Hiring a Remote Team

The new reality of the workplace is remote workers. As technology and modern business practices improve, you no longer have to consider only applicants from a certain region—you’re free to consider almost any candidate in the world, which can help you save money and grow your business. But with this freedom comes a new set of remote hiring challenges. Thankfully, these eight tips help make the process a breeze.

Tips:

1. Perfect the job description

Before you even get the chance to consider any remote workers, your job description tells them what to think of your business. To create the best possible first impression, emphasize aspects of the job that are most appealing to remote workers: Flexibility, a comprehensive support system, good work-life balance. By crafting a description that outlines the positive aspects of remote work and values productivity over process, you’ll find yourself with a strong pool of applicants, making the rest of the remote hiring process much easier.

2. Research listing sites

Posting your job listings in the right places is also an incredibly important but often overlooked part of remote hiring. Unlike the regular sites, there are plenty that focus exclusively on remote listings, making it much easier to connect with applicants who understand the process of working remotely. You’ll have to pay to post on them, but it’s worth the investment. Use more general sites like ‘FlexJobs’ and ‘We Work Remotely’ to reach a wider audience. For a smaller but deeper pool of candidates, you can also look into industry-specific listing sites, like editorial-focused ‘Ed2010’, development and management-driven ‘Working Nomads’, and SkipTheDrive’s dozens of subcategories.

3. Clearly define roles and responsibilities

You should know exactly how many people you want on your remote team and what you want each specific role to encompass. If you don’t have answers for each of those questions yet, consider the goal that you’re hiring the team to accomplish, then work backwards as you imagine your ideal team. The best way to set up for success is to delineate exactly what needs to be accomplished by each member—that way, you know who you need to hire and how the group’s personalities should fit together. Setting expectations early makes it much easier to build your team and monitor their progress down the line.

4. Get to know the best candidates

Like any normal office job, you should perform due diligence with each top candidate. But when you want to hire remote workers, you should heighten this step. Talk to each of their references and ask questions that speak to remote job responsibilities, such as responsiveness, initiative, and ability to function in a team. If there are any red flags, don’t be afraid to consider someone else—it’s better to have an abundance of caution when narrowing down these candidates. More than anything, you want a team that will perform well together, so vet them with teamwork and ability in mind. Company culture is still key.

5. Perform video interviews

Gone are the days of simple phone calls. Thanks to today’s tech, almost everyone has access to video chat, so use this to your advantage. Make sure you ask the right questions, especially ones about availability, flexibility, and organization. If it’s hard for the applicant to nail down an interview time or for the get an internet connection, it’s a great indicator that they might not be able to perform the unique duties of remote work. On the other hand, if you end up having a productive conversation despite the physical distance, you might have found the right person for the job.

6. Consider assessment tools

By now, you’ve narrowed the pool down to your top few candidates. As you know already, this is where hiring gets tougher, especially if you’re new to remote hiring. To help suss out who could be the perfect fit, implement a skills assessment during the hiring process. This can be as quick or as involved as you want it to be, but make sure that it speaks to the actual day-to-day work that you will be asking of your remote employees. If you’re hiring a communications team, give them a writing test. If you need a group of developers for a project, test their coding skills before bringing them onboard.

7. Establish face-to-face contact

Now that you’ve narrowed down the field into your most qualified group of candidates, it’s time to introduce them to each other. They’ll most likely get along well, like any other employees in an office environment, but monitor their initial communications and check for any issues that might arise. You should be present for their first meeting, which will take place as part of the onboarding process, where you can establish a productive relationship between group members.

8. Check in with new hires

Even after you’ve made your final choices, you can still get something more out of the remote hiring process. Schedule one-on-ones with your remote employees and check in on their progress. Check if their onboarding went well, if they’re working well as part of a team, and even if they have any pointers for you to make the process smoother the next time you do it. You’ll be surprised at just how much you can learn by going back to them.

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Remote Team Culture

A hard to quantify and yet extremely important factor in employee retention is company culture. With remote teams, company culture can come out in various ways. It’s in the way you speak to each other over email, chat, and video, the amount of trust you put in employees you can’t see sitting across from you, and how you look out for their well being.  

