How to transition your company to a remote environment

A remote-first mindset is when a company prioritizes and assumes that everyone is working remotely, regardless of their physical location or occasional office presence. This mindset is the key to unlocking the full potential of a remote company, team, or individual — and it can lead to a boost in both morale and productivity. Whether a business has a hybrid work model or is fully remote, thinking remote-first ensures equality of opportunity, experience, and access across teams. 

Companies seeking to switch from an office work environment to a remote-first operation may find the transition is not as daunting, or difficult, as it may seem. And it is most certainly easier today than it was a few years ago.

Telecommuting and work from home (WFH) positions have existed for decades, especially among technology companies. However, until 2020, only a small portion of the workforce worked remotely in most countries. 

According to Nicholas Bloom, a remote work expert and professor of economics at Stanford University, technological advances and the pandemic have accelerated a transformation in the way Americans work. Currently 15% of work days in the United States are fully remote, while about 30% follow a hybrid work model. 

There are proven methods for establishing a remote-first culture, as demonstrated by companies that have successfully transitioned to remote work or were initially remote-only workplaces. However, the key lies in fostering a remote-first mindset within organizations. This is crucial because an increasing number of employees now anticipate the same opportunities and support for remote roles as they would receive if they were working in an office setting. 

Successfully shift to a remote-first environment 

Trust, clarity, and transparency are the principles that underpin a remote-first culture. In fact, researchers from Harvard Business Review found that remote workers who feel trusted by their managers are more engaged and committed, leading to increased productivity and performance. 

Remote-first companies need to invest in cultivating a culture with these three things in mind. Have clear policies and expectations in place to empower team members to take ownership and accountability for their work. Outline outcomes and objectives as a team — and company — and review progress collectively. Transparency breeds trust — when team members have visibility into what others are doing and the larger goal, they trust them to complete their tasks and feel accountable to complete their own. 

Implement remote-first policies 

As a fully remote company for the last four years, we’ve found success in establishing a remote-first environment founded on the three principles outlined above: trust, clarity, and transparency. That, and having a single source of truth for knowledge management, enhances the remote employee experience by giving all employees equal access.

It’s important for remote-first companies to establish a strategy and structure that fosters inclusivity for employees, whether they live in the same city or on the other side of the globe. When switching to, or adopting, a remote-first approach, companies and their leaders need to be intentional about the culture, communicate changes in a timely way, and define how they measure impact. 

One effective approach to achieve this is by providing clear, posted guidelines and frameworks in a handbook or other reference document. Companies should prioritize communicating these policies during the recruitment process. 

We’ve created a comprehensive remote work guide that shares our lessons learned and proven methods based on our own experiences. 

Communicate deliverables and availability

Companies transitioning to a remote-first environment also need to outline expectations. For example, some businesses use software to track time on tasks or other metrics , while others monitor milestones and deliverables. Organizations should be upfront with employees as to how they will be evaluated, promoted, and compensated and whether time management will be a factor in these processes. This information is particularly important for both current and new employees, especially during the shift to offsite work.

Availability expectations and schedules should also be established from the outset. Will workers need to be online or able to take a meeting by phone, video, etc. during certain hours or after hours? While there may be some exceptions to the routine, it is important to consider the delicate work-life balance for remote employees.

However an organization plans to quantify employee activity and availability, the most important thing is that workers know what is expected from the outset. The fewer surprises, the better for everyone.

Hire globally with a remote-first model

With more than 300 employees across 25 countries, Andela is a great example of global hiring. But don’t just take it from us. 

Mindshare, a global media agency network and maker of Synapse, needed to grow their data science and engineering teams to continue to expand the functionality within Synapse. It’s a flagship product of theirs that ingests marketing data from advertisers and provides predictive simulations showing how marketing spend will drive customer behaviors and ultimately growth for many of the world’s most influential brands.

But, because the product is used globally, they needed to hire globally. Mindshare partnered with us to use our global talent marketplace to quickly hire 10 new digital experts, including data scientists, machine learning specialists, analysts, and software developers.

In short, global hiring can help recruiters and managers find workers with the most in demand tech skills. This is particularly beneficial for companies operating in markets with a shortage of qualified or affordable talent. 

Going global can also create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. And it may save on compensation costs if those employees are located in markets with lower costs of living. Global Workplace Analytics found that a typical employer can save about $11,000 per employee annually for every person who works remotely just half of the time.

Tap into remote talent with Andela. Discover all of our insights and best practices for productive remote work in our Tech Leader’s Guide to Remote Work

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