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Panic-free guide on transitioning to remote work for tech companies

Having started in China, coronavirus has quickly spread across the world, including the United States. Although the drastic measures of the Chinese government have significantly reduced the spread in China, other countries remain affected.

Companies are temporarily closing some of their offices and encouraging employees to work from home to stop the spread of COVID-19. As a result, the coronavirus situation is gradually turning remote work from a privilege to a must.

Before the outbreak, according to The State of Remote Work report by OwlLabs, 44% of global companies did not allow remote work. At the same time, the 2020 Work Flexibility Survey by Wakefield Research reports that flexible work conditions would increase the overall productivity or efficiency at work for almost 30% of respondents. So the coronavirus situation may actually accelerate the future of work and make the work processes more efficient. It is a chance to reinvent work as it is, which may result in more effective operations and perhaps even bring profits.

However, transitioning the whole team to a different style of working within a matter of days is not an easy task. So we have prepared this comprehensive and panic-free guide with tips, tools and inspirational examples to help you efficiently and quickly switch to remote work. We will also suggest a solution that can help small to medium businesses and startups to survive.

How to Organize Remote Work

When it comes to remote work transitioning, lots of measures need to be taken to minimize the disruption of current operations. Therefore, we recommend starting the preparations as soon as possible. Even if your company is located in a low-risk region, remote-readiness can greatly help your business in the future. Here are some tips to make your company ready to go remote:

1. Ensure Secure Access to IT Resources

First and foremost, you need to create a safe and effective foundation for remote digital access. To securely work from home, employees should connect to the company network via an encrypted connection. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare and send out instructions on how to use the corporate VPN and other remote desktop solutions, such as Citrix or TeamViewer. Please note that your current solution may be incapable of handling a big number of connections, so be ready to switch to another product beforehand, if needed. Additionally, network administrators at your company should estimate and ensure the right amount of bandwidth required for productive remote work.

2. Provide Devices for Remote Work

For the sake of security, we recommend that you allocate the company devices to your remote employees, so they do not have to use their personal devices. These include:

  • A laptop;
  • A web camera for video conference calls, in case it is not built into the laptop;
  • A high-quality headset or headphones with a microphone – a laptop mic may be not powerful enough for remote conferences with many participants. Besides, headphones eliminate unnecessary background noises.

3. Give Access to Necessary Tools

Even small businesses in the tech industry rely on at least 100 licensed applications, and remote workers may need almost all of them. These may include:

  • HRM, CRM, ERP, and document management systems;
  • Communication and collaboration tools: Slack, Highfive, Flock, JIRA, Asana, Microsoft Teams, etc.;
  • Time Trackers: Tick, TimeCamp, Time Doctor, Teramind;
  • Code Management Tools: GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket

4. Provide Remote Work Guidelines and Policies

Remote work can be tricky. If your employees are used to working in a co-located team with supervision, it may be extremely hard for them to focus on tasks in a relaxed atmosphere of their own homes. Thus, you must prepare a detailed, crisp and clear document outlining the rules of remote work at your company and the correct use of related software and devices. The document may include the following sections:

  • Telecommuting: general provisions on work from home, such as eligibility for remote work, usage of special equipment, etc.
  • Remote access: description of processes for requesting, obtaining, using, and terminating remote access to corporate networks, systems, and data.
  • VPN usage: guidelines to help system administrators make sure that VPNs are properly deployed and policies for the end users of company-issued and personal devices.

5. Increase the Number of Team Calls

As you will not see each other every day for quite a long time period, it is important to arrange virtual meetings so that the employees can stay more productive. Besides, being far away from each other can lead to miscommunication. Thus, it is crucial to have regular video calls. Be sure to use the right tools that are designed primarily for remote workers, i.e. are cloud-based, lightweight, and fast. This is especially relevant today because developers of these tools now offer extensions to free versions as a sign of commitment to their customers during the coronavirus outbreak.