A supportive, motivating company culture won’t develop out of thin air. You have to be intentional about creating procedures, traditions, and methods of communication that align with what you want your company to represent. Luckily we’re sharing some easy steps you can take to build culture with remote teams.

Define your values

In order to build culture, you’ll need to define the values that will serve as a basis. Maybe you’re all about innovation and self-starters, or maybe you’re more into teamwork and community engagement. Values will differ from company to company, but they should never just be a laundry list of corporate jargon created to check off a box for marketing purposes. Think critically about what you want your company to stand for, and then use those values to inspire action.

Create Working And Non-Working Hours

One of the biggest risks of remote work is employee burnout. When your office is your living room, it can be hard to disconnect. Look out for your employees by encouraging them to set working hours. They don’t have to be 9-5, but team members should know when they can expect to reach each other. That way the temptation to be “on” around the clock will be minimized. Encourage employees to take advantage of their geographic flexibility, and remind them that they can and should log off when their working hours are done.

Keep Things Light

There’s a time and place for strictly professional, productive communication. But you don’t have to use corporate speak all the time. Throw a gif in the Slack channel once in a while, and you might just create an opportunity for bonding.

The Buddy System

This might sound juvenile, but pairing remote employees can make them feel like they’re part of a real team, not just an email chain. An employee’s partner might be someone they run ideas by, troubleshoot problems with or even get together for a happy hour with. What they do is up to them, all you have to do is assign pairs and watch the team building happen before your eyes.

Create Opportunities to Meet In-Person

Many companies with remote employees have started doing yearly company retreats to encourage team building and getting to know each other. This may sound expensive but it’s likely cheaper than the overhead for maintaining an office. A good way to justify the cost is to ensure that in-person meetings are ten times more productive than what could get done over a video call. That’s not too high of a standard to meet if you think about the difference in bonding that takes place on a conference call versus hiking together on a weekend retreat.

Trust

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. When it comes to remote teams, trust is the single most important factor in determining your success. Psychologically, it’s hard to trust people are getting things done when you can’t see them doing things. That being said, remote employees have been shown to be more productive and to put in more hours than traditional employees who might leave their work at the office outside of 9 to 5. An environment of mistrust, where superiors are always checking up on employees and making them prove that they’re working, is not the type of culture you want to promote. Instead, create procedures for employees to update managers periodically, and then, unless they give you a reason to believe otherwise, trust that they’re doing what they say they are.

Use Meetings To Inspire

Team meetings are a great opportunity to exemplify the culture you want to emulate. Do you give everyone a chance to talk? Are you leading by example, inspiring team members with your drive and innovation? Are you giving constructive criticism and offering helpful resources or lambasting employees in front of their peers?

Stress Values At Every Step

If you want values to actually shape the culture at your company, you’ll have to implement them into day-to-day procedures. They should be incorporated into the hiring and onboarding processes as well as employee reviews. In fact, ask employees to reflect on how they have lived out these values, and how they can in the future, often.

Shout Out Success

Giving positive feedback (when it’s due) is one of the most important things you can do as a manager. You don’t want to be the boss you only hear from when there’s bad news. It can be as simple as mentioning a co-worker’s help in your weekly update, giving them a shoutout during a conference call, or sending an email thanking an employee for their hard work after a big project or at the end of the quarter.

Team Building Exercises

Remote team building may seem like an oxymoron, but there are a number of ways you can implement it and the payoff is huge. It can be as simple as having everyone go around and tell the team about their hometown or how they got into their line of work. Or you can have everyone give a virtual tour of their workspace, have everyone send an email describing who they are outside of work, or create a Slack channel to drop non-work related content like articles, memes and jokes.

There you have it. Simple steps to build the culture in a remote team. Here’s a quick review:

  1. Create Company Values
  2. Quality of communication
  3. Define Working Hours And Watch For Burnout
  4. Keep it Light with GIFS and Memes
  5. Buddies
  6. In Person Meet-ups
  7. Trust
  8. Incorporate Values Into Hiring, Onboarding and Employee Review
  9. Team Meetings As Example
  10. Shout Out Success
  11. Team Building
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Remote Work Tools

Working on a remote team means keeping up with each other’s projects and progress through shared online docs and ongoing chats. It also means keeping yourself organized and staying on top of changes that can affect other teammates. Our favorite remote work tools make life easier at an individual level but also help us move toward those grander goals and keep us in sync.

