Whenever we talk to founders, building a great remote team usually wasn't a priority during the early days. It was much more important to have quick communication cycles and push out that first MVP.
Only when it comes to building a company, not just a product, does the question come up. The decision to transition to remote work is often taken after there are already a handful of employees, an expensive office space and long commutes in place. So where do you go from here?
In the last guide, we've discussed a few easy steps to build a remote-first mindset. Now we’re going to discuss how to transition to remote work and set up your virtual employees for success.
Say hello to the future of work.
Choose your setup and organization
Remote isn't always all-remote. There are nuances to setting up a global workforce, and you should be aware of the pros and cons of each when transitioning to remote work.
We usually recommend companies to go all-remote if they can. It's a great way to have access to the global talent pool, save money on big local office spaces and have a fair setting where everyone is equal.
Especially if there is an existing team with a leased office space that can't be dissolved quickly, there are other setups that may make more sense at first. This isn't a complete list, and each of the items has their own variations, but systems for transitioning to remote work include:
- A hybrid setting where the head office persists but future employees are being hired worldwide. This can be tricky, so aim for a majority of remote workers and establish remote-first thinking!
- Establishing small satellite offices can help create a more equal workforce, where each office is just as important as the others. You're solving some part of the hiring pipeline here, especially if you open an office at a place with less equal opportunities, but you also don't center culture about your pre-existing HQ. Not a cheap option, but it’s more affordable if you keep satellites small!
- Starting with a great "Work from Home" program can help employees acclimate to remote work. Disclaimer: It's not for everyone and a lot of employees will want to continue working from an office. Evaluate whether it makes sense to get rid of the office and have some flex desks at local co-working spaces instead!
Become location-flexible first
Going remote is a big step. To strengthen the team and awareness about location independence, it can be a great first step to loosen all the constraints that the office has, and become more relaxed and flexible about location and the office.
Founders and executives should lead by example here and take a few days every week to work from home, work from a local co-working space, or even a chalet in the Swiss Alps. Anywhere other than the office.
Getting people out of the office can be hard at first – humans are creatures of habit after all – so here are a few ideas of what you can do (some more outrageous than others).
- Provide a budget for a few days at a local coworking space or a few cappuccinos at a café that allows longer stays.
- Close the office on Fridays.
- Collect good working spaces on a map – libraries, hotel lobbies, community spaces and more are often hidden gems.
Employees should gain a feel about how to transition to remote work in their own way. This includes places where they can work best outside the office and get an initial feeling of some of the difficulties of remote work, e.g. separation of work and private life.
Get serious about asynchronous communication
A deal-breaker for successfully transitioning to remote work is heavy reliance on real-time communication. If you find yourself often spending mornings in meetings and conference calls, it may be hard to transition right away.
Making asynchronous communication work out properly could fill a book. Nevertheless, some things to try out:
- Try turning discussions that usually happen in 1-hour meetings into an e-mail or Slack thread that may take a day or two to resolve.
- Be more mindful about messaging. Try to keep one-liners to a minimum. There should be no room for interpretation!
- Turn chats, conversations, discussions and new findings into documentation. Track how many times someone comes to your desk or pings you on instant messaging. Try to lower that number with extensive documentation.
The good thing about starting locally is that you know your company culture already, which means you can track possible future pain points and anticipate them. Work on becoming a more asynchronously-driven company, then go remote.
Document processes pre-transition
Lastly, smoothly transitioning to remote work is all about processes.
"Remote forces you to do the things you should be doing any way earlier and better." - Sid Sijbrandij, GitLab
Become painfully aware of the things going on in your company, and try to formalize everything that needs a lot of back-and-forth. This includes, but isn’t limited to:
Be sure that you're ready to go remote and have a plan for how to transition to remote work(though of course, who is ever fully ready?). Preparation is everything. Whileyou won't be able to solve every little pain point right away, the right processes (and hopefully our help) will help you get there.
Support your teams with a remote toolkit
As you transition to remote work, make sure that your teams have the tools they need to succeed. Technologies should support your virtual employees as they communicate and collaborate together.
Build a remote toolkit that makes sense for the work you do. Some excellent apps and platforms to keep in mind include:
- Real time messaging tools, such as Slack.
- Project management tools, such as Trello or Todoist.
- Time tracking tools, such as Toggl.
- Documentation tools, such as Miro or Notion.
- Secure cloud storage, such as Box.
Learning how to transition to remote work starts with arming your virtual teams with the right technologies. You can get even more hand-picked tools on NoHQ. Here you’ll find tools for everything from administration, collaboration, communication, productivity, project management and more.
Final tips on how to transition to remote work
Transitioning to remote work is no small feat. You can boost virtual teaming by thinking through these sticking points:
- Manage expectations. Be sure to write a remote work policy and rules of engagement, so that your workers are on the same page.
- Tighten security for virtual work. Use secure tools and technologies, such as a private VPN.
- Strengthen your company culture. Focus on your people power by building connections and relationships.
- Measure your team’s wellbeing. Send out weekly pulse surveys to find out how your team is doing.
- Get feedback from your employees about what’s working (and not). Don’t forget to ask your employees for their feedback, so that you can improve virtual teaming together.
- Adapt as needed. Not every transition is linear. You’re in charge of how to transition to remote work. It’s a good idea to reflect and review processes on a regular basis.
Use these tips to avoid the most common remote work pitfalls and boost your virtual teams in the long term. Remember that every remote company is different, so feel free to create your own processes and apply your own ideas for a successful transition.
Get help with transitioning to remote work
Remote work is an exciting new frontier for work. As you transition to remote work, it’s vital to have a plan in place. Use these expert tips in order to ensure a smooth transition into the virtual world.
Your remote work journey has only just begun. You can get even more tips and toolkits on NoHQ’s blog.