Just when things seemed to be returning to normal, and businesses were considering returning to the office, the workplaces needed to take a backseat again due to Omicron, the latest mutant from the Coronavirus stable.
The speed at which Omicron is spreading across nations, and its effects on paralyzing the movement of people, has made it clear that the world will be affected by Covid-19 for some more years to come. Unfortunately, there also seems to be no quick solution in sight to stop the spread of the virus and its different mutations.
In such a scenario, entrepreneurs and small businesses who have been reluctant to go fully remote to date may need to reconsider their decision and look at options to create a completely remote organization.
Remote onboarding has helped expedite the process of hiring making it easier to build remote teams.
While enough has been written on remote working and the work from home concept since the beginning of 2020, what is clearly missing is a definite go-to guide (except for the one from GitLab) that small businesses and entrepreneurs can refer to while setting up their remote workforce.
In this blog, we also share the story of Wishup, which started as a WhatsApp-based concierge service and grew on to become one of the pioneers in remote working and to provide remote workers to businesses across the globe.
Why Wishup decided on the remote working concept (when the term was not even a part of our everyday lexicon) and how it put processes in place to ensure client satisfaction is an interesting case story in itself.
Let's start by looking at why remote work is essential in today's times.
Image Source: Pixabay
Why is remote working important?
While shutting down your business during the lockdowns was necessary to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, the effects this move had on the world economy were devastating. There were stories from all over the world of people struggling to make ends meet and governments being forced to provide financial aid to their citizens.
However, all the relief and financial measures provided by the governments and financial institutions were temporary and required companies to seek suitable opportunities for their sustainability.
That is where remote working plays an important role.
It helps your business continue its operations, though not on the same physical scale as before. In addition, by adopting remote working measures, organizations can once again connect with their clients and employees to address their needs.
Remote working gives people an opportunity to stand on their feet again while helping organizations thrive in the new environment. All this while keeping you, your clients, and employees safe from getting affected by the virus.
How does remote working benefit entrepreneurs and small businesses?
Entrepreneurs and small businesses who are considering the concept of remote working enjoy many benefits such as;
- Being able to access a global pool of talent compared to sourcing employees only from the city they are based.
- They can also use virtual assistant services, which are available for a fraction of the cost involved in hiring full-time employees at the workplace.
- Reduce cost overheads associated with maintaining a physical office/workplace. No need for hiring/leasing a physical office
- Better productivity as no time is lost due to commuting.
- Lesser work interruptions as compared to an office
- No working hours are lost due to weather conditions, lockdowns, or transportation problems.
- Invest savings incurred due to remote working for marketing and increasing market share.
Image Source: Pixabay
How does remote working benefits employees?
While organizations enjoy financial savings by operating remotely, employees also enjoy some benefits, such as;
- Better work-life balance, as they can spend quality time with their family members while working from home.
- Better productivity, as they don’t have to waste time commuting to the workplace.
- Employees are also free from workplace distractions, helping them to focus better.
- Some organizations may also offer flexible hours, helping employees select the most comfortable and productive time.
- Employment opportunities are not restricted to their city. Employees can now access work opportunities from across the globe.
- Ability to work from anywhere. Can avoid high-cost areas, leading to better financial savings.
- Substantial financial savings compared to working in an office, wherein one tends to spend on clothing, team lunches, and travel.
- They can spend the time they save commuting on upskilling themselves.
How to create a fully remote organization?
Creating a fully remote organization is easier said than done!
That doesn’t mean one needs to give up on the concept.
It requires planning each minute detail with your leadership team and considering all the possible scenarios you may face while working entirely remotely.
Do also take a look at our blog: Top 20 Reasons You Should Hire Remote Workers Today For Your Business for a better insight on hiring remote workers.
Clearly define the role and responsibilities of every employee
That is an essential part of going fully remote, considering the fact that many employees (both new and old) may never physically meet and discuss their work. Due to this, there could be an overlap in managing specific responsibilities or, worse, assuming that someone else is handling them.
Given the reduced communication between employees compared to a physical office (no matter which communication tool you use, online communication has some limitations), every employee's role must be clearly documented and shared with him at the outset of his remote working journey.
For remote working to work and show results, entrepreneurs and small business owners must adopt a remote-first mindset, ensuring that all employees have equal opportunities to work remotely irrespective of their roles within the organization.
The company needs to have clear channels of communication that are open and easily accessible to all employees. Another factor that companies need to note while adopting a remote-first policy: refrain from using the past performance standards.
They need to draft new performance standards, keeping in mind that working remotely may be a first-time experience for many employees.
