Optimizing Remote Working in Your Company
Support Adventure is a fully remote team of over 40 staff members spread across 15 countries across the world. We specialize in providing staffing solutions by locating, screening, testing, training, and implementing remote staff into IT organizations around the world.
Before we onboard remote staff into a business, we ensure that their processes and structure is set up in a way that is compatible with remote working. In this guide we will share the key elements that make remote working a success.
Are your staff actually working right now? In this section we will show you how to know your staff have shown up online for the day.
A lot of people will trust that their staff are present at the start of their working hours and doing good work during business hours. We realized early on that this was not going to be the best way to move forward, running a remote team of dozens of people around the world in different time zones.
We recommend you get your staff punching in online so you know they’re there.
Many companies by default would use chat or an email to say hello in the morning, but that tends to be a disorganized way of doing it, since it’s hard to locate those messages later.
Everyone should either punch in on a Google Sheet (which has revision history so you can see when the punch ins were done) or you can use a dedicated app like T-Sheets which can be set up to send notifications when people don’t punch in.
If a staff member doesn’t punch in, you should make it someone’s job to call them, message them or email them to make sure that they are there working. We have a procedure for what to do when we can’t reach somebody, and it’s out HR Manager’s job to call all staff members who haven’t punched in within 30 minutes of their shift start time.
Doing this will ensure that people are present during their working hour.
Is your inbox so full of emails that you can’t read them all, and you tend to just lose focus when you’re looking at your inbox? Is your chat app constantly popping up with messages from random staff members about random things at random times? Is the phone ringing off the hook sometimes?
The solution to all the problems above is implementing a communication policy. You need to let your staff know how they should communicate with you and each other in a structured way.
Let your staff focus on their work without constant interruption! Cut down on notification fatigue. Keep a good signal to noise ratio with a structured communication policy so that staff get the info they need where and when they need it.
Project/Case Notes vs. E-Mail: Have your staff work on either a real-time collaborative document platform (like Google Docs) or a ticketing system (like Freshdesk) or a project management or CRM system with similar features.. Everything they are working on should be recorded in there and all e-mails regarding it should be tracked on there. This keeps the projects and tasks organized, and allows people to see the progress, next tasks, and notes for any project..
Chat: If used constantly with notifications turned on, this can be the greatest drain on your staff’s focus and productivity.
Ideally notification enabled chat should be used for the following scenarios:
a) to confirm and launch scheduled calls
b) confirm availability for incoming call transfer
c) advise of urgent situations to see if a response can be had before calling
d) to get quick pieces of information required urgently related to a call you are on
e) to inform someone that an issue has been assigned to them which requires attention within the next 2 hours
We recommend not using notification-enabled chat in the following scenarios:
a) Saying hello and goodbye at the start and end of shifts (use the clock in system instead)
b) Jokes and social chatter among team members, team building, etc.
c) Requesting non-urgent info from other team members (use appointment booking, the ticketing system or email for this)
d) To store documentation about clients which needs to be properly organized and curated
Do not assume that since you have written something on chat that everyone has read it and paid attention to it nor taken any requested action steps. The more chat messages there are in a random/disorganized fashion, the less likely this is to occur.
For some cases, it is alright to have chat channels in teams or slack which do not have notifications on, but for all non-urgent communication for which you require a response, send an e-mail with the subject: ACTION REQUIRED:
Phone: We recommend that staff be trained to use the phone for urgent situations or scheduled/consensual calls. E-Mail or ticket/project notes should be used to send non-urgent messages that can be read at any time.
Scheduling app: A calendar app like Calendly can be used to schedule people’s time. If you require a team member to review something you have done, book a time for them to do this either with you or without you. Team members should be encouraged to follow their calendars as much as possible.
Encourage your staff members to put things that can wait on the agendas for the regularly scheduled meetings.
You can put in place systems to hold your staff accountable for doing good work remotely so that you can manage and see what they’re doing without interrupting them.
The goal is to set up a system of accountability, where people know precisely what they’re being judged on. They have guidelines for how they should make their notes, knowing that someone checks how they’re logging their work.
We recommend you make a complete “role sheet” which outlines the expectations of each role and how they are being judged on their performance, how to escalate different requests and who their direct points of contact are in various departments.
