How to successfully take the leap to Remote? A practical guide (1/3)

Remote work

Gone are the days of “highly recommended”, Remote Work is once again “compulsory wherever possible” as of this Monday in Belgium. But telework is much more than a tool against Covid-19: it is, for many, a way of working adapted to our time and its ambitions. At Stoomlink, Remote has always been part of our DNA. Here is an overview of best practices to seize this opportunity and take the leap into Remote.

Remote : A double edged sword

After a few months of experimentations, many companies share a double-edged observation: on the one hand, Remote allows freedom of organisation and seems to promise a gain in efficiency. But it also raises the question of employees isolation and the difficulty of reproducing a management system designed for office-based work.

On the workers’ side, opinions are positive. A Vias Institute survey shows that a strong majority of the people interviewed are in favour of telework being developed on a larger scale, but they stress the need of adequate support for a positive experience.

The rupture is stronger between managers and employees, as a study by the World Economic Forum shows. The former consider that they provide good supervision, but the latter point out the overload of work and the lack of adequate tools.

Employees and employers seem to agree on one thing: remote work offers a real opportunity. It is an opportunity to rethink the way we organise our work, beyond the workplace, to enable everyone to grow.

But then, where to start? Here is a short practical tour, in the form of an introduction, to successfully transform this telework trial for good!

Remote cannot be a simple copy and paste of our previous organisations

Faced with the urgent need to implement telework, many organisations have had no choice but to copy and paste their working habits, which is very much centred around “synchronous” work rituals: more or less formal meetings, incessant phone calls, e-mails that require an answer within an hour, …

However, if this way of working is already questioned in normal times (in terms of efficiency, in particular, but also in terms of employee empowerment and responsibility), it becomes a real burden from a distance: Zoom fatigue, interpenetration between family and professional bubbles, feeling of increased control, …

This imposed break is therefore the ideal opportunity for all companies to rethink their methodology through the prism of telework. Because this new organisation can (and must) be the source of numerous opportunities for both employers and employees: avoid micro-interruptions affecting productivity, develop a management of results and not of means, develop the autonomy of workers, allow employees greater daily flexibility… Here are some tips to take a step in this direction:

  1. Provide short, recurring synchronisation rituals (we call them “Daily“ at Stoomlink). These take place every morning at 10 am and last no longer than 15 minutes. They are an opportunity for everyone to share the subjects that he/she intends to work on but also to report on possible blockage points.
  2. Avoid meetings without a clear agenda and without objectives (decision making, brainstorming, …). In any case, make sure to invite only the stakeholders who will have added value.
  3. Set up working times without meetings to do background work and take advantage of the ease of cutting yourself off from the world (or at least from your colleagues) offered by Remote (in fact, cut off your notifications to protect yourself permanently from micro-interruptions).

The importance of reinventing the virtual coffee machine

Virtual Coffee in a Slack call

One of the “virtual coffee” we organized during March, at the peak of the pandemic

If there is one point on which everyone agrees, both in favor and against telework, it is the human need to create relationships and the essential function of work in this respect. How, then, can this function be fulfilled at a distance?

  1. At Stoomlink we use our internal messaging tool (Slack, see below) as our virtual office. Here we have set up non-professional discussion areas to allow our employees to exchange and debate on interesting events, resources or inspirations… Or more simply to share good news or wish a happy birthday.
  2. Every week, we hold a WeeklyBrief, a 1 hour meeting during which we share our state of mind (the team’s weather), we take a step back on our way of working (the retrospective) and we share our successes and failures of the week. It’s a working meeting where we don’t talk about… work.
  3. Finally, every 3 weeks, we devote half a day to a face-to-face activity, this time it’s the Non-Remote Friday (except during covid-19, obviously 😉), which is organised at everyone’s initiative. A way to maintain our team spirit.

Our latest “Non-Remote Friday”

The tools of remote collaboration

A screenshot of a thread in Slack

The thread that led to this very blog post in our Slack.

Also in terms of tools and work processes, remote must be at the heart of the reflections. In concrete terms, Stoomlink’s stance is that the workplace should not influence the ability to do one’s job.

  1. All our documents are accessible from the cloud, allowing simultaneous and real-time collaboration (think Google DocsSharepoint and other Dropbox).
  2. In order to avoid micro-interruptions, we favour “in-context” collaboration tools (Google Drive for text and excel documents, Airtable as CRM, ZenHub for project management) which allow us to discuss the subject as closely as possible. For the rest, it is Slack, our virtual office, which is used to exchange freely. We don’t use e-mail among ourselves, because it doesn’t make it easy to distinguish between information and action points.
  3. We have a policy of openness and transparency and everyone has access to all documents. This is a matter of principle, but also a good way to ensure that no one gets stuck in their work.

Would you like to receive more pro tips about remote work? Have a look at chapter two and three !

Stoomlink’s Practical Guide to Remote Work (2/3): The Ultimate Toolbox for a Seamless and Happy Collaboration

Stoomlink’s Practical Guide to Remote Work (3/3): The Culture for a Balanced and Long-Lasting Remote Work