11 Secrets for Successful “Remote-First” Working

Posted on 05/04/2020 by osanders

In light of current events, many organizations are feeling the effects of life’s unpredictability. With many organizations canceling in-person events and meetings and mandating temporary work-from-home policies, companies are quickly realizing just how prepared they really are in the wake of unexpected events. In the third blog of our business continuity series, we covered how Workspace ONE can help power critical communications

For the next blog in our series, I interviewed Charles Barratt, Sr. Manager of Digital Workspace Pursuits in EMEA. Charles has worked predominately from home his entire career and therefore has reached “expert level” when it comes to remote working. He agreed to sit down with me (remotely) and share some best practices around time spent outside of the office, whether temporary or long-term. Check it out:

Kelly: Tell us about yourself. Why are you an expert on working remotely and what does it mean to you?

Charles: Over the majority of my career, I have been classified as a field/remote/home/flexible/nomad* (*take your pick) worker. That has come with some terrible experiences and some wonderful experiences. Technology has always been there to enable people to work remotely, but working remotely isn’t the same as “Remote-First” which takes into consideration culture, well-being and technology.

Kelly: Interesting. So, how do you define ‘Remote-First’?

Charles: I define Remote-First as a culture that is entwined into the DNA of an organization where physical location isn’t important for getting business done and maintaining the culture and moral of an organization. Remote-First culture ensures every employee – whether remote or in an office – gets the same great experience and it’s not just about technology or tools. It’s about treating remote employees the same way you would want to be treated and not as 2nd class citizens.

Kelly: Why should we be thinking about Remote-First now?

Charles: The current medical climate doesn’t bode well for face-to-face collaboration and that’s impacting people and businesses all across the world. It’s making organizations rethink where work gets done and in my simplistic world, I have always believed that work is an activity and not a location. Yet that is far from reality for many organizations.

 Kelly: I couldn’t agree more. From your perspective, why do you think that is the case for most organizations?

Charles: Too often, remote working is seen as a luxury. It’s perceived as something you have to earn and something that HR gets blamed for if you can’t do. I have been able to advise, implement and enjoy technical architectures to make this happen, but the one thing that is so often overlooked is the human aspect to working remotely.

 Kelly: Yes, technology is important, but keeping the morale up is even more important. So, you are a seasoned expert when it comes to working remote. What are some tips and best practices for the “newly remote” or teams that are making the shift?

Charles: Some of the best experiences with Remote-First work are in the following list. It’s not exhaustive, but a list that’s worked well for me and my teams. I hope it helps you if you find yourself working remotely:

  1. vHappyHour– Once a week/fortnight, arrange for a team gathering whereby all team members turn on the video, choose their beverage of choice and chat for 30/60 minutes on a non-work-related subject; get to really know your colleagues.
  2. Home office space– Work from a place in your home that matches your way of working. I have 4 kids and that makes for some interesting background noises! Remember that your home office is a HOME first.
  3. One place to access work– Regardless of device or location, you should just have one familiar place to get access to all your digital content securely.
  4. Video by default– If you’re having a remote call, turn your video on. Not only does it engage people, but it also provides reassurance on how people are coping with isolation.
  5. Accessible team content– If you’re having meetings in the office, you should always share your whiteboards, flip charts or notes into a central store so that others don’t feel left out; take a picture.
  6. Digital Whiteboards– When you have remote colleagues join calls, don’t use a physical whiteboard. Go digital.
  7. Plan time together– It’s all very well working remotely, but people need physical interaction. Arrange a team get together at least once a quarter.
  8. Get real-time collaboration– I don’t need to say more than Office 365 or Google Apps –you get the idea.
  9. Take breaks every 90 minutes– It’s important to disconnect and stretch the legs.
  10. Talk to someone, anyone (not just yourself)– If you don’t have any work meetings that day, call someone or take a stroll to the shops. It’s important to keep engaged.
  11. Outcome-based– Remember that if you’re working on a project that is outcome-based, use your hours wisely. Often, you don’t need to work 9-5. You can, in many ways, define your hours as long as you get the job done.

 Kelly: This week, many workers will be working remote for the first time. What should we do if our home isn’t set up for an office?

Charles: So, remember I said your home office is a home first? Well, don’t stress if you have the kids in the house and you’re on a work call. I’ve had Buzz Lightyear, Woody and all sorts of random noises appear in the background. My advice here is to be upfront at the start of the call and tell people they might hear some background noises. It has never been an issue for me and (trust me) a phrase or two from Buzz Lightyear are great ice breakers!

 Kelly: Ha! Looking forward to the day Buzz Lightyear joins one of my calls. Alright, if readers should take away one thing from this blog, what should it be?

Charles: I consider myself to be very lucky in the role that I have and be able to work from any location. The way that has been made possible to me is through VMware Workspace ONE, our collaboration technologies and the culture/mindset of VMware. My personal belief is that if we develop a remote-first culture and architecture, then issues such as extreme weather, global pandemics and man-made incidents shouldn’t impact business in the future. It should just be business as usual.

 Kelly: Thanks, Charles!

What’s Next?

Each day over the next few weeks, we will be rolling out a series of posts and resources around business continuity. Stay tuned with #BusinessContinues.

If you need help to set up a remote workforce then catch up on our webinar here.

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