My Remote Work Guide

Overlooked #11

Hi, it’s Alexandre from Idinvest. Overlooked is a weekly newsletter about underrated trends in the European tech industry. Today, I’m sharing with you my guide for remote work.

Here is my humble contribution to the current healthcare crisis. I know nothing about medicine. I know almost nothing about remote working. I’m too young for this - being 24 years old and working in my first job.

But at least, I have spent the last semester working remotely for Idinvest in Stockholm and it’s a field I have been interested in the past few years.

I have spent the past few days reading everything I could about remote working to build a guide for our portfolio companies. I’m outsourcing it with you readers. If it helps only one guy somewhere in the planet, the job was worth it!

The full guide is on the below Notion page.

Open the Remote Guide

In this newsletter, I’m sharing the 10 commandments of remote working learnt during my researches.

#1 - Remote is the future of work.

  • By 2035, there could be 1bn "location independent workers". (The Economist)

  • Large US and UK companies spend $5k per employee on annual rental costs while only 40-50% of desks are used during working hours. (The Economist)

  • When done appropriately, remote workers are happier and more productive. Without commuting, they have more time to dedicate to their friends and family, to their passions and to exercise. This is why 90% of remote workers plan on working remotely for the rest of their careers. (Buffer and AngelList)

  • It's also great to attract and retain top talent from every part of the globe. Buffer has a 91% retention rate of its employees.

#2 - It's super hard to build a remote company overnight.

  • Hybrid set ups - in which part of the workforce is remote and part is on site - are not working at all. It will be the same if you keep the mindset that remote working is only something temporary and you have to survive until you can go back to your old habits.

  • When you are going remote, it's not just a change of place where you work. It's a complete change of mindset and you will have to review numerous traditional thoughts on meetings, communications, transparency etc.

  • Famous companies like Zapier, Buffer, Basecamp and GitLab have managed to implement successfully this remote first policy.

  • GitLab has 100% distributed company with no offices and close to 1,200 employees across 50 countries. The company has even employees dedicated to make remote work a success (e.g. one person as "all remote culture curator"). It shows that you have to be very intentional in making remote work a success.

#3 - "Managing a remote company is much like managing any company. It comes down to trust, communication, and company-wide support of shared goals." (GitLab)

  • In the early days, startups delay some investments in the infrastructure to scale the organization because they the team members are close to each other physically. Managing a remote company forces you to do the things that you should have been doing earlier and better. Remote management and management in a large organization is the same.

  • Here are key areas for a remote organization: focusing on outputs and not on hours spent at work, promoting flexibility and work-life balance, building an internal compelling documentation, embracing total transparency etc.

#4 - It will require numerous iterations before finding the right set up for your business.

Going remote is a process and not a binary switch. Day 1 will not be perfect. Start with establishing a wiki handbook on how the key principles you want to set up to operate remotely (how to communicate? how to use the tools? how to work on a project?). Communicate this wiki with all your employees and then update it regularly with the feedbacks collected.

#5 - Remote implies you to set up a lot more process than what you may be used to.

  • “As a remote team, you have roughly 5x the process needs as you would in a co-located team” says Andreas Klinger. For instance, in remote mode, it's impossible to set up a meeting immediately because people. You have to announce the meeting upfront, come with an agenda, make sure everyone is on time, make a debrief for the rest of the team etc.

  • You should set up processes for anything related to teamwork and communication. By giving a framework, your employees know your expectations and you are able to have standardized communications and reporting within the whole organization.

#6 - Don't assume that your employees will have the right set up to work from home.

  • Your employees have to build their home office. Companies should help their employees in finding the right set up to work from home in terms of office design and ergonomics (chairs, webcams, headphones, desks, lights, external keyboards etc.).

  • Some companies are even supporting financially their employees in this transition. For instance, Shopify (♥️) is giving $1,000 to buy any office equipment to set up their work space for remote work.

#7 - Minimize your toolstack. Start simple with the minimum set of tools.

Using tools is important to set up a remote culture but (i) you have to choose the right tools depending on your business, (ii) you don't need to be overstacked and (iii) you should be explicit on how the tools should be used. In my opinion, here is the minimal and sufficient set up to start with remote working:

  • Slack | Teams : a chat tool shared across all employees useful for informal and direct communications but also to work asynchronously on projects within your team

  • Zoom | Hangouts : a video-conferencing tool easy to use for both your counterparts and for your team

  • Notion | Slite : a wiki tool to implement the crucial culture of documentation when you are working remotely

  • Drive | Onedrive | Dropbox : a drive to share and collaborate on documents with your team, make your drive open by default to all your employees

#8 - Asynchronity is king.

People have to be able to communicate without the requirement of being present at the exact same time. Don't expect your collaborators to answer in the next 30 seconds to all your mails and Slack messages. Over-communicate not only in term of quantity but also in terms of quality.

For instance, when you are delegating a task, be extremely clear about the deadline, why are you delegating the task and what you are expecting. It's better to take 5 more minutes to document your request than make your colleague loose hours because he is not working on what you want.

#9 - Fight proactively loneliness and social isolation.

Loneliness is a key concern for remote workers. In these times, it's even more important to make sure that your employees are feeling good. Human interactions must be at the core of your new remote culture. You have to be intentional about fostering this culture of informal communications because it cannot happen organically like in an office. Numerous initiatives can be implemented to foster these interactions:

  • Set up a weekly video meeting with the whole team in which the top management share company information and manage a Q&A session.

  • Push everyone in your company to keep meeting online their friends and other professional relationships. For instance, suggest your product or growth manager to organize virtual coffee with their counterparts in other startups.

  • Organize weekly online one-on-ones meetings with the people you work directly with.

  • Set up a Slack channel dedicated to share random stuffs happening during these bizarre days of confinement.

  • Promote coffee chats between your employees. These chats could be either with the people you want but also by pairing random people working for the company (using Donut Slack extension for instance).

  • Set up a permanent social Zoom room in which your employees can meet at any time of the day like if it was a coffee machine.

#10 - It's a great time to take a step back and think about how you have operated so far both at a personal level and at a company level.

Of course, you have to set up a routine close to what you were used to before going remote but also take the time won by working from home to experiment new things for your personal life (cooking, reading, exercising) and your professional life (asynchronity, over-communication, regular one-on-ones).

You have a unique opportunity to take the time to enhance how you work and how your company operates. Be voluntary slow and focus on quality during this period to implement the pillars of your future growth.

The Usual Suspects to Start With

The Underdogs

List of Tools

Studies

Guides

Books

How-to Articles

Food For Thought

Thanks to Julia for the feedbacks! 🙏


See you next week for another issue! 👋

house surrounded by trees

Picture from Waldemar Brandt