Tools:

Notion

There are several project management tools out there to use, but we really enjoy Notion. It brings together aspects of Trello, Airtable, and Dropbox and combines it into one app and site. You can create collaborative documents like an editorial calendar or a CRM, keep a to-do list, and capture unique workflows in different types of databases. Teammates can see who made recent changes on collaborative files and alert one another by tagging them on the document too. It’s very team friendly.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a tried and true favorite for remote teams, including our own. It’s our quick way to share and collaborate on documents. You can share folders amongst your team, open a chat with the other collaborators on the document itself, and tag teammates on comments and edits. We use Google Docs for long reference guides, so using the table of contents feature and the comments thread for any edits, helps us evolve the document as different projects progress. It’s definitely our preferred way to edit each other’s work.

Slack

Unable to look up and ask a quick question from a neighboring teammate, we keep up with one another via Slack. It’s a good way to avoid sending out emails for every little thing and to get to know your team members. You can set reminders for yourself or your teammates, take direct video calls, and easily drop in files to share and collaborate. Slack has a directory of 1,000+ apps you can integrate into your team’s channel, from Github to Salesforce. It will definitely bring your tab count down. You can also join public Slack groups to meet other people in different industries or different countries.

Figure It Out

With team members spread out around the world, from New Mexico to Madrid, I like to keep each team member’s time zone in mind, especially if we need to set up a call or if we’re collaborating on a project that day. With Figure It Out’s user-friendly interface, you can scroll up or down on the touchpad to change the hour and glance what time it would be for your teammates in Lisbon and Chicago if you want to set up a group call. I set the Figure It Out extension on my browser as my home screen, and it’s a bright way to get an idea of who’s starting their day and who’s signing off soon.

Calendly

With time zone differences, it can be frustrating to set up calls with potential partners and internally, but Calendly helped us get rid of that back and forth. You can create different calendars to share with different teams, in a group, or for one-on-one meetings so you can organize your own time. It’s easy to set up the availability to recur daily, weekly, or monthly up until a certain date. You can integrate it easily with Google Calendar, Outlook, or iCloud. And, more importantly, you can add buffer times, daily limits, and add notifications so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Skype

While Google hangouts and Zoom might be growing favorites, Skype is still our go-to. From our weekly stand-up to our team’s monthly book club meetings, we host group calls via Skype. Or if we’re training a new teammate, we’ll hop on a video chat, use the screen share, and send links with the instant messaging. It’s straightforward for contacting and reaching out to people—no matter where they are.

Croissant

We have the opportunity to use coworking spaces around the world using our own app, so why not? Croissant started as a way to work together and get out of the house for remote workers. We can work somewhere uptown in the morning, then head downtown to meet a partner or cowork. Picking the right environment for our mood or workload is one of our favorite productivity tricks that Croissant offers. The spaces are all unique and inspiring, offering different amenities ranging from fresh coffee to kombucha on tap. Plus, Croissant makes it easier to dive into projects, explore the city, and work alongside each other.

Evernote

If you’re looking for one central place to keep all of your team’s notes, documents, and ideas, Evernote is perhaps the best place to do that. Unlike Google Drive, which works well for creating and storing shared documents and presentations, Evernote takes it a bit further with its paid business plan—offering the ability to create visually appealing workflows, project schedules, and even deadlines with easy access and appealing design. The service even lets users make changes when they’re offline, saving everyone a big headache. With teams at Harvard, Whole Foods and NBC already using Evernote, it’s clear that this service has grown from its roots as a personal note-taking app.

Doodle

The task of scheduling a remote meeting can seem like an impossible one. When is each person free? Is there a better time for most people? Who can’t make it? Sidestep this common issue with Doodle, a service designed specifically for scheduling meetings. If you’re planning to host a remote meeting next week, send out a Doodle with potential time slots on it to everyone who is invited. They get to select the times that work for them, which then shows you exactly how many people can join at what times. You can even add your own custom branding and request information like phone numbers and email addresses from each person who responds, saving the time of finding everyone’s contact information separately.

