How to Successfully Set Up a Remote Workforce
Remote workforces have become an everyday reality for U.S. businesses. According to Lumity’s organizational design survey, 93% of companies have remote workers. And some companies even operate with 100% remote staff, without a brick-and-mortar office at all.
What does it take to have a successful remote workforce? How do organizations maintain culture and connection? In the Go Big and Go Home: Scaling Modern Remote Workforces webinar, two people innovators remotely dialed in to share their insights with us:
- Alisa Avelar, Global Director of People at Toptal, a company that enables businesses to hire freelance, top talent from across the globe.
- Alistair Shepherd-Cross, President Teamit, which offers full-stack Canadian agile development teams at your disposal.
Insights, tips, and best practices from their discussion are summarized below.
The Remote Workforce Mindset
The remote workforce has yet to be fully embraced, and there have even been reports of companies pulling their remote workers back. How can companies that have adopted this practice effectively sustain its benefits?
Valued employees should have the flexibility in their working arrangement.
Alistair Sheperd-Cross believes that when people have a great resource and “they want to work remotely, they will pretty much do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.” Valued employees should have flexibility in their working arrangement. If it doesn’t work out, he believes that it’s not necessarily the individual’s fault:
The blame might lay with the company itself, the way it rolled out the process in the first place.
If new companies want to include a remote workforce, they need to think this way right from the beginning. “They’re bringing people on that are wired with that kind of mindset in the first place. The best practices and processes are set up from day one,” Sherperd-Cross emphasizes.
It won’t work if you hire everyone with the idea they work in a central location then the remote working policy is suddenly introduced after an office-based premised and rolled out across the organization. You did not set the company up for it, so your hires may not have the personality to fully engage in it, Alistair describes.
Alisa Avelar agrees that the mindset of working remotely is not for everybody. Some people require human interaction, so it’s important to have that mindset from the beginning for it to really work.
Maintaining a Productive Staff
Employers fear not knowing if their remote staff are working or not. The absence of physical contact doubles the worry they’d normally have if they could see an employee on their office desk. Alisa emphasizes that the recruiting process can address this issue.
The remote staff you hire must possess the following qualities:
- Expert in their skill and industry
- Someone looking for a place to add value and to use their time wisely, not someone just looking for a place to work
“Trust also needs to go both ways. Your employee is trusting that they’ll have a job to come to tomorrow and you need to trust that they will do the work.”
Trust also needs to go both ways. Your employee is trusting that they’ll have a job to come to tomorrow and you need to trust that they will do the work. Plus, you’ll know if the employee is not working. Alistair adds that “you can check KPIs as you would in the office or goals. If someone is not delivering, then it’s pretty damn obvious.” Apart from trust, Alisa also advises daily communication and ensuring everyone’s expectations are managed, just like you would in office.
Fears aside, people are much more efficient when they work remotely. Because your staff has chosen and likes the setup, they will not do anything to lose that opportunity. Unlike an office, they don’t get stuck in endless meetings. They try to be as efficient as possible with their time.
“Fears aside, people are much more efficient when they work remotely. Because your staff has chosen and likes the setup, they will not do anything to lose that opportunity.”
Onboarding Your Remote Staff
Onboarding remote teams or workers can be a challenge. Alistair recommends bringing your staff to the head office. While every company is different, having a week or two of onboarding at your headquarters sets the tone for your new recruits. “There’s nothing like actual face time,” he stresses. Your employees get to meet people. They get off on the right footing and feel the company’s committed to them.
“There’s nothing like actual face time,” he stresses. Your employees get to meet people. They get off on the right footing and feel the company’s committed to them.
“All those key pieces that set the trust at the right level are essential,” he continues. That’s why his company mandates that their clients have actual face time with team members at places like the head office.
After the initial onboarding, it’s important to have regular check-ins. The first three months are spent checking in regularly to make sure the worker is performing and comfortable. This also involves making sure they are set up with the right communication tools. Make sure they have access to Slack, Zoom, and other video conferencing tools.
During this onboarding period, don’t assume someone who has worked remote before will instantly know how to do so for your company. Your organization is different, Alisa stresses. “The employee life cycle doesn’t change, regardless of whether you have an office or a remote organization,” she says. Your company has different anomalies, nuances, and things of that nature.
“The employee life cycle doesn’t change, regardless of whether you have an office or a remote organization.”
This early management of expectations and initial setup starts from the time they sign their offer. Alisa recommends that you need to keep the candidate engaged between the offer and start date. Some things you can share during this long period:
How to prepare their home office
Specific ideas on how to work remotely
Connect them with people who have similar hobbies or lifestyles (eg. Connect parents with other parents, gather pet owners together or see whom among your team members share a common interest like travel or food.)
We’ve only covered the first two stages of setting up your remote workforce. In the next post, you’ll see what else Alistair, Alisa, and Nate discussed on how to maintain a personal connection with your remote staff.