Let’s first talk about why remote work hasn’t taken hold, then we can get to testing out a remote team. The roadblock for most companies is this: Big business/ most companies are not embracing remote work, so it must be bad for business and work culture. The answer: It’s not because of business inefficiencies, it’s because technology didn’t support this model in the not so distant past. There are about 100 other seemingly legitimate excuses, but frankly companies are afraid of the unknown. Jumping in with both feet is hard, so here are a few ways to test out a distributed team:
Start with one
Most remote business owners would probably disagree with me, but I think testing out remote work with 1 person can work, but is not advised. Why not? Because economies of scale are bad when it comes to technology costs, and well…loneliness. Two big factors for making it work:
- Pick the right person – If I were a brick-and-mortar company with 2 or 3 founders, one of them would be my first choice for testing remote. You’ll want to pick someone that is very invested and loves what they do. It’s also best if this person has some sort of support system outside of work. Maybe even test with a person locally (eg. company is located in NYC, remote person works from home in Brooklyn).
- Technology – This holds true for a team of 1 and a team of 150: Technology and systems need to be in place (here’s another post on this). One of the biggest reasons that remote has failed in the past is lack of investment in technology. This is not a big cost (usually) and without the right resources, your remote team member is probably going to quit, or request to come back to the mothership.
Start with a team
This is by far the best way to test out a remote team. If you have multiple teams performing the same function, even better. Why a team?
- Solidarity – Your remote team will feel the initial discomfort of remote work together – they’ll solve problems together. Once they are settled in, they’ll start to see the overwhelming positives together. Eventually they’ll become promoters as well.
- Technology at scale – the cost of new technology can be distributed over the team as opposed to one person (higher production from a group offsets costs better).
- Sample size – As a business owner/ manager, if ten people are performing well (or badly) in a remote environment, you’ll have a tangible business reason to move forward or to abort the program.
- Example – If you’ve got two B2B sales teams (for example), test out remote work with one team. Metrics are of course a quantifiable way to determine if the program is working, but keep an eye on morale. See if your in-person teams start asking about going remote.
A third option is to start with a team (or one person) and have them start by working from home for only one day per week. In my opinion this tactic is best utilized with a team for the same reasons mentioned above. This route is a bit less committal but a good place to start. I’ve seen some companies start with four days per week in-office and one day at home, then move to three days in office, two at home. Test those waters for a few months then consider letting the team work from home 5 days per week.
One big pitfall: Choose the right people – some people might see the one or two days at home as an extended weekend. Everyone is going to want to work from home, but make sure your team of choice is dedicated.
Take it seriously
Don’t quit after a month…or even three months. The process of integrating a remote team is not all sunshine and rainbows, you are going to run into problems. Of course the outcome is well worth the effort, but making a transition like this is much like any other change..there will be bugs. You’ll also get a really good look at your company with remote work. You’ll be able to see who is motivated to do good work (and who isn’t). That concept was enticing enough for me to start a remote company. The environment becomes much more about results than who shows up 40 minutes early, and who leaves 40 minutes after everyone else.
I hope you enjoyed the post, and I hope the point was gotten across. Organizations were not able to do this in the past…now they can, and they’ve got options for getting started. If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.