Working remotely can pose a challenge for any organisation. Even more so (as in our case) the business was originally started this way, with no prior experience of the traditional working day. Every member of our team lives and works in a different city, and any new staff receive their initial training on-line. Working remotely is a challenge, but there’s no doubt that if you can get it to work correctly, your productivity can literally go through the roof.
So how have we managed to turn an apparent stumbling block into an advantage?
In the following blog post, we will explain how we work remotely in our organisation 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 recognise the benefits offered by the integration of a remote working model into their workforce. A fact that 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 versus the inconvenience of not having all the usual office tools to 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 effects the human resources of a company but also its accounts.
Why remote work?
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 just if 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 meetings schedule, without which none of the above would be possible.
Besides, working remotely gives you something money just can’t buy: You can work wherever you like! As long as you meet your daily hour’s 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 situation, which in turn results in a happier and more motivated workforce.
The keys of 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 with their old “mind numbing” 9 am to 7 pm work hours routine? The answer is simple; they don’t know how to do it. For a change of this type to work, the correct transition strategy must be implemented. Let’s say in place 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 familiarise yourself on how it works and how it is performed in other companies and prepare yourself for these changes, then it will end up being the best work decision you ever made. Your employees will be happier and more involved, your productivity will grow, and on top of that, you will save money.
Below we will outline the 8 things, no matter what, if you want to start working remotely in your organisation, that you must adopt for it to be a complete success.
1. Planning your day.
A vital element and in my opinion equally important whether you work from home or not. Sorting your tasks in order of most to least importance and prioritising 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 it 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 organisation much easier. It also looks good and is simple to use. Without a doubt, an essential tool if you work remotely.
3. Activity records.
This step is essential when you have no physical offices, 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 any 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 perform searches of any kind. 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 when it comes to working remotely. Running Asana-Slack together in tandem allows total uninterrupted communication with your team, and your office will never be missed.
5. Weekly meetings.
Naturally, this is key to maintaining contact with all the members of the organisation. 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 such meetings 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 again to finish. Toggl allows us to quickly assess which tasks we need to spend more time on and which ones will take us less.
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 where we catch up on the weekend or the coffee breaks…those moments when we get to socialise 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. Meetings in person.
If possible, organising a meeting where all the team members can get together in person can be 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 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? Do you work from home?
Please share with us what you and your team usually do to make your work easier!