LastPass

When you’re part of a remote team that uses a bunch of online tools for work, keeping track of all of the passwords you need can be a hassle. Skip the stress with LastPass, which is a secure data manager that acts as a hub for all of your passwords across various devices and platforms. The service is a lifesaver especially if your organization is dedicated to protecting accounts with strings of random letters and numbers. LastPass offers two levels of service for companies: Teams and Enterprise. Teams is great for smaller organizations that want to have one place to store passwords. Enterprise, on the other hand, offers IT-level control with services like custom policy configuration and controlled shared access. If you’re invested in your team’s security, it’s worth making the switch to LastPass.

Chimp or Champ

When you’re running a remote team, your won’t be able to check in with employees face-to-face like you could in a normal office. Instead of worrying about how they might be doing, use Chimp or Champ, which is a weekly, anonymous happiness meter sent to each member of your team through email. Every Thursday, they’re given 24 hours to write a review of how they feel the previous week has gone. The next morning, you get a synthesized performance review complete with a team happiness score and actionable ways to improve morale and workload if anything is amiss. Monthly plans range from $1 for a basic functionality to $5 for advanced access, so teams and businesses of any size can afford to integrate Chimp or Champ into their culture. Satisfied workers are likelier to be more productive and stay with your company longer, so these quick check-ins go a long way in optimizing your remote team.

Doist

A company that’s completely committed to its mission, Doist is a fully remote company that offers two flagship products: Productivity app ‘Todoist’ and messaging platform ‘Twist’. Combining the best of a to-do list, a calendar, and a data visualization tool, Todoist is a great way to keep your remote team organized and on track to succeed. It helps users build good habits and shows them what they’ve done and what they still need to do with beautiful design. Twist, meanwhile, is Doist’s well-designed answer to team messaging, recently named the best communication app for distributed teams by PCMag. Both apps share a similar minimalist design aesthetic and a commitment to making work just a bit less stressful.

Bonus.ly

Managing a remote team can be tough, especially in terms of building a sense of community and belonging for your employees. That’s why we like the concept of Bonus.ly—it allows us to add a human touch to our daily work despite the physical distance between employees. This tool allows the members of a team to publicly thank each other for any kind of task, whether it’s tangible or not.

Hootsuite

If your team is involved with social media in any way, Hootsuite is the perfect tool to manage each platform from one intuitive, easy interface. Its main function is scheduling posts from social media teams on multiple platforms, and it even boasts the ability to post hundreds of updates at once, all with the click of a button. It also features a powerful analytics section, which will show your team just how well each post is performing, who is clicking on them, and how much value you’re bringing to your brand, which makes it much easier to update your team’s goals and plans. You can also upload pre-approved assets like stock images to the service, an ideal perk for teams that manage multiple platforms and accounts. Managing and understanding social media can be incredibly difficult, but Hootsuite makes it nearly foolproof, which is especially helpful for remote teams.

I Done This

As every remote manager probably knows all too well, getting everyone on the team to respond to updates or messages in a timely manner can sometimes be an uphill battle. That’s why ‘I Done This’ is so powerful—it’s a passive way to check in with each person to see everything they’ve accomplished in the past day. At the end of every work day, team members reply to a short email from I Done This reporting what they have accomplished during that day. The next morning, the service sends a short digest of the previous day’s progress to everyone on the team, making accountability and self-reporting much easier and more standardized. It’s simple, but so, so powerful.

Standuply

Managing the standups could become a huge issue when running a remote team, especially if the timezones are different within the same team. For this reason, Standuply is so handy. With his easy interface, it is easy to manage the standup in a very efficient way despite of the geographical distance. A digital Scrum master will always make sure that nobody gets left behind.

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Manage a Remote Team

Today, more and more employers are ditching traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office setups and tailoring the work day to whatever makes workers accessible, productive and innovative. In fact, recent estimates say that half the employees in the world now work remotely at least half the week. With the ubiquity of computer access, the widespread availability of Wi-Fi and the advent of apps, like Slack and Skype, that make it easier for teams to communicate, almost anything that can be done in the office can be done from wherever in the world the best employees are located.

Managing remote teams doesn’t come with a handbook. And the physical barrier presents unique, unprecedented challenges for those used to managing employees within the same office. Building relationships require extra effort, evaluations lack the basic psychological factor of seeing them come into work every day, and overall managing employees that exist only online requires unparalleled trust. But it can be done, and we’ll outline some remote employee best practices. Fear not, the challenges of managing a virtual team can be overcome.

