The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of the editors or editors of Rolling Stone.
The world has changed dramatically in the past year. Each of us have had different experiences as we journeyed through the Covid-19 pandemic. But we have all learned important lessons.
During containment, I realized that my company, Flowhub, can and should be entirely distant. Here’s how I changed my mind about working remotely and, in the process, transferred my business. And for those who are considering doing the same, here are my top tips on how to do it.
How it started
At the end of November 2019, my wife and I were at their wit’s end. Our three children came home sick, virus after virus. We spent our weekends in bed with a stuffy nose and a fever, wondering why we always got sick. To minimize these illnesses, we took our children out of school in early December. We were homeschooling for a while when in January 2020 the news of Covid-19 started to hit.
At the end of February 2020, I launched a company-wide exercise to practice working from home. The objective: To ensure that each team is equipped to be fully remote. The teams had two working days to prepare, and then the office closed.
We ended up never coming back.
The transition to fully remote was frustrating, with a bit of a learning curve, but we pushed through unfamiliar and developed systems we could build on (more on that later).
Give the example
Once Flowhub moved to a fully remote system and the teams were set up to be successful, I moved my family as far away from Denver – Hawaii as possible. I knew that in order for Flowhub to truly embrace a work from anywhere mindset I had to show that I could be just as efficient, if not more, while working 3,000 miles away. I pointed out that Flowhub employees now have the freedom to live and work where they want – nationally. In the feedback I have received from Flowhub employees, this is a huge advantage.
When you’re a business that works from anywhere (or almost anywhere), you can hire just about anywhere, too. But I think it’s an important takeaway that leaders need to lead by example if they want their employees to embrace anything. I’m not saying every remote CEO has to relocate to Hawaii, but make it clear that you are fully on board.
Create a culture from a distance
After getting rid of our Denver office, I focused on building the best remote business possible, gathering information from everyone around me. I spoke to one of our angel investors, Clark Walberg, who founded InVision, about his business processes. They had been away from the start. Our chief of staff was looking for ways to maximize efficiency and find new tools for collaboration. Everyone was working to figure this out.
Here is what we learned:
• You must commit. Be upfront with the whole company and be clear, “This is what we do. It will take some time to perfect new workflows, but it’s essential that everyone is on board and paddling in the same direction to get it right. Make it clear from the start that there is no going back – this is a great way to start.
• Communication is essential. Especially during the transition period, people will be a bit confused about the short and long term plans. Will they get financial assistance to set up their office? What happens to the current office space? Will they ever see their colleagues? Communicate regularly to answer any questions. We held weekly 30 minute meetings with staff early on to take stock, answer questions and eliminate speculation.
• Intentionally choose technology to foster culture. Is it Zoom, Hangouts, or something new? Is it Slack, Teams, or some other option? Pick the tools that will do the job and fit the budget and that your team will appreciate. One of your biggest risks is a lack of connection due to a lack of adoption.
• Integration is a priority. If you can’t get your new hires to work remotely quickly and efficiently, they probably won’t stick around. Create clear onboarding guides and provide training from the start. Make new hires feel welcome by introducing them to the whole company and giving them the opportunity to meet colleagues outside of their department.
The future of remote work
Now that we’ve been remote for over a year, we have a sense of where a remote business should be heading. Based on my experience with what my business now looks like, here are some changes you might consider for your own organization:
1. Set times during the day when everyone should be available for meetings. This means that regardless of the time zone, no one will need to start too early or stay too late.
2. Each team or individual can create their own schedule based on their unique needs and preferences. Obviously, some roles will have less wiggle room, like product support. But make sure you empower employees to decide how they want to work.
3. The standard 9 to 5 working day is no longer applicable. Don’t keep track of the time on the clock, but focus on the results instead. Communication must be asynchronous. This means recording meetings, documenting processes and centralizing information so that it is accessible to everyone in their free time.
4. Consider a summit when it is safe to do so. We will be holding company-wide summits when the pandemic is over. We will all meet in one destination as a company and do team building activities to strengthen our culture.
I still miss working in an office sometimes and feel that team energy. But you can still get it all through remote working; you just have to be creative. We have set up happy hours and distance yoga classes. We even kicked off one of our virtual corporate meetings with a meditation exercise. Our corporate culture has not disappeared at all, it is simply evolving.
If you’re ready to undertake a massive shift in your business workflows to access things like global talent, happier employees, and reduced overhead, consider making the switch to telecommuting. I know I’ll never look back