What do you write in the role sheet? We recommend including things such as:
Expectations on how they’re supposed to start their day
What they’re supposed to check (email, cases assigned, etc.)
Punch into the clocking system. And so and so on and so forth.
All other procedural documentation and guides which you have created to help train people and guide their performance
In operational businesses like tech support, we recommend that you give your staff a guide. A key part of the guide is that every case note should end with one of four things:
• Ticket resolved (case/task/project resolved): No further actions needed
• Next Steps: Taking responsibility themselves on moving forward with the case/task/project
• Waiting For: Waiting for a vendor, third party, client, etc. until they can continue working on the case/task/project.
• Escalation Required: The worker assigned to the case does not have the time/resources/ability to complete the case/task/project, and it should be reassigned by a manager.
We recommend you make a definitive list of places in your cloud infrastructure where staff will check/things to do at the start of day, end of day and at various intervals throughout the day. This makes it clear where you expect them to be online and how you expect them to track their work and collaborate with the team.
Somebody should have the job of checking everyone’s notes to ensure compliance to the note taking guide.
Do you have regular meetings with your staff who are working remotely on a platform like zoom? We hope you do, because it’s the best way to feel the team spirit in your remote working team.
You should keep in touch with your staff and make them feel the vibe of sitting face to face, which is done best with a video call. We recommend that each department has a scheduled weekly video meeting.
We recommend training your team to live as many non-urgent suggestions and notes for this meeting. Also, it is good to keep a Google Doc meeting agenda, where everyone in the meeting has access to it and where they can add things they would like to discuss. It’s better to discuss things in a meeting when everyone is focused rather than sending random emails (or worse, chat messages) about about random things at random times.
Rule – If it can wait for the regular meeting, put it on the agenda.
Meetings should have recurring agenda items but with time and space for one-time agenda meetings as well as spontaneous discussions to take place.
Leave time for personal and informal chat to build rapport among team members. If kept to a reasonable amount, it’s not a waste of time and contributes to a healthy company culture.
Our weekly meetings often start with a bit of chit chat to catch up, followed by the regular agenda items, followed by staff suggested agenda items, then moving onto follow ups from last week, and finally ending a little chitchat planning the next meeting. Someone should keep notes or “minutes” of the meetings and read through the agenda. The meeting should be recorded, and made available to relevant team members.
Clear next steps for each person should be written on the minutes and reviewed during the next regular meeting.
We believe that having regular meetings is integral to team building, company culture, and collective productivity.
Do you want to attract talented young people to work in your company who are going to bring a huge amount of intelligence, ideas, creativity, and other non tangible resources to your company? Then you have to get a good culture in your company.
We’ve built our business by going around the world and hiring mostly expats, travelers, and digital nomads, giving them jobs they can work online. Support Adventure has a natural cool aspect to it because we’re flying around the world all the time and are focused on staff wellbeing.
Culture is all about making the lifestyle that truly satisfies your company both as individuals and a collective. For lots of businesses, their culture is focused around one thing: making money, results, profits. It’s all about the bottom line, obeying or impressing your superiors and sometimes even seems a bit like the military.
The younger generations aren’t going to buy that as easily and more importantly, it won’t inspire them. They are highly suspect of any culture where it seems employees are just people who are used to drive profits.. They’re not going to buy into the old school capitalist sort of view of the world where employees are just people who are used to make as much money as possible.
You’ll see that behind your employee’s eyes there’s intelligence, talent, personality, creativity, common sense and intuition. That will make your business amazing. You need to give these people the space to breathe. You need to give these people the sort of feeling that they’re not only a part of a business, but also a part of a little family.
It’s not just about money. It’s about growth. It’s about mentoring them. It’s about them feeling like the work is challenging in a way that promotes growth.
We are big on structuring businesses, on implementing accountability, and on having people take notes about what they’re doing, but all that stuff needs to be enforced and implemented with balance of enjoying dealing with the people, meaning you need to hire based on the way someone makes you feel when you sit next to them, not only their resume/CV.
It means that you should care about them and their lives, not just that they show up and do work for you.
