Discover more from All Remote - with Mark Wormgoor
Making the transition
... to an all-remote work culture
It’s been really good to get back to work. Last week has been incredibly busy, continuing to build out Tairi. Tairi is the result of my interest in remote work.
For me, working virtually with people in other countries started almost 20 years ago. The first large outsourcing deal I was closely involved in was in 2005, when ABN Amro signed two large outsourcing contracts for its infrastructure and application development. Since then, I haven’t had a job that did not involve at least weekly virtual meetings with other countries. I’ve seen everything from large outsourcing to individuals working all over the world.
But, I recognize not everyone has the same experience. Not everyone knows where to get started building an all-remote company culture. Before we dive into that, a…
Quick business update
There’s currently a lot of demand for developers here in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. This past week, I’ve spoken to quite a few startups and scale-ups looking to grow their teams. There’s a lot of interest!
Yesterday, I interviewed four developers in the Philippines for roles here in the Netherlands. They were four very different people, with different lives, backgrounds, personalities and experiences. Meeting new people like this, and hearing their personal stories always gives me a lot of energy.
That’s also what prompted this story. As a startup or scale-up, where do you start transitioning from your small in-office team to a hybrid team with remote software developers?
Building an all-remote culture
Startups and scale-ups are usually young organizations. They’re on a growth trajectory and their teams are used to (and perhaps even expecting) frequent change. In such an environment, it’s usually easier to transition to a hybrid work culture manner with a few remote team members. Most of these organizations start organically. They treat their remote team members no different than their own on-site team. As they encounter challenges, they adjust and adopt.
But a bit of planning can go a long way.
Planning & embracing
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of change involved in cultural transitions. You want everyone in your organization to embrace the change. Plus, there’s a lot of other aspects to take into account.
Most important, let’s see how your teams work today. For each team, analyze how they work together as a team, as well as how they interact with other teams. Do they already have team members working remotely? Are they accustomed to written / async communication styles? Or, do they heavily rely on in-person, in-office interactions.
Knowing how your teams work today, start writing down a short and high-level communications policy. How will people and teams interact in the future? Will you consider a switch to async communications from day 1? Or will you implement a more gradual switch-over. Finally, on a team-by-team basis, identify the need for change.
Communications is the first, and probably the most important, part of your remote work handbook. Whilst you’re at it, add sections around working hours & availability (when are people expected to be online). With a first rough draft in hand, start seeking feedback from your teams. Having your teams get involved in the design of the remote work handbook is a huge first step in the adoption of the change.
Second, start looking at your technology stack. Do you have all the tools required to support remote workers? Think about remote access to all your tools, security, but also hardware. If you have a remote employee in another continent, what hardware do you expect them to use? How would you go about securing that hardware and that employee’s access to your data?
Another part of the technology stack is your collaboration toolset. How will people work together? Are you going to use Slack, Teams or Google Meet? Will you provide other tools such as Miro or Trello?
Finally, consider any legal or compliance requirements. Especially if your dealing with regulated data such as medical records or financial transactions, or if you’re working with government contracts, you will need to assess if that data can be handled outside of the country, or in the case of the EU, outside of the EU. Healthcare and financial institutions have outsourced a lot of work to providers in India over the past 20 years. But, they do that with a lot of focus on contracts, data security and compliance.
You’ve now written the first draft of your remote work policy, and you have an overview of what needs to happen in terms of technology, as well as for your teams. At this point, create a plan with a realistic timeline. Create plans to train each of your teams on your new remote work policy, communication guidelines and tools.
Embracing remote work is not a single project though. Once implemented, it requires continuous monitoring and fine-tuning. You can be certain things will go wrong, people will misunderstand, feel left out, or will be unsure what to do. Consider assigning a “head of remote”. Depending on the size of your organization, this could be a full-time role, but you could also formally assign this role to someone already in your organization. Finally, you could consider hiring an external experienced fractional head of remote from outside your organization.
Next, start capturing feedback, tips & tricks and best practices from your team. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of very cool small tips come by, ranging from status icons behind your name on Slack (e.g. a dog if you’re away walking your dog or a cake if it’s your birthday) to home office setups. Also, let people suggest changes or improvements to your remote work policy. It’s not a static document, but needs to evolve over time.
Are you done?
What I haven’t captured yet is monitoring performance or output. This is a whole different game in a hybrid or remote organization. But, I’m going to keep that for a next article… Subscribe, and I’ll make sure it ends up in your mailbox over the next couple of weeks.
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