Remote Working – Mistake or Genius?

Remote Working – Mistake or Genius?

Are companies that require their employees to come back to the office making a huge mistake in today's market? We think so.

Simone Alexander - Author Image

Simone Alexander Author Extraordinaire

Remote Working – Mistake or Genius?

Are companies that require their employees to come back to the office making a huge mistake in today’s market? We think so.

Google, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft have all announced they’re bringing you back, after two years of remote work. CEOs and middle management at these big four are calling for the return to normalcy in the name of “much-needed collaboration.” Or as we see it, “come back so we can control your output.” We understand their intentions. It’s tempting to want to observe your employees, challenging their time and watching their every move. It’s how the world used to operate. But in today’s market, we call BS. That way of thinking doesn’t fly anymore, and not only is it bad for employees—it’s bad for businesses.

Our advice to the big tech firms: find a process and structure that works for your employees.

Companies don’t need to force people back to the office to get stuff done. Over the past few years, employees have had the flexibility of picking up their sick child from school, grocery shopping at lunch, doing laundry during the day, and staying focused on their work tasks—all without worrying about missing their kid’s soccer practice. If you ask us here at Scratch, our team says you should trust your teams to make decisions and work on problems in a way that works for them, especially when things usually take twice as long when in the office and are hindered by the stress (and gas money) of a commute.

Consider The Great Resignation. Workers are quitting by the thousands because companies aren’t flexible or sensitive to the needs of their employees. Companies aren’t taking the time to invent and create new processes that alleviate the stress of in-office working and refuse to build on the success of the remote work/life balance. The key here is flexibility, giving the worker a choice throughout the week to garner in office time or at-home time, depending on their individual lives and overall work output for the week.

The idea of remote work transcends politics. The real discussion lies in finding solutions to manage remote teams, foster communication, build relationships and allow for ultimate freedom for employees to live their lives. We are adults; we have lives, we care about our work, our families, our coworkers, and ultimately we care about companies that relate to our needs.

So what do Apple, Google, Microsoft, Meta, and any other company with skin in the game need to do to relate to this new working style? Start by building advocacy and trust with their employees, and take the following steps to become a company that embraces a new way of thinking. Here are three easy ways to make remote teams work:

1. Daily journals from everyone on the team.

Efficient daily communication habits between teams are vital. There are many tools out there to assist with this goal, including Notion and others (just wait till you get your hands on Scratch). Our team operates by checking in each workday to update everyone on how they are feeling, what tasks they are attacking, if they need any help and if they have any blockers. Talk about engagement. Now there is cross-team visibility into everyone’s workload, how people feel on that particular day, and what’s important to that person in terms of tasks.

If everyone on the team does this daily, you now can understand how the team is doing, who is accomplishing what, and if anyone needs specific and direct help. This solution is simple, easy to do, and creates an efficient daily communication habit within teams. Go ahead and scratch that crappy scrum meeting off your list.

2. Use Slack and other tools to the fullest.

Instant communication built around teams, projects, and individuals can happen effortlessly. We set up general Slack channels to capture the water cooler chatter that usually gets lost when working from home. Teams share recent news, what’s going on in the world, things they find interesting, funny things that happened that day, and more. Teams share connections, and we use Slack to make that connection seamless. Whether it’s a quick huddle, direct chat, or tag, we give our teams the freedom and time to chat effortlessly across the organization. We also strongly encourage status updates, so team members know when not to ping you, when you are actually available, and when you are deep into writing an article on remote working.

We also rely on asynchronous meetings, which are discussions about a specific topic that aren’t held in real-time. Instead, they’re attended through various methods of communication, like–A Google document that holds the team’s asynchronous agendas, Q&A, minutes or outcome, Notion or Slack, or any other tool that allows for teams to work together (like the Scratch app).

3. Quarterly team events.

Team events: why are they so important?

When done well, team events create moments of delight in an organization. They allow everyone to come together, over Zoom or another tool, to participate in an event outside of work hours that can pull everyone together. We have seen massive success in these events. We’ve held three recent events that have gotten our employees talking for months after they happened:

  • Chocolate tasting with a world-renowned chocolatier – With tasting kits sent to everyone prior.
  • Mixology – Gift card to buy your favorite alcohol and a mixing kit with our favorite tools and mixers for a fun and engaging cocktail party.
  • Dinner on us – Ingredients sent via a food company to make our favorite dish, pre-voted on, and with a monthly subscription for three months after.

These events helped our teams spend time together outside work hours but also remotely, most of them having their spouses and kids in and out of the event as well, giving everyone a look into their personal lives, dogs and cats included.
A lot of the success from remote work comes from having the right employees. Hiring and finding the right person that can operate in a remote environment is just as important as facilitating the tools and processes that will allow for these teams to be successful across an organization. Once they are onboarded it’s important to have employees read through an updated handbook and manifesto on how you operate. Set expectations from the very beginning.

The remote work model can work. Just look at Automattic, owners of WordPress. They have 1,200 employees that are all remote. They tout their philosophy on their hiring page, “Work for us, from anywhere.” A simple and successful statement.

Welcome to the new age of working. Scratch those meetings and produce.

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