You also need to be patient with the performance in the initial few weeks as they adapt to working from home, solve connectivity and wi-fi issues and learn presentation skills for online meetings.
Spend time on onboarding new employees
Even though some people may differ on this, remote working is still a new concept, with every organization having its own set of rules and processes on remote working. As such, don’t just assume that every new employee who joins you is familiar with the concept of remote working and is a pro at it!
Given the effort and time spent recruiting new employees, it makes immense sense to spend quality time getting them on-boarded and familiar with the organization.
Make sure you have a dedicated employee to onboard every new employee who spends time sharing the organization's culture, processes, services, and achievements to date so that the employee feels a part of it.
Have someone from the on-boarding team connect with the new employee daily to inquire about their wellbeing and work status and ensure they don’t feel left out or alone.
Employees that are more knowledgeable about their companies processes tend to get onboarded faster and be more productive within a few days of joining up.
Face-to-face chats and informal meetings during the initial days will go a long way in making the employee comfortable and be a part of your team.
Other employees can also participate in these informal chats and share their work experiences with the new joiners. That will help them bond and grow stronger as a team.
Image Source: Pixabay
Help employees in setting up their workspace at home
Similar to an office environment, employees need to feel comfortable in their workplace, even though it may be their home. A dedicated workspace will help them focus on their work and give their work from home environment a professional look and feel.
You need to guide them on setting up a dedicated workspace at home and why it is essential for their overall productivity.
Some simple tips that you can share with them are how it should be free from distractions, have plenty of natural light, adapt a good posture while working on the desktop/laptop, etc.
Given the considerable difference between working in an office environment where all the necessary infrastructure is readily available and a work-from-home environment where individuals need to do things independently, scheduling meetings to help them set up their home office is a good idea.
You could also circulate a list of the best equipment available to facilitate their work from home experience.
Image Source: Pixabay
Documentation is key
Unlike the yesteryears, employees no longer have the option of just walking up to a colleague and resolving their doubts on workplace matters, be it taking leaves, understanding their payslip, or something as simple as knowing how to escalate supplier issues.
Organizations should document all their work policies and processes with as much detail as possible in the present scenario. There should be no ambiguity on what the organization is trying to convey and what it expects the employee to do under given circumstances.
However, just documenting everything to do with the workplace is not enough. It needs to be made easily accessible to each employee to refer to them whenever required.
Periodic reviews and updating of the documentation are also essential to ensure that it stays relevant. Organizations willing to give documentation the importance it deserves should ensure that they dedicate adequate resources to it both in terms of manpower and time.
Ideally, a dedicated team member should handle the entire documentation preparation and maintenance process.
Image Source: Canva
Build a social connection among the employees
The effects of the pandemic were not felt just on businesses across the globe but also on people who were faced with circumstances never experienced before.
From businesses shutting down to the fear of being infected with the virus, there has been substantial mental turmoil in employees' minds.
In such a scenario, it is imperative employers must take the initiative and work towards improving the mental well-being of their employees. Employers need to create programs focused on work engagement and preventing burnout among employees.
The social connect must not be limited to just the formation of a few WhatsApp or Slack groups/channels but be a much more conscious effort to make the employees feel involved with the organization and each other.
The best-case example of this would be Canva, one of the most successful remote companies in the world. It has a dedicated program known as ‘Canva Vibes,’ which maintains its culture among all employees.
Under this initiative, it has set up a dedicated team of employees, with one employee being allocated for every group of 25 employees with the sole purpose of inspiring people and building a sense of belonging.
Image Source: Pixabay
Conduct regular reviews
In a remote working environment, it’s relatively easy for employees to feel isolated and not a part of the organization. That is due to the limited flow of information through chats, emails, etc.
Periodic reviews will help you evaluate a project's progress and build a better bond with your team, considering the fact that everyday online interactions between you and your team are usually minimal in a remote working environment.
Make sure that you just don’t discuss work projects with your team during these reviews. Instead, you should ideally inquire about how they are adapting to the work-from-home scenario and if they face any problems that the organization could help them resolve.
Sharing the company’s progress regularly, showcasing new projects, and highlighting new opportunities within the organization, will go a long way in building the trust an employee has in their company. In addition, it can lead to better job satisfaction levels and make them less prone to consider opportunities elsewhere.
Image Source: Pixabay
Be flexible and let employees enjoy a proper work-life balance
Unlike a physical office where you could just call an employee for a review or request them to work late for an important project, remote working is quite different.
As an organization, you need to be more flexible and ensure that team members respect the working hours of others and don’t disturb them outside regular working hours unless it’s an emergency. If an employee's status shows him being offline or on a break, that should be respected.
