One of the most pressing topics for our CEO’s over the last few months has been ‘how to effectively transition to a remote setup’. As it’s such a large shift for most companies, there’s been many questions around themes such as employee engagement, maximising output and maintaining culture. So earlier this month, to help answer these questions we hosted a session with Brett Putter, CEO of CultureGene. Brett has completed extensive research into how successful remote work companies like Gitlab, Basecamp and Zapier operate. More recently he surveyed 165 start-ups to understand how they were adapting to remote work two weeks after lockdown began, check out his write up on this here.
In our workshop, Brett talked through 9 key points on how remote leaders run their businesses differently, from structure to building trust and hiring. See below for a few key takeaways from the session on how to optimise your remote work force:
Process-ize the business
We forget how easy it was in the office to set up an in-person meeting. An impromptu chat or coffee with a colleague that led to a great planning session or talking through the latest pricing model. To be this effective, remote working requires 5 times more process needs than the office setup. By ‘processizing’ the business — surfacing and defining processes that we may have taken for granted in the office — we provide structure, focus and direction for the team and an agenda for getting things done. Focus initially on implementing processes for anything to do with teamwork and communication.
Companies need to decide how they will use synchronous and asynchronous communication. There is so much informal comms that happens in an office that is no longer available to remote workers and leaders need to be deliberate about building it into the structure of the week. Communication is at the heart of all business processes and the ability to communicate effectively aids productivity. One of the main challenges of working remotely is that it’s easy to accidentally withhold information or not provide enough context for tasks to be completed efficiently. If in doubt, when businesses are new to remote environments, overcommunicate! Define your main communication channels, formalise informal comms and most importantly, feedback and get feedback so that you know what is and isn’t working.
Focus on documentation
To work effectively, teams need the same level of visibility on colleagues work as they would do in the office, without this there is a risk of knowledge being lost or information silos forming. Instead of focusing on ‘speak first’ teams need to pivot to a ‘write first’ approach. To do this, everything should be documented and these documents should be accessible to the whole team — you can trial Notion. Documenting everything creates a more informed, trusting and committed team. For this documentation approach to work, every document should have a single owner and defined audience (e.g. internal/external).
Be deliberate about culture
Perhaps the most important from a people perspective. The way we work and do things has changed, which means that our culture has changed. We don’t have as much control over our culture, so we need to work harder at it. Culture is directly related to morale, productivity, motivation, loyalty and ultimately, the success of a business. So be deliberate with your culture. Mimic what you know worked previously. Define it, manage it and embed it as the heart of your remote working environment.
Toptal’s whole people framework is structured around culture, which is then broken down into five key elements, as show below:
Following the positive feedback from Brett’s presentation, we’ve continued this discussion on remote setup with our CEO’s and are undertaking further work to support our teams in their remote working environments. If you’d like more information on any of Brett’s research or transitioning to a remote work setup, get in touch with Brett directly at firstname.lastname@example.org