When we started Transformify 5 years ago, all-remote companies were rare and remote work was seen as a ‘’perk’’ tech startups would offer to their top tech talent to keep them happy and loyal.
Digital nomads were mostly successful tech entrepreneurs who had made an exit and could afford to work and travel, traders, marketers, photographers and the like.
Even nowadays, when it comes to work from home jobs, the results of a common Google keyword search will strike you as you will see something like:
- Work from home legit jobs
- Are work from home jobs legitimate
- Work from home jobs part-time
- Work from home jobs for moms
- Are work from home jobs real
Obviously, to most people, work from home jobs are somewhat questionable, not serious enough and probably not legit. It is seen as common for moms to pursue work from home part-time jobs to be able to both take care of their children and stay tuned with their careers.
However, most recruiters would downgrade a candidate who has opted to work from home for a long period of time and question the rationale behind this decision. Is the candidate not ambitious enough or not able to work in a team? What about his/her communication skills? Is the candidate too lazy? Will the candidate be able to get up to speed in a highly demanding corporate environment?
Companies offering work from home jobs and remote work options are still not that many. Normally, employees are presented with an option to work from home a day per week to spare the daily commute to the office. Companies like HP, PWC, Amazon, etc. have allowed (and still allow) their employees to work remotely from time to time as this increases employee satisfaction and improves work-life balance. On the other hand, Yahoo and IBM have announced changes in their work from home policies as remote work has been seen as a factor that could potentially lower the productivity and efficiency of their teams.
The big shift towards remote work has been driven by talent scarcity and rising rent prices in Silicon Valley. Both investors and startup founders have realized that remote work allows them to tap into a global talent pool, save on rent and enter new markets on a much shorter budget.
Valued at USD 2.75 billion, GitLab is an all-remote company that has no offices and their expansion and go-to-market strategies are all around remote work. These days GitLab is not alone, though. Coronavirus resulted in quarantine in many cities worldwide and an unprecedented country-wide quarantine in Italy. Businesses have sent their employees home and asked them to work remotely. However, very few businesses are prepared for the force major situation.
So, is your business work from home ready?
Unless you are running an all-remote company or flexible work is a norm, your organization is very unlikely to be ready to shift to remote working arrangements on short notice. It takes much more than asking employees to work from home for an extended period of time. All systems, internal controls, policies, etc. need to be adjusted to support remote work. Although size matters and enterprises and startups are facing different challenges, this checklist can be of help to any manager.
Work From Home Checklist
Laptops, tablets, company mobiles, etc.
It comes as no surprise that most employees have no company laptops, tablets or mobiles. Even post-financial crisis, most companies are still sensitive to excess costs and company laptops, tablets and mobiles are provided only to those employees who need them to perform their daily duties. Usually, all managers are well-equipped, but their teams work on desktops in-office. Asking everyone to work from home is often not feasible as (i) it’s impossible to source electronic devices on short notice in a force major situation when all businesses are trying to do the same and (ii) there are budget constraints as extra equipment purchases have not been budgeted at all. Probably the best course of action is to analyze the workload and prioritize only those tasks that are absolutely necessary to keep the business running. Those employees engaged with business-critical tasks need to be equipped with electronic devices even if this means that laptops are to be re-assigned from one team member to another. Often, there is a limited number of electronic devices kept in stock to be able to address sudden failures, lost or stolen devices, etc. No matter how small the number is, these devices can be immediately assigned to those employees engaged with business-critical tasks.
Last but not least, if the legislation and the company policies permit it, employees may be asked to use their personal laptops and electronic devices for a period of time. Legal departments need to be involved prior to making such decisions as there are many points that need to be considered.
Software licenses, applications, accesses, etc.
As not all employees use their company laptops as their primary devices, it is likely that some licenses and accesses may not be mirrored on company desktops and laptops. Granting accesses is usually something that can be addressed ad-hoc even though that enterprises and larger organizations have stringent internal controls and each system access requires a number of approvals. Additional software licenses and subscriptions are likely to come at a cost as they may be tight to the device, the number of devices that can be active at any given point in time, etc. Purchasing additional licenses and subscriptions is likely to be constrained by the approved budgets, but on the good side, they can be purchased at any time.
If employees have been asked to use their personal devices while working from home, then it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that these devices are equipped with all required software licenses and subscriptions. Depending on the type of software licenses and subscriptions and the level of complexity of installing specific software, this can be organized by either (i) emailing/sharing through internal secure communication channels software license keys, login credentials, downloading instructions, etc. or (ii) asking employees to bring their personal devices to the office where the IT team can address all necessary tasks. Both courses of action have their advantages and disadvantages. Some employees may not be able to install software applications themselves. Asking them to bring their personal devices to the office creates an enormous workload for the IT team. Also, it increases the health risks if there are confirmed coronavirus cases in the city as the IT Team members will inevitably meet and speak with lots of employees asking questions, seeking advice, etc.
Data exchange / Data security/ VPN
Work from home usually means that employees will be using their home wi-fi networks which are not necessarily secure. Emailing detailed instructions on best practices like not downloading movies, clicking on suspicious links, etc. will definitely help. Most people are aware of them but in a force major situation when entire cities are closed, these best practices may not be on top of their minds.
Providing a VPN connection is also advisable no matter the extra costs. When possible, employees can work directly on corporate servers via VPN to limit data exchange, security breaches, etc. Remote access to sensitive information shall be limited when possible.
In an office environment, it is relatively easy to track when employees leave the office, what time is spent on each task, when they have logged in SAP, Xero, Oracle Financials, Facto HR, SAP Fieldglass, Transformify or any other specific software solutions they may be using daily.
All-remote companies also have their specific way of working which is focused on productivity and KPIs. At Transformify, we track the time spent on each task, quality of execution, team velocity and much more. Remote work requires us to give our team members more freedom while at the same time retaining internal controls and ensuring that all deadlines are met.
Time tracking software is a ‘’ must-have’’ for every organization sensitive to productivity and quality of work. It allows to understand better the strengths and weaknesses of our team members and assign the right tasks to them. Initially, it was surprising that the same task may take three times more time to complete even though that both team members had similar prior experience. Simply, one had a more analytical approach while the other was detail-oriented.
As most organizations were not exposed to remote work at scale before coronavirus outbreak, finding the right balance is hard. Combining a time tracking software with KPIs and quality metrics is likely to provide the best results. At Transformify, we have used TimeDoctor, Clockify and TeamCamp. Some of them integrate with project management software like Jira or Asana, others are better for tracking the time of creative team members such as designers, marketers, etc. The pricing is not to be neglected, having in mind that many team members will use time tracking software and this extra cost has not been budgeted in most cases.
After running an all-remote company for 5 years, I would say that it is all about communication, planning and internal controls. People feel isolated from the rest of the team if there are no communication channels. For Transformify team, it is Slack that works best as it integrates seamlessly with Jira and allows to track the progress on all tasks, organize our teams in team communication channels so they can discuss team-specific topics like marketing strategy, product enhancements and whatever else is on their list without bombarding everyone else with irrelevant information.
Once you have communication channels in place, you may find out that people need to be encouraged to communicate regularly. This is especially valid for teams that have worked in an office environment until a few days ago and now struggle to organize their time and be productive while working from home. Arranging regular daily team calls and asking team members to contribute to discussion topics is on my list as a CEO and can help managers to motivate their teams regardless of team size.
Remote work is a viable option and work from home can be more productive than long hours spent in the office. It is all about being prepared for force major situations, having a plan and being able to execute on it.
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