How to Shift to a Remote Work Model

Alexa Lemzy

Remote work certainly seems to be the business model du jour, with a lot of companies, large and small, singing its praises.

And what’s not to love? Operating remotely drastically cuts down overhead, making nearly any business venture viable with the right tools and coordination. Workers report to be more satisfied with remote working conditions and are even more productive. It seems like with remote businesses, everybody’s happy.

Well, not always. For every success, there is a lesson learned. Managing a remote team comes with its particular challenges.

Know how to hire remotely
In many cases, not only is the work remote but the hiring process is remote too. Without the traditional face-to-face interview, it can be difficult to get a feel for who the candidate is:

Video interviewsrequire preparation. The next best thing to a face-to-face interview is an interview via Skype or another video platform. Don’t forget that you’re being interviewed by the candidate as well. They want to know who they may be working for and learn more about the vision of your company in order to determine if it’s a good match for them. A video interview can help facilitate this decision on both ends.

Make sure they have the skills. In an office culture, by virtue of mentoring or team work, it can be possible for someone to grow into a role. With remote work, this is more difficult to accomplish. While you may be tempted to give a chance to someone who doesn’t quite have the skill set needed to do the work, it’s wiser not to.

Lacking the intimacy and available guidance of an office setting may make it hard for the recruited to meet expectations, leading to frustration on their part and extra work on yours. The better standard to adopt when hiring remote workers is to hire people with proven track records who already have the skills for the role you’re looking to fill.

Look for self-directed workers. This is key. Not everyone is built for remote work. Some people flail in that kind of environment. Remote work requires a great deal of discipline and responsibility as well as the ability to plan ahead and schedule your own time.

When interviewing candidates, ask questions designed to gauge their level of self-direction. You could ask them to recount a time when they had to make their own schedule or give them a scenario that’s typical to your company’s remote work assignments and ask them how they would handle it.

Make use of available communication tools
With remote work, gone are the days when you can call an emergency staff meeting or drop by your employee’s desk to discuss a change in a project. The communication rules of remote working are quite different. Failure to adjust to them can lead to missed opportunities.

Virtual staff meetings: You may have an entirely local staff who happen to work from home. In that case, everyone is in the same time zone and things are easier to coordinate. But this isn’t the norm. How do you bring everyone together when they’re all so spread apart? Even Github’s original team had bi-coastal members. So how do you bring everyone together when they’re all so spread apart?

Plan ahead for staff meetings so everyone can make them. If it’s not possible for everyone on the team to make a meeting because of time zones, adjust by having more than one meeting, but be sure to share the minutes of all meetings with all team members so everyone is on board. There are a lot of virtual conference meeting tools available that can help you with scheduling and the seamless execution of the meeting.

Texting: There may be times when you need to communicate something ASAP and email, chatting, voicemail and Skype just won’t cut it. Whether it’s a sudden change in deadline, important information that needs to be included or excluded from the project or anything else that warrants urgent communication, there’s no other communication tool that’s as efficient as text messaging.

Texting is great for non-emergency communication as well. It’s a fast and efficient way to send a message. In this case studyPeople in Need, a charitable organization based in Glasgow that provides services for people in Moldova and Romania, uses texting to contact its employees abroad. They also use text scheduling to send a text at a reasonable time without disturbing the sleep hours of their staff.

Virtual offices: Adopt a virtual office program that allows team members to communicate, post and share work and even “hang out” on their social media pages. These programs help create that feeling of “going to work” when they sign in to the app and see what everyone else is up to, what kind of comments there are for their project, and even whose birthday it is. In the absence of physical connection, these programs foster communication and both social and professional bonding.

Get your message across
Even if you’ve adopted all the best tools to foster effective communication, you still have the onus of having to craft and deliver the message. Be aware that communicating in person and in writing are very different skills. If you’re strong at making your staff feel at ease and inspired in an office setting, that might not naturally translate to a virtual setting.

Writing messages in a way that clearly convey your expectations, instructions and deadlines, and that also sound supportive rather than dictatorial, can be a challenge. As you hone this skill, you may want to share your messages with a trusted friend or colleague before sending them to see if the tone is right.

As you make the shift from office to remote work, look out for these common issues. Use appropriate hiring techniques, implement helpful communication tools and learn how to say what you mean to reap the rewards of a remote business.

Alexa Lemzy is the customer support specialist and business blogger at TextMagic. She is passionate about small business growth, staff communication and remote work culture. You can reach out to her on Twitter - she is always open to new ideas.