in 15 minutes by the employee and read in five minutes or less by the manager, these weekly reports brief supervisors on priorities, challenges, roadblocks, and accomplishments.
Tip #3: Leverage Team and One-on-One Meetings
Do you really need 50+ employees on one Zoom call multiple times per week? That’s a hassle.
Avoid huge meetings with all departments for once a quarter, and give teams a meeting structure and schedule that works for them. It’s all too easy to get into the flow of one meeting after another processing to-do list items, so build in one-on-one time, too.
And for the love of all that is good in a remote work environment, if your employees tell you they’re sitting in too many meetings, listen to them. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average executive spends 23 hours a week in meetings. Spending so much time on calls and video conferences is not only draining, but leaves few windows to get anything done.
Tip #4: Build an Onboarding Plan
Packing your new hire’s first few days with back-to-back meetings and notifications will overwhelm them. Create an onboarding plan that gives them plenty of time for learning, connecting, and absorbing.
Schedule a weekly check-in call with a new hire for the first month or so to give them a chance to ask questions and get direct support.
Tip #5: Determine the Required Tech Stack
To start with, keep it simple. At a bare minimum, you’ll want the following for your tech stack:
- An instant communication tool like Skype or Slack
- Project management software
- Easy storage
- A video conferencing solution like Gather, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, or Zoom
- Tech for individual workers like laptops, webcams, and external monitors
- Automation software to make repetitive tasks simpler
Remember: What works for another company might not work for your team. Instant communication might work well for your operations department but could be difficult for salespeople or web developers who might go offline for meetings and focus periods. Make sure that your tech is on point both for individual workers and team collaboration.
Tip #6 Create a Remote Work Policy
Will you require workers to have a minimum internet connection speed? To use their personal cell phone for company calls? An office with a closed door and appealing background for video conferencing? To be online at certain times? This should all be spelled out in your company’s remote work policy.
Team members can do their best work when they know what’s expected of them. If you leave things vague, you’re setting yourself up for awkward conversations with employees who truly didn’t know any better or were taking advantage of you.
Be transparent about the remote work policy by:
- Listing key details like working hours in your job descriptions
- Training employees on expectations with a new hire in onboarding
- Documenting things like sick or personal days, going offline, or lunch hours in an online format
- Creating an open forum for employees to express questions or concerns about the policy
Remote working can empower workers and leaders alike, but only when everyone is on the same page from the beginning.
Tip #7: Support Work-Life Balance
You might have to put Sheila on blast for answering emails at 2 am or responding to Slack messages over the weekend. One of the biggest challenges remote workers face is in the blurred lines between work and home. Hold all employees equally accountable. Employees with good work-life balance have better mental health and productivity.
Even the smallest bad behaviors can set the tone for the entire team. If a manager shares during a weekly check in that they spend their entire vacation “cramming a little extra work in,” this can make their team members feel like they should be working during off time, too.
There are a few ways to encourage positive practices, such as:
- Encourage people to truly disconnect and leave their computers at home when they go on vacation.
- Tell everyone to turn off their Slack and email notifications every Friday afternoon when the workweek ends.
- Ask employees if they can shut down their computers at night to avoid “just popping back in to handle that one little thing.”
Here’s to Awesome Remote Office Environments
Whether you’re temporarily managing a work-from-home team, want to go permanently remote, or you’re growing your new company with home office hires, it falls to you to be the leader.
Set clear boundaries and rules to create a productive remote office environment that works for everyone. By hiring the right kind of workers, trusting them, using meetings the right way, onboarding new employees properly, using technology to your advantage, and maintaining a remote work policy, you can thrive as a company.
Gather equips your team with the video conferencing, communication, and collaboration tools you need in a modern remote office. Set up your workspace the way you need it. Massive brainstorming session to address customer service problems? We’ve got a digital whiteboard for that. Small group sessions for company training? You can do that, too. Check out Gather to learn more about customizing your workspace for best in class meetings.