Working remotely can pose a challenge for any organization. Even more so if (as in our case) the business was originally started this way, with no prior experience of the traditional working environment. Every member of our team lives and works in a different city, and any new staff receive their initial training online. Working remotely is a challenge, but there’s no doubt that if you can get it to work correctly, your productivity can go through the roof.
So how have we managed to turn an apparent stumbling block into an advantage?
In this blog post, we will explain how we work remotely in our organization and how this situation has enabled us to create a clearly-defined working model.
The Era of Remote Work
In our hyperconnected world of today, more and more businesses are beginning to recognize the benefits of integrating a remote working model into their workforce. This fact is even more relevant if you work in the PLM sector, where finding talent is a daily challenge. Occasionally you find the perfect profile only to discover that they live thousands of kilometres away from your office. In this case working remotely is the only option. Likewise, it is common practice to outsource developer services to countries such as India or Eastern Europe or work with clients and software providers that are far from our borders. These issues make the option of remote work a much closer reality in our sector compared to others.
By following this route, we are faced with the usual dilemma. The comfort of working from home comes with the inconvenience of not having all the usual office tools on hand. Not to mention the perception that still exists in many companies that if they allow their staff to work from home, it will lead to reduced production output. Businesses often fear that this concession of workforce freedom will result in a loss of efficiency and therefore money. However, the reality is very different. It’s a proven fact that working remotely not only positively affects the human resources of a company but also its accounts.
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Why work remotely?
Working from home is not just sitting in your pyjamas and answering emails. Nor is it just being able to manage your rest breaks in the way that best suits your lifestyle while binging on your favourite snacks before going to pick up your Amazon packages. It’s much more than that! Working remotely transforms people’s lives and makes them the masters of their own time. In our case, there is total flexibility when it comes to allocating work hours, as long as they add up to 40 hours a week. If for example, you’re an early bird then just get up early. If you feel more inspired working in the middle of the night, you can. Of course, we must always respect our team meeting schedules, without which none of the above would be possible.
Besides, working remotely gives you something money can’t buy: You can work from wherever you like! As long as you meet your daily hour commitment in a responsible manner, it doesn’t matter if you do it from your flat in Frankfurt, a cabin in Bali or the base camp of Everest.
The availability of this freedom of time and workspace leads to a vastly improved work-life balance, which in turn results in a happier and more motivated workforce.
The Keys to Remote Work
So, if there are only advantages to be had, then why are there still many companies that are suspicious of telecommuting and remain stuck in a rut of their old “mind numbing” 9 am to 5 pm work routine? The answer is simple: they don’t know how to do it. To change to this type of work, the correct transition strategy must be implemented. Let’s say instead of your usual work routine you suddenly decide that your employees are going to work from home. It may be harder than you think.
However, if you familiarize yourself with how it works in other companies and prepare yourself for these changes, then it will end up being the best decision for your business that you have ever made. Your employees will be happier and more involved, productivity will increase, and on top of that, you will save money.
Below we will outline the 8 things that you must adopt, no matter what, if you want remote working to be a success for your organization.
1. Planning your day
Planning your day is a vital element that is equally important whether you work from home or from an office. Sorting your tasks in order of most to least important and prioritizing them accordingly is key. We work with 3 types of tasks: Must, Intend and Like. Every day, each team member is given a Must task, an Intend task and a Like task. The Must task is the most important task of the day. Failure to complete it will signify that your day has been unproductive. If you finish your Must task, you move onto your Intend task in order of priority, and only by completing that can you move onto Like, the least important of all.
2. Task management tools
Personally, we use Asana as a fundamental part of our day-to-day activity. Asana is a software that facilitates the planning, management and monitoring of the tasks of each team member. Thanks to this, we can access each other’s task calendars, add or remove tasks and classify them by projects. Another key feature is its ability to assign deadlines to the tasks, which makes overall organization much easier. It’s also aesthetically pleasing and is simple to use. Without a doubt, it’s an essential tool if you work remotely.
3. Activity records
This step is essential when you have no physical office, and all the work is carried out remotely. The most important work activities of each individual’s daily duties must be meticulously recorded. This way we can facilitate both new additions to the team and allow the rest of our colleagues to be able to help out in any of our tasks. All of this information must be freely available on an intranet system that all staff members can access and search. For example, if an employee takes a holiday and someone else has to take over their role, they can simply access the intranet to find out exactly how the task should be carried out.
4. Fluid communication
When you work from home and carry out projects in conjunction with others, a key element to success is the fluidity of communication that exists between the parties. To ensure communication runs smoothly, there are tools such as Slack where you can create user groups that each team member can access and interact with one another as if they were in the same office. Slack allows you to start conversations, ask questions and resolve any doubts. Also, it can be synchronised with Asana so that specific tasks can be assigned to relevant conversations. Communicating by email is a popular choice for the majority of people, but it is far from the most effective way to communicate when it comes to working remotely. Running Asana and Slack together in tandem allows total uninterrupted communication with your team, and your office building will never be missed.
5. Weekly meetings.
Naturally, this is key to maintaining contact with all the members of the organization. In these meetings, the rest of the team is updated regarding the status of their assigned tasks. In addition, future strategies are discussed, and any important issues are shared. At Share PLM we have meetings like these every Tuesday and Friday.
6. Time tracking
When you work in an office, and you know you have to keep to a strict time schedule, you’re never really aware of the exact time required to finish a specific task. You can only picture the end of your working day so you can go home. When you work from home with total flexibility this changes. It is often important when planning our work day to know exactly how many hours it takes us to perform certain tasks. That’s why we use Toggl, a time tracker that is downloaded directly onto the browser bar and like Slack, can be synced with Asana. Before starting any task, simply click on the button to start the time tracker. Once completed, click the timer again to finish. Toggl allows us to quickly assess which tasks we need to spend more time on and which ones will take less time.
7. Virtual café
As a company with extensive experience in telecommuting, one of the most difficult aspects for us is having our workmates so far away, not only for work-related reasons, but for personal ones too. Sometimes working alone at home for long hours can be hard and we miss the little things like our Monday morning chats or coffee breaks where we catch up on the weekend. Those are moments when we get to socialize and forget about work for a minute. To bridge this gap between us, we have a daily meeting that we call “virtual café” and whose attendance is optional. It is always held first thing in the morning, and we chat for about 15 minutes about anything other than work. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the team a little better when you have no daily physical contact.
8. Meeting in person
If possible, organizing a meeting where all the team members can get together in person is a fantastic idea. In our case we generally get to see each other 3 times a year, each time in a different place (usually where one of the team members lives). The team gets to spend 2 or 3 days together sharing our viewpoints and amusing stories from our daily lives while developing a business strategy to follow. The result is always very positive, and it allows us to form deeper bonds with our workmates, especially when the beers come out at the end of the day!
What about you? Are you working remotely?
Please share with us what you and your team usually do to make your work easier!