How to make remote work work: What our 10 years of experience have taught us

remote work

As I write this article (March 2020), there is a huge possible epidemic going on across the globe. When the global spread of a new type of coronavirus started a few months ago, many companies decided to introduce remote work and home offices. However, in a team where there is no solid remote culture, introducing this new measure out of the blue can do more harm than good. Let’s look at a few tips on how you can make remote work work.

Ever since Aliz expanded and opened an office first in Singapore and then in Munich, remote work has been a natural part of our company culture. Our team is spread out all over the world. We have people working in Singapore, in Jakarta, in Bali, in Germany, and we have our headquarters in Budapest, Hungary. Our management team and our engineers regularly travel to our clients. This means that some of our meetings can only be held online, and sometimes we have people from up to six different locations on one call.

Why choose remote work?

Besides team members from different locations, we also work with freelancers who don’t usually come into any of our offices and we have employees who live outside of the cities where our offices are based. Some people just prefer to stay at home whenever they can, because they feel more productive there. So you can say that one of the reasons why Aliz became a strongly remote-friendly company was necessity. But of course, there is more to it than that.

In terms of remote work, we are lucky. Our industry (technology and development) is not all about location – it can be done technically from anywhere. All we need is a computer and an Internet connection. This is where a huge advantage of remote work comes into play: We want to hire the best talent. And our flexible approach and the opportunity to work from anywhere (of course, as long as we get our work done on time) allows us to find the best developers in the world, no matter where they reside.

Also, one of the most important factors that we took into consideration when introducing remote work was the human factor itself. Aliz has always been a put-people-first company. People with families, little kids, health issues – we’ve got their backs. When working remotely, all your needs can be taken care of in a way that you prefer. We like to give our employees that.

My friend (who is a psychologist) told me once that moving, especially to a different city or country, can be more exhausting and stressful than a divorce. So why should we put our colleagues through this? Whenever there is a meeting, we can use Google Hangouts, Skype, or countless other free opportunities to meet virtually. And, of course, every once in a while we gather all Aliz employees and freelancers in one place to get to know each other, to have some fun, and to work together.

Also, there are other proven benefits of working from an environment that feels familiar and safe. According to Business Insider, the flexibility that comes with remote work can allow employees to work when they are in the flow or at their best – which leads to more productivity. And don’t worry, your employees are not going to do anything but work at home… Many company leaders fear that remote workers will spend their day doing chores, going out, or simply laying around. But this is usually not the case. When done well, working from home is actually good for productivity.

Last but not least, most people find themselves more creative when they work remotely. Remote workers tend to be more independent and comfortable with their jobs. By surrounding themselves with a calm and rewarding environment, they can get comfortable, let their ideas flow, and enjoy working independently. Also, employees can save a bunch of time because they don’t have to commute every day.

We know, of course, that there are many bad examples out there. As with everything, there is a right way and a wrong way of doing remote work. Let’s look at some of the lessons we’ve learned about making remote work work. 

Our tips for building a strong remote team

1. Set clear goals and define remote tasks

At the beginning, it is crucial to define which tasks can be done remotely. For example, in light of the virus situation, our office manager is compiling a list of tasks for which someone must be present at the office. Make sure you communicate the conditions to your prospective employees: some can work completely remotely, but some positions require an on-site presence.

2. Keep in touch

The backbone of a business is communication, so make sure to involve everyone, and not only those who spend the most time at the office. Set up regular team meetings and one-on-one calls, so no one feels excluded. Belonging to a community is a basic human need – don’t forget to cater to that. You can mimic a lot of face-to-face interactions. Gathering around a computer and working together on a document can be replaced by screen sharing in a Hangouts call for example. The possibilities are endless – take advantage of them! Fun fact: even when we work from the office, there is one computer which is turned on 24/7. This way, our developer, Simon, who is mostly at home in Eger with his family, can hear what’s going on at the office, and take part in conversations. 🙂

3. Encourage your team to limit working hours and adopt a self-care routine

When not going to an office regularly, it can happen that the lines between work and free time start blurring. Make sure you prevent that. Encourage your team to limit working hours – you can do this on Google Calendar if you use G Suite. And make sure you also respect those hours. Since we work from (at least) two different time zones, we usually mark the first and last available meeting slot in our calendars – so you can see right away when you can organize meetings with a certain person.

It’s also very important for employees to engage in self-care activities. Everybody needs time off sometimes. Try to maintain a work-life balance, even if the two happen at the same space.

4. Provide the necessary equipment

Needless to say, most people are at the top of their productivity when they can work with hardware and a software environment that is comfortable and familiar to them. When working remotely, it can also be an important factor to provide easily portable devices. At Aliz, we try to tailor everything to our team’s needs: everyone can choose their workspace and the time they want to work (provided, of course, that they do everything the others need, on time).

5. Build trust in your team (and trust them yourself)

This is, of course, the essence of remote work. Start early with transparent and open communication. One of my personal favorite ways of encouraging remote work at Aliz is the introductory call we make whenever we have a new joiner. Everyone gathers together for a video call with the new teammate. We introduce ourselves and answer fun questions. This way the new remote colleague does not feel that they are being excluded from anything. Don’t forget to have constant communication and meetings with all staff members. This will lead to better collaboration and better results within your company.

What do you think? Are you and your organization ready to work remotely?