Have a social hour on Friday at four o’clock where you all sit with a drink in front of the computer, people tend to enjoy that sort of thing. Having a social work hour and having face-to-face meetings can make distance working feel more like what they’re used to.
We recommend that you have a well-defined core values of your organization. As an example, you can see ours here.
We don’t lack people to be led. We lack leaders to lead them. Think about that. Are you ready to be a leader?
We use certain software and technologies to assist in the remote working environment, and assist in being productive remotely. Below you will find our recommended software, and what it enables you to achieve in your remote working environment.
TSheets – Know that your staff are online and working everyday, by clocking in and tracking their time.
Google Docs – Collaborate in real time with Google’s cloud-based productivity suite without ever having to worry about sending files around, backing up, or seeing who changed what.
Calendly – Have people book calls with you without back-and-forth emails, collect key information to help stage calls.
Zoom Video Call – State of the art teleconferencing with built-in recording and screen sharing/remote control.
Otter.ai – Automatically transcribe your call recordings so you can easily find who said what.
Teamviewer – State of the art remote control for tech support and collaboration
Transferwise – Save lots of money on fees with this slick European fintech startup which makes traditional banks obsolete. Hold and send money in over 40 currencies.
Freshdesk – An easy to use ticketing system to assign work to your team and make sure it gets done and documented
Office 365/Teams – Enterprise grade communications platform hosted in the cloud, the industry standard
In the new post-corona world, businesses, you don’t need to have an office, you don’t need to have staff coming everyday, and you can be wherever you want to be. Our founder is currently on a tropical island in Thailand, while the business is operating and functional through 40+ staff working remotely. You need to be able to see every important part of your business online and soon you will find that being present in an office physically is obsolete. What’s your endgame, what are your goals?
Is it to be like Eric, our founder, who’s in a completely different time zone presiding over a business that just functions with layers of management and systems ensuring accountability among the different staff members? Do you want to eventually sell your business and try other things in life? Or do you miss the office, the commute and the grind?
Chances are, You want to set up a system where everybody can be themselves, be at home, do work that they enjoy, and be with their family in place that inspires them, with a healthy lifestyle where the expectations are clear and the results are consistent.
Set up such a system and watch your team thrive!
Get your staff to clock in
Have a process where your staff clock in at the beginning of their shift, so you know they are present and working. Use a dedicated software or have a spreadsheet with revision history, such as a Google Sheet.
implement a communication policy
Cut down on notification fatigue and become more organized with the information in your organization by creating and implementing a communication policy for your business.employees.
organize regular scheduled meetings
Keep in touch with your staff and make them feel the vibe of sitting face to face, which is done best with a video call. We recommend that each department has a scheduled weekly video meeting.
Create a guide with information for staff
Make a definitive list of places in your cloud infrastructure where staff can refer to. This makes it clear where you expect them to be online and how you expect them to track their work and collaborate with the team.
make a role sheet
Make a complete “role sheet” which outlines the expectations of each role and how they are being judged on their performance, how to escalate different requests and who their direct points of contact are in various departments.
CRAFT a healthy remote culture
Culture is all about making the lifestyle that truly satisfies you as an individual. Make your team members feel cherished and part of a family. Organize social remote events.
USE the right technology for productivity
We have suggested our favourite software to assist in the remote working environment, and assist in being productive. The most vital ones for our business are T-Sheets, Zoom, Google Docs, Calendly, Office 365, Freshdesk, and Transferwise.
KNOW your goals
Some businesses might want to automate and scale, while others might want to implement a remote policy in case of emergencies such as pandemics. Be aware of your goals.
How to Hire Remotely (Bonus Section)
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Support Adventure’s main business is locating, interviewing, and training staff from around the world remotely. We have received over 3000 job applications and conducted over 400 interviews for ourselves and sometimes our clients.
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WHO ARE WE
Support Adventure is a remote working hiring agency that specializes in sourcing, training, and integrating remote workers into businesses.
We have helped countless companies transition into a remote working environment. We’ve compiled our best business practices and tips from our experience.
HOW WE CAN HELP
Our staff members reside on three continents and can offer continuous 24/7 support with a follow the sun service model
Our staff members reside on three continents and can offer continuous 24/7 support with a follow the sun service model
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