Set Goals and Expectations

First and foremost, in any management position (but especially when it comes to remote workers) you have to be clear about what you expect out of an employee. No one can succeed if they don’t know what your definition of success requires.  Remote employees can’t pop into your office for clarification or informal updates, so you should clearly outline how you expect them to progress over time, what deadlines you expect them to meet and with whom they should communicate.

Give Them The Same Access To You As Your In-Office Employees

It can be easy to put remote workers in a separate category and think of their needs as secondary to those of the employees sitting right next to you. But their work probably isn’t any less important. You should tell remote employees what hours you’re available and will be checking your email (or whatever internal communication system you use), and let them know when it might take you a little longer to respond. Encourage them to provide updates, schedule weekly check-ins or ask them how they’re doing and what help they need.

Pair Them With  A Point Of Contact Within The Office

A good way to bridge the gap between traditional employees and ‘work-from-home’ ones is to match them up as points of contact for each other. This provides another person who can answer questions if you’re not available or even just a friendly face at the office Christmas party.

Train Traditional Employees on How to Involve Remote Ones

If in-office employees don’t know how to reach out to remote ones for help or acknowledge their work, it will only further isolate remote ones. This can be as simple as reminding in-office employees to give credit to remote teams by giving them a shoutout in an email, or as extensive as creating teams that include both remote and traditional employees.

Train Them to Use the Tools You Use

When teams are not sitting next to each other in the office, they turn to other methods of communication. If your employee has never seen Slack before or doesn’t know how to jump on a Google Hangout, their ability to communicate and work effectively will suffer. Make sure that the onboarding process includes training for any platforms that the team uses regularly.

Choose Good Tools

When your communication happens exclusively online, it’s important that you utilize the best and most effective tools possible. Do your research and figure out what your team’s specific needs are.

Focus on What Gets Done, Not How

It can be hard to trust that people you don’t see showing up to work day in and day out are actually doing work. But time spent in an office is an arbitrary metric by which to measure success. Focus on the output of each employee, instead of when or where they’re doing their work.

Outline How and When You Will Communicate

Another challenge to working remotely is the blurred line between work and home. Traditional employees can more easily define out-of-office status, but when your desk is ten feet away from your couch, it can be tempting to check emails at all hours of the day. For employees, this can lead to burnout and high turnover rates. By setting hours that you and your team members are expected to be available, you make everyone’s life easier.

Watch For Burnout With Top Performers

On a similar note, it’s important to monitor employees for burnout. Remote employees may be tempted to never log off and experience loneliness and isolation. No one wants to stay in a job that makes them feel like that. To avoid high turnover rates, keep your eye on remote workers. When you sign off, encourage your employees to do the same. You’ll get more out of them in the long run.

Schedule Communication

This might be the single most important piece of advice for remote teams. Communication will not happen by accident by running into each other in the break room. It must be deliberate and planned out. Maybe you have weekly Skype calls, daily updates, or monthly debriefings. You should probably have all three. Without adequate communication, the distance will become apparent.

Provide Opportunities to Meet in Person

The most straightforward way to build real relationships with employees is to meet them in person. This isn’t always possible, but even presenting the opportunity sends the right message. Invite remote employees to the office end-of-year party or have a remote employee meetup. It doesn’t so much matter what you do, it’s that you’re in person doing it.

Track Hours So You Can Set Expectations Accordingly

If done wrong, tracking employees hours is a useless form of micromanagement. But if it’s a suggested way for employees to denote how much time they’re spending on different tasks and projects, it can provide invaluable information for you on how to better delegate work.

Learning how to manage remote teams comes with its trials and errors. But with a few simple tips, you’ll become an expert at incorporating these increasingly common employees into your plan for success. So remember this key for managing remote employees best practices, and you’ll be prepared for the future.

