6 Solutions To Your Biggest Remote Working Challenges
Tips from an IT company with almost 20 years of going “officeless”!
This is the second post in our two-part Remote Working Series. Through this series, we’ll take a look at remote working through the eyes of a company that has been successfully running an “officeless” company for nearly 20 years.
In the first post of this series, we looked at the meaning of an ‘officeless’ workplace from the point of view of a company that has been doing it since its inception in 2004.
Alconost is a global provider of localization services for apps, games, videos, and websites in 70+ languages. We also make advertising and educational videos. We have employees based in nine countries around the world, and over 700 translators.
For us, working remotely is the most effective way for a company to operate, and the best way to motivate employees and get the most out of your team. On top of this, it cuts the enormous costs of operating an office, increases productivity among employees, allows employees to work flexible schedules, and allows people to have a better work-life balance. We discussed all of these points in the first article of this series which you can check out here.
Despite the many benefits, remote working does come with challenges — especially given the speed at which companies around the world are beginning to adopt remote working models. In the wake of the pandemic, just over half of remote workers reported technology issues as the biggest problem they have faced while working from home. Communication and virtual meeting issues came in second and third.
So how can companies ensure they solve some of the prevalent problems that employees are facing? In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the challenges we have faced as an “officeless” company and how we found solutions to each of those challenges which have led to increased happiness, productivity, and a better overall work-life balance.
Create a “hybrid” workplace
There is an in-between which may suit some employees better than others. This is called hybrid working. This is a working arrangement where people split their time between working from home some days, then other days working in an office.
Alconost has two offices based in co-working spaces for those who want to use them. It’s not to force people to come in every day to the office, but to let people choose to use the office as and when it suits them. We only have offices in two cities, and while some local employees use the workspace quite often, the majority of us prefer to work remotely. This style of working has proven to be of great use when the COVID pandemic hit, and many companies had to adapt to remote working on the go.
Why do some Alconost employees often work from the office? Well, they like “water cooler” chats where they can have quick catch-ups with colleagues or discuss project challenges in person. In fact, these spontaneous interactions in the office between co-workers have been proven to play an important role in performance and well-being.
According to a study by Chargifi, over 70% of employees felt happier and more motivated after these encounters. What’s more, over 55% said that these spontaneous conversations were the best thing about the office experience.
Define the purpose of the office
One of the challenges ahead for businesses is defining the purpose of the office in a post-COVID world. For us, it has many functions. An office is a great place to onboard new localization managers. It’s also where we can interview candidates. But most importantly, it’s a place to collaborate.
White-boarding and brainstorming sessions have dropped off significantly in Zoom environments, so those in-person interactions are still important to have when possible. Our top management, who jokingly call themselves the ‘Board of Directors’, meet in the office every Thursday to share the company news, to talk about life and just to know what’s happening.
It’s also important to consider that not everyone will have a good working set up at home. Maybe they have children running riot, or they have to work in their bedroom on a cramped desk, or they don’t have a dedicated space where they can shut out all distractions. If this is the case, then people have the opportunity to come to the office as and when they see fit.
We’ve found that it works best when we cater to everyone’s needs — be flexible, offer remote and office work to everyone, and make everyone happy.
Yes, we believe remote working is the best way to get the most out of your team and keep them happy. But it’s not without its challenges. Here are some of the biggest ones we’ve found at Alconost.
Communication is key
Regular one-on-ones (e.g. a manager with each member of their team) help teams keep in touch. We all make sure to use the web camera as it makes communication more personal and also lets you understand the person better.
Or as Alex Murauski, CEO and founder of Alconost says:
“Working on a project together makes people feel connected. You add your colleague to an OKR goal in the 7geese system and work together to achieve this goal. You both exchange comments on a Trello card and get things done. All that makes people feel connected, even if they live in different cities or countries.”
But probably the most important job for managers is keeping in close contact with their team members. Regular 1-on-1s help with this, casual catch-ups with employees so managers can get a sense of whether they are struggling with motivation, the lack of connection, having technology issues, or simply miss being in an office environment. The only way to know where your employees are mentally and emotionally is by talking with them.
Keep people connected
This is another important aspect of remote working that’s a lot easier when working in an office and seeing the people you work with every day. Here are a few things at Alconost that we’ve found helps people feel connected and part of the company:
- Recognition (received in 7geese platform and during one-on-one calls, or team calls when the person can share what he’s learned and he’ll receive positive feedback from the colleagues)
- The rule: if you’ve done something, then you have to show it to everyone! We like to share our positive achievements as it helps the team stay motivated and feel connected to the company.
- Doing projects together (on Slack and Trello)
- Follow each other’s Instagram accounts :)
- Corporate parties twice a year (like a New Year party and summer getaway), also regular fun events that Minsk employees have
- The Alconostian. This is our monthly company magazine which appeared when employees voiced concerns about how they weren’t sure how their actions and work were contributing to the company. The magazine looks at the achievements of each department and lets employees know about client news so they can feel like a part of the company’s vision and direction.
Keep people motivated
When we speak of the importance of motivation and incentives in the workplace, it becomes all the more critical for employees of the officeless company, and we’re not just referring to pay. When you’re not working alongside your boss, co-workers, or subordinates, you can lose the sense of being a team.
Often, after working remotely for a period of time, we’ve found that employees tend to experience a certain kind of crisis: they lose the sense of working in a company and may lose sight of the common mission and the corporate culture.
There isn’t a single accepted solution to this problem. We’ve found that what worked for us is asking employees to write articles for the media or speak at a conference. When you’re working on a speech or article, you remember what you’ve learned and immerse yourself in the topic, getting you back in the swing and flow of things. Sometimes it helps to have informal get-togethers, to meet up and have a whiskey or two.
Find the right tools
We searched long and hard to find the right tool for assigning and managing work. Then we found Trello — simple and easy to use — and the rest, you could say, is history.
In terms of communication, our go-to tools are Slack for messaging and quick calls, Zoom or Google Meet if we’re having a huddle through a group conference call, or good old-fashioned email.
We usually work with translators through the cloud for large localization projects. We use Google Docs for any marketing or content work we do (nothing is offline for us!), Figma for design, GitHub for programmers, 7geese for performance management, and then various apps like Todoist as our organization tools to get things done.
Finding the communication and collaboration tools have been absolutely essential for us. Without some of the tools listed above, Alconost simply wouldn’t be the company it is today. They have allowed us to maintain a high standard of work, streamline our internal communication and processes, increase our productivity levels, and deliver projects quickly.
Supporting a hybrid workplace future
So now you’ve seen how we have managed to work for nearly twenty years using a remote working model. Yes, there are challenges. But as you have seen, they can be resolved with the right attitude towards your employees and making sure your company puts your employees first, by finding and using the right technology to facilitate communication and collaboration, and by adopting “hybrid” work models that accommodate for the needs and productivity of every employee, both those who prefer working in the office and those who don’t.