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In 2017, 52% of employees worked remotely at least once a week. Engineers, product managers and marketers alike are adapting to a flexible work style to improve their work-life balance and increase focused work time. (Wouldn’t you want to get rid of that nasty commute?)

We at Owl Labs are 40% remote ourselves, and we love to experiment with new ways to support our own distributed team. However, some companies are unsure how to adapt.

If there’s one key point you take away, let it be this. Data shows that remote and flexible work is becoming a standard practice. With that, we need to stop over optimizing for the in-office employee and instead take a balanced approach.

Use this post as a checklist to keep your organization in check.

 1. Stop limiting open roles to being in-office positions only.

According to the State of Remote Work, fully distributed (meaning fully remote) teams take 33% less time to hire a remote employee than other companies. Interesting, right? While it’s unreasonable to expect a company to go fully remote in order to hire faster, there is an interesting learning here.

Imagine you’re hiring a new Senior Engineer. How many potential candidates do you think there are within a reasonable commute distance? Now, how many candidates are there within the full country? Big difference.

Solution: The next time you are hiring for a role, consider making it location-agnostic. You may get a higher volume of candidates, and perhaps the best person for the job is located a few hundred miles away.

Fully remote teams take 33% less time to hire an employee than other companies.     [Tweet This]   

2. Stop relying on visual cues to know whether or not your teammates are being effective.

Here’s a quick exercise. Go ahead and imagine what a hard-working employee might look like. What do you see?

If your mental picture included someone coming in early, leaving late, or hacking away at his or her desk -- you may have an unconscious bias weighing you down. Perhaps it’s your nature to use visual cues to gauge whether someone is effective or not. That’s not going to work if you have a distributed team working either at the office or at home.

Solution: Rely on results and consistent metrics to gauge effectiveness. You need to evaluate performance on an even playing field in order to be fair and accurate in your assessments.

3. Don’t make remote work a hush-hush opportunity.

When the first person at your company asks if he or she can work remotely, it’s a big step in an organization’s transition. How should you handle it? Should you say yes or no? And if you say yes, who else should know about it?

Some companies react with fear. Management might allow the person to work remotely in order to retain the person, but make the change quietly in order to avoid a “wildfire reaction of remote work requests.”

This reaction could cause a whole slew of issues, the biggest being the creation of animosity between that employee and his or her team. “Why does he/she get to work remotely and I can’t? Is the person getting preferential treatment?”

Solution: Create a lightweight remote work policy. Set a few guidelines for how decisions will be made, how you will communicate it, and what expectations should be set.

Remote work is a growing trend and it’s smart for companies to proactively create a helpful and flexible policy in order to support its employees. And this remote work policy may have a positive impact on employee retention as well.

We found that companies that support remote work have 25% lower employee turnover. It makes sense. If managers are giving employees flexibility to work from wherever they are most effective and happy, that’s going to have a positive impact on morale.

owl labs remote work

4. Don’t dictate specific working hours.

Once a team kicks off a remote work policy, some managers feel the need to “regain a sense of control.” Managers might set certain work parameters for remote workers, like dedicated work hours when a person should be “signed on.”

This is a terrible idea, and is completely contradictory to the very flexibility that remote work provides. It could even demotivate go-getter employees who might have chosen to work more and outside of those specific hours.

Solution: There is only one solution here: trust. If an organization doesn’t trust their employees, remote work is going to fail. When a manager feels a “loss of control,” he or she needs to make a mindset shift and realize that people can’t be controlled.

What should you do instead? Hire well, set clear goals, and trust employees to get their work done well. If someone falls flat, give clear feedback and set that person up for success.

5. Don’t exclude your teammates during meetings.

Depending on the nature of your role, you’re likely in meetings pretty regularly. Maybe these meetings are daily standups, brainstorms, planning meetings or something else.

Have you ever joined a meeting as a remote participant? More often than not, it’s a terrible experience. You can’t hear, can’t see, and thus struggle to follow the conversation. Video makes things a bit better, but most cameras only capture a part of the room. For example, imagine swiveling a laptop from side to side to try to capture everyone in the frame. It’s a total pain.

Solution: Consider using technology that captures the whole room, like a 360° camera. It’ll sit in the center of the table and thus remote employees can see everyone all at once.

Truth be told, I am biased. My company Owl Labs builds a 360° camera called the Meeting Owl that auto-focuses on a person in the room when they start talking. Remote employees have said it “gives them a sense of the room,” which is important in order to follow the conversation and be able to contribute naturally.

Regardless of what product you choose, think from the remote participant’s perspective. Is the view and experience inclusive or limiting? In order to to make meetings effective, the people outside of the room need the same visual context as those sitting in the room.

6. Don’t avoid working remotely just because you’re a manager.

We found that managers work remotely far less often than individual contributors, likely due to a feeling of obligation: “I need to be physically present in order to support my team.”

Managers who make this choice may actually be sending a different message: “You need to be seen in the office in order to be accountable and effective.” That is not a good message if you’re trying to promote openness and trust.

Solution: Remember, you set the example. If it’s okay for your team to work remotely, then sometimes you should work remotely yourself. Don’t make it a double standard. Lead the way.

40% of remote workers miss out on celebrations due to being remote, and 34% miss feeling a part of the culture.   [Tweet This

7. Stop excluding your remote teammates from events and celebrations.

Our research shows that 40% of remote workers miss out on celebrations due to being remote, and 34% miss feeling a part of the culture.

It’s an easy slip-up to make. How are you supposed to give remote employees a sense of the culture if they aren’t physically present?

Solution: While it’s impossible to recreate celebrations and company culture 100% for remote employees, there are a few things you can do. Do you have a regular team lunch? Why not host the lunch over a video call so remote folks can dial-in and see everyone. You could take this so far as to setting up a camera at a bar for after work drinks or during your after-work game night.

Another idea is to mail any company gifts or SWAG that your team might get. Send team tshirts, end-of-year gifts, or whatever it may be.

Overall give your team flexibility, support, and the tools they need to be successful no matter where he or she may be located. If you do that, you’re on the right path.

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