  1. Set Goals and Expectations
  2. Give Them the Same Access to You as Your in Office Employees Get
  3. Pair Them With  a Point of Contact Within the Office
  4. Train Them to Use the Tools You Use
  5. Focus on What Gets Done, Not How
  6. Outline How and When You Will Communicate
  7. Schedule Communication
  8. Provide Opportunities to Meet In Person
  9. Train Traditional Employees on How to Involve Remote Ones
  10. Make It Clear When You’re Available
  11. Watch For Burnout With Top Performers
  12. Choose Good Tools
  13. Track Hours So You Can Set Expectations Accordingly
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Eval for Remote Team

Ah, performance reviews. The dreaded yet inevitable yearly staple of corporate America. Analyzing how well your employees are working can be difficult, and doing so with remote employees has no shortage of additional challenges. You’re not there to see them working in the office every day, so mentally, it can be hard to picture their contribution, no matter how significant. And while you’re (hopefully) communicating with your remote employees effectively, you don’t have the benefit of those informal check-ins that happen when you run into each other around the office. But fear not, as we’ve scoured expert opinions and compiled a list of ways you can effectively evaluate your remote employees.

Focus On The Product They’re Delivering, Not How Many Hours They Log

With traditional employees, when you sit down to do performance reviews you may recall that they get to the office early every morning and stay late. With remote ones, it’s far harder to measure what type of time they’re putting into the company. You’ll have to find another way to measure their contribution. That can be challenging, but it’s ultimately a good thing. After all, presence in an office doesn’t always translate to output. An employee who shows up an hour early every day could still spend half the day taking Buzzfeed quizzes. By focusing on what actually matters, how the employee is furthering the mission of the company, and forgetting antiquated metrics like time logged in the office, you can more effectively evaluate a remote employee.

Measure Against Clear Benchmarks and Goals

In order to get the most out of any employee, it’s important that you clearly define expectations and communicate to them how you define success in their position. Maybe that means bringing in x-number of new clients each quarter. Maybe it means attracting new followers on social media or maintaining relationships with existing clients. Regardless of the job, one thing’s for sure: If an employee doesn’t know what is expected of them, they’re probably not going to exceed your expectations. Once those goals are communicated, you need to ensure they’re what you’re measuring against. Create a working evaluation that includes each expectation, or KPI, you set for your employee. Think of the rubrics teachers give out to explain how they grade projects. It may seem elementary, but the clearer you are about what you expect, the better an employee is able to do what you want or even exceed your expectations.

Self Evaluations

Self evaluations can be especially useful for remote employees, who don’t have the same opportunities to update you as traditional employees. Self evaluations could reveal work you didn’t know your employee was doing, challenges they were facing, areas in which they need extra help or successes you were unaware of. These can be especially helpful when paired with peer evaluations. Asking employees not only to rate their own success but discuss how they interact with each other can give you additional perspective.

Give Regular Feedback

In order to successfully evaluate remote workers, it is critical that you give feedback early and often. A yearly performance review should not be the first time they’re hearing your opinion. It’s certainly a good time to address concerns, but you can’t expect an employee to do what you want if you don’t communicate it effectively. With a remote employee, this can look like setting up Skype calls to give suggestions, making edits, and addressing overall concerns as soon as they pop up.

Measure Against the Expectations You Set

It can be hard to know where to start when judging a remote worker’s contribution. A good place to start is by outlining the specific goals you set for employees and measuring to what degree they met them. Of course you’ll have to take into account how realistic the goals were, and whether there were unexpected roadblocks; after all, it’s only fair that you judge against the expectations you set.

Consider Asking Workers to Evaluate Each Other

Having co-workers provide feedback on each other can be extremely useful, as it allows you to see other perspectives on the employee to supplement your own. This is particularly useful in the case of remote employees, who you have limited interaction with. It can give you a better sense of how employees interact with each other, and highlight strengths and weaknesses that you may not be aware of.

Have Faith

It can be hard to identify an employee’s contributions when you don’t see them sitting across the room working every day. But you need to trust that they are in fact working. Micromanaging or making employees prove that they’re logging hours doesn’t benefit them, you or the business.