Unlike an office environment, people working from home are expected to help with household chores or run small errands. However, that should not be held against them or used as an excuse for monitoring the employee.
As long as employees deliver on their commitments in a remote environment, it does not matter where they work. They should also be given the freedom to skip meetings that may not be directly relevant to them.
By helping employees enjoy a proper work-life balance, organizations will strengthen their bond with the employee and create an environment more conducive to productivity.
For a better insight on how to deal with your employees affected by the pandemic, do read our blog: How to engage with employees post-pandemic.
Case Story: How remote working helped Wishup develop a sustainable business model!
Wishup, founded in 2015 by Neelesh Rangwani and Vivek Gupta, two IIT’ians from IIT Chennai, India, provides virtual assistants for varied tasks to entrepreneurs and businesses.
Within a few months of its launch, Wishup found itself growing exponentially well with a massive demand for its services from US-based companies. Their growth was so fast-paced that they found themselves looking for bigger and more spacious premises to operate from every few months.
Something that was getting increasingly difficult to manage.
The extreme travel conditions in Delhi also proved a deterrent to Wishup in recruiting high-quality employees. The need of the hour was a solution that ensured employee quality did not suffer while helping employees maintain a proper work/life balance.
As a probable solution, Wishup decided to adopt the remote working concept completely & wholeheartedly. While remote working had its share of advantages, it was still in the nascent stage in India and faced many challenges.
However, the founders of Wishup refused to give up and spent time developing the remote working model in India. All this in an era when online meetings were a privilege of the elite, and internet bandwidth was just beginning to grow in India.
With no companies or existing scenarios to refer to, it was a tough scenario for Wishup as everything had to be built, tried, and tested for the first time from the ground up.
Some of the initiatives they undertook to develop the remote working environment are;
- Training all new team members on 50+ tools & skills that will help them work more efficiently with clients. It ensured that the training enabled them to handle client responsibilities from day one itself.
- Ensuring all employees onboarded with a new client had a task-support system they could refer to whenever needed.
- Handholding the team member-client relationship for a minimum of two weeks to improve work performance.
- Initiating a system of EOD reports so that clients were updated on the tasks completed and the time is taken to complete them.
- Checking in with the client at least 3 times a day and updating him on all the tasks assigned with their current status.
Wishup’s grit and perseverance in implementing these systems helped it create a smooth working environment and grow its business steadily.
As per Vivek, one of the founders of Wishup, “The efforts and time we invested in building all systems from the ground-up are just beginning to show. It is a solid foundation, on which we can now take the company to new heights”. He also attributes their success to their belief in investing in technology and creating detailed documentation on processes to be followed for every eventuality.
Regarding the future, Wishup has defined its future goals quite clearly. It aims to help companies build a completely remote team within 30 minutes while creating enough job opportunities for a million people in the next five years.
Image Source: Pixabay
Tips for companies planning to adopt the remote working model
Remote working is the new normal, and the faster you adapt to it, the better and faster your business will grow. To get you going, we share a few tips that we have implemented over the years to improve employee satisfaction and keep them productive.
Our favorite tip is No. 9, but maybe something else works better for you!
- Give people the flexibility to set their working hours. Don’t be too rigid about it.
- Ensure that your team doesn’t work long hours consistently. It will affect their work-life balance.
- Avoid delegating work on weekends or holidays unless they are a part of the customer support team.
- Encourage your employees to form teams while handling complex projects.
- Promote informal communication between your employees. It will help increase team bonding.
- Hire a content writer to create blogs on the benefits of remote working and share them with your employees.
- Encourage written communication so that employees have something to refer to long after the Zoom or Google Meet call is over.
- Request senior team members to hold 1-to-1 calls with their junior team members at least once a week. That will help them feel like an essential part of the organization.
- Schedule informal, interactive sessions at least once a fortnight so that new employees can get to know other employees.
- Look for people who can fit your company's culture and work ethos rather than degrees from premier institutions. How well they connect with other employees and deliver on their projects is the only thing that matters.
- Clearly state the job role, expectations, and hiring process during job postings. It will save you time and energy filtering the suitable candidates. In addition, make sure that your recruitment process is fair and transparent to increase your organization’s credibility.
- Allocate a mentor to new joiners so that they have someone to reach out to in case they face any issues.
You can also check our recent blog on improving the productivity of remote employees: 5 Genius Ways To Improve The Productivity Of Your Remote Employees.
Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to go remote; it’s all about how quickly your organization and employees can adapt to it. Having a flexible mindset, and ensuring your employee's wellbeing, will go a long way in helping your business grow and be profitable in the long run.
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