With many businesses adapting to remote working faster than planned, HubSpot’s Kieran Flanagan talks about the common pitfalls to avoid.
2020 was predicted to be the year of remote work. They sure got that one right.
Prior to Covid-19, figures from Eurostat showed a natural increase of remote work, with more than 5pc of employed persons in the EU ‘usually’ working remotely and almost 11pc ‘sometimes’ working remotely.
Now, this new normal has put us on a fast track to the future of work with many companies shifting to remote work almost overnight.
As companies begin to think about the transition back to the office, many are curious and wary about what that will look like. It will be quite some time before working in an office is business as usual, if ever.
For that reason, I believe the future of work is already here. And, it’s remote. In fact, in a recent survey, 61pc of HubSpot employees said they’ll be more likely to work remotely after this experience.
It’s important to set the context that working remotely during a pandemic isn’t the same as working remotely during normal times. So, as companies think about the transition back to the office and decide to implement full-time remote workers for the first time, there are some mistakes to avoid.
1. Not embracing asynchronous communication
There are many benefits of a distributed team such as hiring top talent where they work best, increased employee engagement and productivity, and building a global and diverse team. But there are also some challenges and nuances that not everyone is used to. Working across multiple time zones and teams that have both office-based and fully remote employees can sometimes come with communication challenges.
One of the best solutions is embracing the transition from synchronous to asynchronous communication and collaboration. As Basecamp co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson say in their book Remote: Office Not Required: “Not only do we not have to be in the same spot to work together, we also don’t have to work at the same time to work together.”
Remote work causes companies to adopt more efficient processes for communication and documentation. At Amazon, leaders write narratives for all new proposals and projects instead of long, lengthy presentations. Executives take 15 minutes to read the memo, and then provide commentary. Processes like this work great among a distributed team and allow for a paper trail of how decisions were made, giving people who work remotely more context.
Not only does asynchronous communication help to work across a global organisation, it allows individuals more time to process the information as opposed to being asked for immediate reactions, which allows for better, more productive conversations.
2. Not investing in culture
A company’s culture isn’t about the posters on the wall, or snacks available in the kitchen. It’s a set of shared beliefs, values and practices and should be decoupled from location.
When people ask about remote culture, what they’re really asking is how does a company solve for employees feeling isolated or being disconnected from their teammates. This is a common challenge for both remote employees and leaders.
HubSpot’s 2019 Remote Work Report found that a lack of social connection and communicating with co-workers were the top challenges that remote workers face daily. There are some tactical things to help alleviate these challenges, from creating a Slack group for hobbies and hosting virtual team events to having mixers so employees can meet others across the organisation.
Instead of getting stuck on the question of whether or not something is possible to be done remotely, start with the assumption that it can be done and work on the ‘how’. This mentality will encourage everyone to solve for inclusion and build a culture that is equally as strong in the office as it is outside of the office.
3. Not creating a remote onboarding process
It has been found that organisations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82pc and productivity by more than 70pc. When it comes to both traditional and remote onboarding, many of the philosophies are still the same – to make employees feel welcome and to successfully immerse them into the company’s mission and culture. But the ways to get there aren’t always the same.
New remote employees often feel a sense of imposter syndrome. They aren’t sure where to turn for questions, and struggle with getting to know people outside of their immediate team and understanding the operating system of the business. This is where collaboration tools and an inclusive remote onboarding process can create an experience that employees won’t forget.
We’ve found success in having a dedicated IT team for new remote hires, hosting remote office tours, assigning mentors and creating 100-day plans filled with meetings with people across the organisation to help give better context on what different teams do, and how they contribute to the company’s mission.
It’s really easy for companies to say that they think with a remote-first lens. The reality is that many companies think of remote as a last-line item and it’s not baked into the DNA of an organisation.
The truth is that implementing remote work successfully isn’t a check-the-box initiative. It requires a thoughtful approach and a commitment to constantly iterate and evolve. When done right, the reward is high – happier, more engaged and productive employees.
With major shifts happening to the traditional workplace, an inclusive remote work experience will become a real competitive advantage for companies and now is the time to do it the right way.
Kieran Flanagan is the vice-president of marketing at HubSpot and manages a distributed team of marketers located around the globe.