So…running a business remotely. Some may hear that phrase and have visions of pajama bottoms, freedom and Netflix-during-lunch-breaks dancing in their heads. Others will be filled with dread.
Covid-19 has made it really hard to find a consistent rhythm and to feel a sense of comfort whilst living and operating in this new normal. And we all know that all that hard is multiplied when you’re a business owner.
Especially during these times, running a remote business may not even be an option. It may be something you were forced to do just to stay afloat. Regardless, more SME businesses are online than ever before.
As a company, we’re in an interesting place because we were born in the remote space, and we’ve chosen to always remain remote.
So, we thought, why not share a few tips on how we stay on track with running a remote business, even if you have plans to integrate your biz back to the office ASAP.
Remote work has become more and more popular in the last few years, and with Covid-19 still on the rise, the need for social distancing has become imperative to curbing this pandemic. As a business owner, you find yourself having no choice but to comply with the regulations to ensure your safety and the safety of your employees, even though it might, especially in certain industries, cost your business some revenue.
Remote work means moving the central location of work away from the usual office workspace. This means working from home, in a personal office, or any other favourite spot, for instance, in the garden or a coffee shop.
Some companies, like us here at Fizzin, provide this option for all their employees and are known as fully remote workplaces. Besides being able to hire great employees from all over the world, our remote work model is beneficial in reducing commuting time and costs and helps to lower our carbon footprint. But, our love for WFH (work-from-home) is due in large part to our industry. Because digital services are, well, digital, we were well-positioned from the start to be, and stay, online.
Some other businesses aren’t as well suited for going fully online. Some industries can’t go fully, 100% online, even if they wanted to. Take, for example, a restaurant. A restaurant needs an industrial kitchen for all of the cooks to cook in. You could scale back and sell products on UberEats and the like, but ultimately, that food still needs to be made in a kitchen.
Assuming you can, and have, been able to move over to the online world, the hurdles just keep coming.
The biggest fear that any business owner who moves their business online has is not being able to physically keep a close eye on the day-to-day operations that go on within your company, which essentially forces you to place a great deal of trust into the discipline and competence of your employees.
This can be really scary, especially if you’re a small business without many formal accountability structures in place, but this is also a great opportunity to boost morale within your company and to ensure that you and your employees share the same vision when it comes to growing and keeping the company alive, even in these trying times.
Let’s look at a few reasons why working remotely could actually be beneficial for your business:
Remote Work Can Be Awesome Because:
When you’re on the lookout for fresh blood, you have a greater pool of potential talent and no geographical limitations for your employees
Employees can enjoy full pay and benefits, without having to pay for things like commutes
The whole team is likely to have more time available because they don’t need to spend an hour or more a day driving to and from the office
Higher autonomy and fewer office interruptions can increase the productivity of employees
Employees can completely customise their working setup - if your team works better working in a tree in their garden, no problem
Team members with disabilities may prefer the WFH setup
Because of saved-time, your business may be able to stay open longer
Less parking spots and office space is needed, which means fewer overheads...yay!
You can enjoy a lower carbon footprint
Working remotely can have huge plusses when managed well, and from our experience, a big must is hiring the right type of person. To love working remotely, people usually have high levels of self-motivation sitting in their tanks and love, love, LOVE what they do. Now, let’s factor in the not-so-greats that a remote company faces...
Remote Work Can Suck Because:
Team members may feel as if they have fewer networking opportunities
Heat, electric and WiFi bills at team members’ homes may increase
Some people could be less productive. People have different personalities and some may prefer more structure than a daily email can provide
Some team members may feel overlooked and isolated
It can be harder to build team spirit, peer-to-peer connections, and to manage people
Difficulties in scheduling meetings and coordinating projects may pop up
It may be more difficult to supervise and evaluate work
Whilst the cons of taking and running your business online may seem overwhelming, it’s just a matter of tweaking and reinforcing some of the strategies that successful companies already use, in order to leverage the pros as much as possible.
We recommend trying out the following:
1. Use the right tools
Your team is going to require access to all the important files they need to complete their tasks efficiently and in a remote setting, and they'll need to access those files from their laptops or home computers. At Fizzin, the Google suite is our BAE - Drives are the easiest way we’ve found to keep it all neat and tidy.
There are several other software tools you could implement to have a successful remote company.
Some great ones include remote conferencing software that allows you to hold company meetings, perform webinars or conduct remote interviews, like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or Skype.