Evaluating remote employees can be challenging, to say the least. When you’re not interacting on a daily basis, it can be harder to see where a worker is succeeding and where they need to improve; however, by communicating early and often, setting and measuring against clear goals, and having a little bit of faith, you can evaluate your remote employees just as effectively as traditional ones. Got all that? No worries, here’s a summary:


  • Focus on the product they’re delivering, not how many hours they log
  • Measure against clear benchmarks and goals
  • Self evaluations are an important tool
  • Give regular feedback
  • Measure against the expectations you set
  • Consider asking workers to evaluate each other
  • Trust your Employees
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Remote Offices

Tons of individuals, managers, and companies are turning to remote work for its convenience, cost-effectiveness, and ability to promote productivity. But let’s backtrack: what is a remote employee, and what is a remote office? It’s simple really. Instead of gathering in an office for the traditional 9 to 5, employees log into work from a location of their choice. A remote office can be a living room, coffee shop, or a coworking space, to name a few. Really, you could take remote work anywhere. It’s not about where you do it, but what you do. And it comes with tons of benefits. How to work remotely varies from job to job, but generally, if it’s a job that’s done mostly on a computer, you don’t need an office to do it.

Remote Work Is on the Rise

Turns out the old 9 to 5 office job is a paradigm we’ve all been buying into without asking ourselves why we do it and whether it adds any value to our work. Sure it made sense, for a while, before technology connected us in the ways it does now. And it still makes sense for people like doctors or researchers who need very specific equipment. But as more and more jobs require employees to commute into an office just to sit at a computer, it’s time to rethink things. Is that office building serving purposes other than proving that employees show up to work every day? Often times the answer is no, and remote work is making more and more sense.

Remote work allows employees the flexibility to work where they want, and often when they want. In many cases, remote employees have the power to design schedules around times in which they’re most productive. Remote schedules can allow someone to work through the night if they prefer to sleep late or start early if they want to be done by 4 p.m. They can take midday appointments, or finally see that weekday matinee. From the business perspective, remote work allows for individualized set-ups, meaning employees can maximize their productivity by tailoring their environment and workday to their specific needs. Someone who focuses best in silence no longer has to dodge interruptions from coworkers. Conversely, someone who thrives on collaboration can bounce ideas off another person, opt for a coworking space or work at a local coffee shop.

The Upsides and Downsides of Remote Work

Companies are saved huge overhead costs by not running an office, or at least accommodating fewer people. Not to mention, employees get to skip the dreaded (and often expensive) commute, and as a consequence, can work through most severe weather conditions. Perhaps most importantly, research shows that remote employees are often more productive and have better mental health than traditional office ones.

But it’s not without its downsides. Remote work often means working from home, which often means spending the day with very little face-to-face human interaction. This can be seriously lonely. And some remote employees find it hard to differentiate between work life and home life when they happen in the same place. It’s critical to watch for burnout with remote employees, as it can be hard to disconnect when your office is just down the hall from your bedroom. While setting your own hours can be liberating, it can also mean that your “on” hours aren’t clearly defined. Work can slip into downtime, and that’s when remote work leads to burnout. Additionally, remote employees can easily yet accidentally be excluded from office culture. If they’re not physically there for the birthdays and happy hours, it can be hard for them to feel as connected.

None of these are matched by the freedom of being able to choose where and when you work. So what are some of the situations remote employees might have? Some remote employees may work from home the majority of the time and commute into a central office once a week. Some companies may feature both traditional and remote employees, while others may have entirely remote workforces. Some work independently in a relatively similar geographic area, while others are dispersed across cities, time zones, and continents.

Remote Offices

So what does a remote office set up look like? Just about anything. They may set up their workspace in their living room or bedroom, or have a separate office. Many invest in innovative office gear like standing desks or even treadmill desks. On warm days, they have the freedom to set up outside or take conference calls while on a walk.

Still, others head to coworking spaces. These are offices owned by a larger entity, where people from different companies can go to work in a shared dedicated office space. Individuals may rent space or companies may offer staff memberships. These offer many benefits of their own, from cost sharing, providing unique networking opportunities and even just the opportunity to get out of the house. They usually feature amenities like workspaces, conference rooms, and kitchens.  For those that feel cooped up being home all day or just need some human interaction, coworking spaces can offer the perfect middle ground.

One of the most rewarding parts of being freed from an office setting is the ability to work from anywhere. Instead of restricting travel to the costly and limited vacation days available per year, remote employees can take their work on the road, seeing new sights along the way. Some adventure junkies choose to forego a permanent home and live the nomadic lifestyle. You can pretty much go off the grid...as long as there’s wifi! And if you’re not quite up for that, you can still travel on a smaller scale. Remote work can encompass working from different cities, answering emails on planes and trains and catching conference calls in different time zones. When it matters not where but how you work, the possibilities are just about endless.