You might be familiar with the complex, multifaceted network that allows us to instantaneously share information with one another. With 4.2 billion active internet users globally, our lives and our careers would be unrecognisable without the internet. When looking at communication within the context of global business, there’s no doubt that the technology we’ve grown to rely on has sparked a revolutionary transformation in the ways we communicate.
Rapid means of communication give us instant access to clients and colleagues and provide us with the ability to reach wider, more lucrative consumer markets. As a result, organizations are being held to higher standards, and expectations of corporate efficiency have increased tenfold.
Companies are required to stay on top of industry developments in dynamic markets and to be constantly contactable (and often in multiple languages). To expertly manage these high expectations, organizations are diversifying their work models.
Remote working has become an increasingly popular method of workforce diversification that’s being adopted by companies throughout the corporate world. As a society that’s driven by technology, one of the many benefits that it offers is the ability to communicate and work collaboratively from wherever there’s a power source.
A 2018 survey of 18,000 people across 96 countries found that 89% of respondents believed that flexible work models helped their business to grow. 70% of people work remotely at least one day per week. The same study found that 80% of employers who gave the option for remote working found that it helped them to recruit and retain top talent. With the numbers pointing to the successful implementation of flexible working models, it’s no wonder that organizations are jumping on board.
Remote work models can offer organizations a simple solution to many of the problems the creep up when attempting to manage high demands: must more efficient hiring processes, reduced operational costs and an increase in productivity rates. Overall employee satisfaction has been proven to increase dramatically, as working remotely gives employees benefits like being able to travel more, customize their work environment and operate within flexible working hours. From where we stand, the resounding benefits speak for themselves.
This being said, we sat down with two remote team managers to get a better idea of how companies are using remote work models to improve their organizations. We discussed the science behind remote team management and how these organizations are utilizing it to improve their collaborative workflow efforts and productivity level.
Katrina McKay, Found & CEO of Uplevel Solutions, a Toronto-based company that provides entrepreneurs with strategic planning, public relations and administrative support to get new businesses off the ground.
Babbel für Business (BfB): What is the biggest challenge you faced when you first started offering the possibility to work remotely?Katrina McKay: Our biggest issue has been recruitment for our head office team who all work remotely, but are able to meet in person on occasion. We have encountered really great folks who are wary of working for us because they have never worked remotely, and have gotten used to the security of an office in the past. It can be a bit daunting for some people who are not used to a remote set-up.
All of our staff work remotely and they always have, so in a sense, we did things in reverse from most companies. There is definitely a cache that comes with having a physical office. We recognize this, but we wouldn't set up shop anywhere just for the sake of looking to add to our image. The future may include some physical offices for Uplevel, but as with most of what we do, we will leverage assets in very different ways in order to foster great productivity and strong company culture.
BfB: What does your organization do to maintain on-brand company culture as a remote team?Positive, enriching company culture comes from creating a sense of trust and building real relationships between people, so face-to-face communication is really key. It sounds simple, but we do a lot of video meetings; we rarely hold audio-only calls. All of the staff at Uplevel know that they can get called into a video meeting at any time - myself included.
We start every internal meeting with a personal question to try to get to continue to get to know each other on a deeper level, which encourages conversation beyond business-related topics and in turn, promotes creative thinking.
We're also very clear about our company values and everyone at Uplevel is expected to do their utmost to live by them; communication, collaboration, conscientiousness and commitment (the 4C's!). Our company values and mission are discussed often: to help entrepreneurs grow while creating sustainable working opportunities for women and LGBT+ folks in the Philippines.
BfB: Do you have any recommendations for companies who are looking to start offering employees remote work opportunities?Do it for the right reasons. For any remote work initiative to be successful, it must be in step with the company's goals and the needs of all involved. Be sure that you fully understand the demands of your business and your industry, and make sure you’re in a position to align your employees' needs with company needs and clients expectations. See remote work options as being what they are - a way to create efficiencies in the company, decrease overhead costs and improve the mental health, happiness and productivity of employees. Avoid seeing remote work as solely a "perk" or some kind of reward for your staff members. Lastly, ensure that you have the proper processes in place. What those processes look like will vary from company to company, but they should always prioritize helping employees perform at their best.
Luka Wagner: Manager of Berlin-based digital marketing agency My Sooty.
BfB: What does your organization do to maintain on-brand company culture as a remote team?Luka Wagner: We are a relatively new start-up and our team is still quite small, so this is something we are working on developing. Everyone who works for us has something to bring to the table and we are using that to our advantage to build a culture that’s representative of all of our team members. We all work remotely and many of our employees are hired on a contractual basis, which makes it more difficult to establish a team environment. We’ve been lucky enough to find individuals who are committed to our vision and who are not shy about sharing their opinions, which is helping us to create a culture that speaks volumes about our devotion to our clients.
BfB: How do you ensure productivity and promote collaborative work without being able to work together in person on a regular basis?We put a lot of confidence in each other's work and rely on excellent communication skills to maintain our success. We make use of accessible applications to help us keep us connected and to help simplify processes, which has been crucial for keeping collaborative projects on track. It really starts with the hiring process, though. Our company is expanding, so we’re serious about bringing people on board who want to grow with us and be part of it all. We make sure that the people who join our team have a real understanding and appreciation for a remote working model, and that they take an interest in helping our clients reach their goals. We choose people who won’t shy away from that task of establishing a connection with colleagues and clients without being able to meet them in person. Having a team of people who are oriented towards the same goal makes collaborative work efforts a lot easier to manage. We’re more productive when we are all on the same page!
Cassondra Dolan, Language Specialist
Cassondra is a writer, translator and language enthusiast with a passion for exploring the ways culture influences learning. Through her work with Babbel, she aims to promote language learning best practices that focus on inclusivity and diversity.