Project management tools let you assign specific tasks with due dates for individual workers and create workspaces for different teams where you can assign group projects. Asana, Trello and Zoho Projects are great options. Your remote workers will be able to easily see what they need to get done in an organised way.
2. Create a Comms Plan
One of the biggest factors you'll be missing from a traditional office setting is the ability to talk in person to your team. That's why you need to put a communication plan in place.
It's inconvenient to Zoom-meet someone to ask a simple question and email doesn't quite do the trick either, which is where messaging tools come in. These tools offer a seamless way for your company to stay organised and communicate with each other wherever they are in the world. Some great examples are Slack or Google Chat. We use the latter, because it integrates seamlessly with the rest of our Google suite system.
3. Choose the right Team
For your remote company to be a success, you need your remote workers to be successful too. The first step to this is to hire the right remote workers. As a remote company, the pool of candidates you have to choose from is large - you can hire anyone no matter the country they live in - but you've got to make sure they're right for you.
Once you've got some quality candidates to choose from, interview them using video conference software and make sure they are self-motivated. Don’t fall into the trap of interviewing them over phone-call - especially if a part of their job will be jumping on video calls. Checking their noise-levels and internet connectivity can be uber useful!
Being self-motivated is one of the most important qualities in a remote employee because you can't constantly be managing them. We touched on this before, but we can’t stress it enough. Being willing to work without being checked on physically every three seconds is key, key, key!
4. Connect Creatively
Creating connections with employees and a culture for your remote company can be difficult without face-to-face interaction, but it's not impossible. Make the vision for the company very clear and post it in a cloud collaboration service where remote workers can access it and be reminded of what bonds them together.
You can also run polls or hold fun, interactive challenges for your remote workers to participate in, like a non-competitive fitness challenge they can track in a shared document. And if you have the means, getting everyone together once a year for a retreat allows strong bonds to form between all your remote staff.
At Fizzin, we have grown and curated a pretty awesome remote culture - in fact, it’s one of our team’s most favourite things about working here! We have weekly one-on-one standups where agents meet up with their account managers, just to check in and have a chat.
We also have Fizzy Fridays on alternating Fridays, where the team gets together online and just has some fun. We’ve played online pictionary, Bingo, Battleship...you name it. On the other alternating Fridays, we have Bubble Building sessions, where team members run a workshop on a skill near and dear to their heart.
These two Friday seshes are awesome, because the team gets to hang out and relax one week, and learn, engage and contribute the next.
5. Set clear goals
Setting firm goals for each of your remote employees helps everyone stay on track. Determine what your expectations are for each role and when deadlines should be met and communicate this clearly via excel trackers, for example.
Create weekly to-do lists and be open about how you expect everyone to perform. One great way to quantify your goals is to use Google Analytics’ goal feature to track your online performance. This can increase company productivity and reduce the chances of team members falling behind in meeting their personal and company goals.
Be as detailed as possible with your expectations and goals and post them where they can be easily accessed by any member of your team. Although there are bound to be some hiccups and disruptions along the way, having set clear expectations keeps everyone accountable.
Here are a few other non-central aspects of your biz that you also need to stay on top of remotely, even though they may sometimes be easy to forget:
1. Your Website
Whether you have to shift your services to an online platform, or you need a strong web presence to attract new hires and provide existing employees with updates and information, a darn good website is important. It acts as an extension of your overall brand, while also providing a way for customers and employees to engage with you.
2. Social Media
Like your website, social media platforms are important channels for reaching new audiences and sharing information about your business. Social media may also be used to communicate new initiatives, share company updates, and develop relationships with an online community of supporters.
Both your company’s website and socials are more important than ever, now that the world in general has gone full-blown digital, thanks to COVID.
3. Password Security
While secure cloud platforms may help safeguard your company’s information, it’s also vital to educate remote employees about password management and using secure networks. By everyone doing their part to keep data protected with strong passwords and staying off of vulnerable public Wi-Fi connections, you’ll be less likely to suffer a data breach.
With more and more companies shifting to a WFH set-up, successfully running a remote business is within your reach.
It does take a bit more planning and creativity than you would normally find in a traditional setup, but it is totally worth the hassle!
Even if you don’t want to run your business remotely, it’s likely that you’re going to need to for a while. So take the WTH out of WFH and invest in spending some time thinking about how to make your team feel as supported and connected as possible 😉