Remote work is a hot topic these days, and many people dream of working from home. And why shouldn’t you? Who wouldn’t want to keep their pajamas on, stroll over to their laptop and work from the convenience of home? And did I mention the savings in gas money?
If only it were that simple. Successfully working remotely takes a lot of effort, not just for employees but also for the organization that signs the checks. In order to seek some guidance, we turned to James Lloyd, co-founder and chief technology officer of Redox, a completely distributed company. We broke down all things remote: How to manage a remote team, how to lead a remote company and how to work remotely without losing productivity OR the human connection.
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Remote Work: An Investment in People
Remote work is incredibly convenient for those who get to do it. But Lloyd says remote work is also an investment in the organization’s people. “Many of us have come from environments where your job is very geographically located, and when things happen in your life that may mean you need to move,” he says. “That means you might have to change your job, and that feels like a really low investment in the people that you work with.”
Distributed companies like Redox avoid this issue and have other advantages as well. “We can recruit from anywhere,” Lloyd says. “It helps us get the best talent possible.” This trust and investment placed in remote workers lead to a very positive outcome: “We see a remarkable amount of retention,” Lloyd says.
The Challenges of Building a Remote Team
There are a lot of potential employees out there who are interested in working for a remote organization or having the option to work remotely. But building a remote team is not without its challenges, Lloyd says. As he and his co-founders grew the company, they kept a tenet in mind: “We definitely want ‘remote’ to not mean ‘isolating,’ ” he says.
Lloyd and his team quickly learned that face time was incredibly valuable. At the start when there were only eight employees, the team got together every six weeks. Now the company gets together twice a year for three to four days at a time. “It’s really important for just getting to know each other and meeting people who aren’t normally on your teams,” he says. “We typically use that time to align around our goals and our strategy.”
Providing social support for employees is also very important, he says. “For many people who have a lot of experience in an office setting, they may find a lot of their friend groups and social circles being formed with coworkers, because you have that proximity,” Lloyd says. This typically isn’t an option for remote workers, so Lloyd and his team have created settings for his employees to interact online regarding things outside of work. However, the Redox team also looks to support its employees in their hometowns, by connecting them with meetups and volunteer programs.
How to Make Your Remote Workers Feel Like They’re Part of the Team
Not every company is completely distributed, but many organizations have remote workers or employees who work remotely part of the time. This has created a conundrum: How do you better connect the people off-site to their colleagues who are at the office?
Lloyd says setting protocols for meetings can go a long way toward helping remote employees feel more of a connection. His team uses the videoconferencing tool Zoom for internal meetings, and they require every person to use Zoom, even those who are in the same location. “Even if there are three people in a conference room and one person in a different state, all four people have their webcams on,” he says. “It really helps to prevent alienating the person who is not in the same room.”
Additionally, Lloyd recommends doing as much preparation as possible for meetings ahead of time and to do it in writing. This allows meeting-goers to focus, and it also respects the differences in employees’ schedules. “Everybody feels like they can make an equal contribution independent of their location or time zone,” Lloyd says.