6. Document Everything and Put Relevant Information at Fingertips

The word of mouth is no longer relevant in a virtual team. If something is said but not written, it does not count. Record each and every video meeting. Everyone in the company should have access to the videos, reports, etc.

Additionally, make sure that all of the documents and related information are easy to find so the employees do not spend their valuable time searching. The best solution would be to build a knowledge base with search functionality.

7. Train the Managers

It is crucial that managers at your company have the skills necessary to lead a remote team. There are some nuances that make the task of running a virtual team more challenging than the one of running a co-located team. For example, communication is often underestimated in remote teams that once used to be co-located.

While working together in the same place, people see each other every day and talk to each other in a natural way. In a remote team, no matter which type of person you are – you become isolated, sooner or later. But even without the virus, as per the latest State of Remote Work report by Buffer, loneliness is the second biggest struggle for remote workers, which also has a negative impact on their performance. Therefore, the key task of team managers is to encourage communication.

Other soft skills that can become quite handy when switching to remote are:

  • Change management skills. Shifting to a home office is certainly a great change for your team. Therefore, mastering the change management principles can greatly help you during these challenging times.

  • Ability to build trust. No one likes micromanagement. Sounds obvious, but the absence of micromanagement in a team is a sign that the team leader trusts the team members. If you already trust your team members in the office, there are no reasons to lose this trust after you go remote.

  • Authority. Despite the virus panic, you as a manager must keep calm no matter what. Sowing panic against your team members will only make the situation worse and impact their productivity.

8. Encourage digital learning

Give your employees extra time to study and learn the tools and skills related to remote work, so they are not overwhelmed from the very beginning. Some companies even build remote work support teams.

Embracing Remote Work Culture and Mindset

Today, there are companies in the tech industry who have been taking the concept of remote work to a whole new level long before the coronavirus. Some of them have been remote since day 1, others are early adopters. Use their experience to introduce remote culture in your company and to get some inspiration.

  • Buffer. This company now has over 80 remote employees from several different countries. They work on a social media management tool that syncs sharing across multiple social networks. Buffer is especially successful at creating beneficial remote culture. Radical transparency is at the core of everything the company does.

  • Zapier. This is a remote-first company with over 100 employees working in over 15 locations. Their product is an automated workflow builder that does not require any advanced developer skills. Company team leads and employees share their experience of working remotely in The Ultimate Guide to Remote Work, which contains valuable information on how to run, hire, and build a culture in remote teams.

  • Toggl. Employees of this company are based in 5 countries across 9 time zones and have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. The company’s corporate values are autonomy, open communication, and eagerness to experiment. Toggl is working on a product for remote teams – the time tracking tool.

  • ProductHunt. A site for discovering new apps and gadgets started by Ryan Hoover in 2013. The company realized early that remote work opens up an opportunity to hire the best talent without geographical limitation. As long as the job is done, ProductHunt employees are free to travel and work from any location.

  • GitLab. The company is fully remote with a completely distributed team, that can work wherever they’re happiest. GitLab improves software delivery and quality for its customers by decreasing the number of tools and replacing them with one solution. It is a truly multicultural organization with an emphasis on results, not hours spent. Flexibility and communication are key to efficiency in a Gitlab’s fully remote working environment.

How Businesses Can Benefit from Situation with Coronavirus

For tech companies, where innovation and speed are the engines of progress, it is critical to act quickly so as not to slow down the whole company. If you cannot afford to put on hold your software development plans, we at YouTeam are always ready to help you find a perfectly matching team of engineers for any type of project in a matter of days.

Any crisis is not only a threat but also an opportunity for many businesses to become bigger and break away from competitors. So do not give in to the coronavirus panic. Contact us today and find out how we can help you grow your business.

Viktoriia Horbunova

Viktoriia Horbunova

Viktoriia Horbunova is a digital marketing specialist at YouTeam, Y Combinator-backed platform for building remote dev teams.

Viktoriia's areas of interest include content production, market research, and tech entrepreneurship.