How to make working remotely work

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Remote working is becoming the new norm for millennials and there is a strong demand for it across all industries. It’s becoming necessary for businesses to grant their employees the opportunity to work remotely, without compromising their culture or business model. However it is a common misconception that a business will fragment and loose productivity if it adopts remote working policies. We beg to differ.

Technology is the main key to enabling people to work remotely. Cloud-based services can be accessed from anywhere in the world with WiFi or strong cellular connection. The software tools and solutions technology provides are simple, and a lot of them are even free. However, for many, one of the big hurdles to overcome is the fear that remote working is difficult to adopt.

For a while, permanently remote working, Brad, had his own ”desk”. Now, most of the team members are working remotely part or full-time.

For a while, permanently remote working, Brad, had his own ”desk”. Now, most of the team members are working remotely part or full-time.

At appear.in, we have gone through a transition to becoming more distributed. It started with our Tech Lead Brad moving to the West Coast of Norway, where his wife’s family lives. That sparked a lot of experimentation with various ways to keep him present in the office, giving him his own desk, having appear.in rooms open all the time that he can drop into, and now we’re building a robot that he can drive around the office. Another company that has experienced this first-hand is our friends at JobAdder, a cloud-based recruitment software company that uses appear.in to communicate with their staff and clients.

Crafting policies to facilitate remote working

However, one of the biggest challenges when it comes to people working from home, has been to create trust in people actually being as productive or more productive than they would be in the office. Our experience is that this kind of trust doesn’t come by itself, it actually has to be built by everyone in the team. This led to a team meeting where we ended up defining some guidelines for remote working:

  1. Announce in advance (the day before, or preferably add it to the team calendar* as soon as you know) that you will be working remotely, so that people can plan for it.
  2. Have your own calendar updated if you have meetings, so people can check when you’re busy.
  3. If you are sick, take a sick leave day (in Norway, we have 3 sick days) instead of trying to work on half engine. It’s better to heal quickly!
  4. Say “Good morning” in Slack when you have logged on in the morning, so people know that you are now online 🤗
  5. Write one sentence about what you’ll be working on in Slack in the morning, so people know whether you will be concentrating or whether it’s ok to disturb you.
  6. If you want to contact someone, ping them on Slack and ask them to get in touch when they’re ready. (Can also be practised in the office)
  7. Be active on Slack so that people feel your presence and can follow what you’re working on.
  8. Escalate conversations to video on appear.in when you need to discuss something in depth, communicating over video is a much more efficient way to reach agreement than text chat.
  9. Say “Bye” in the afternoon when you leave, so people know that you are no longer available 👋
  10. Set up a “coffeebreak room” in appear.in and enable notifications — join the room if you need a break and want to socialize! You will receive notifications when others enter, and then you can join if you want to socialize ⬇️
To solve the more social challenge of remote working, we’ve made a “coffe break” appear.in room for social activities. Sometimes we use it to discuss things like Norwegian taco traditions 😂

To solve the more social challenge of remote working, we’ve made a “coffe break” appear.in room for social activities. Sometimes we use it to discuss things like Norwegian taco traditions 😂

We use a team calendar in Google Apps to keep track of who is on vacation, working remotely etc. The calendar is shared with everyone in the team and anyone can add events to it. Feel free to copy with pride from these guidelines if any of them can be useful for your team!

Remote hiring

Having policies that enable remote working, allows you to recruit the best possible talent for any role, as you are no longer restricted by the geographical location of the candidate.

The appear.in team is starting to become a rather international bunch. We receive job applications from all over the world, and if a candidate is interesting we do a 30 min screening interview with them over appear.in. Doing this initial interview over video gives us a much better impression of the candidate than a phone call would. Personality is a big part of what we assess in the interview process, and to properly assess that you need to see people’s body language. If the screening goes well, we set up two separate technical interviews (for engineers), where we use appear.in and a tool for collaborate coding, e.g. coderpad.io. We ask candidates to solve a realistic problem involving programming, and system or algorithm design. Since the goal is to see how they think, reason and react to an unknown problem, having an open video connection is a crucial part of the interview.

We also receive lots of emails from our users and other startup companies, who want to use appear.in for doing job interviews. It is currently being used both by HR departments, who set up rooms for interviews, and by recruitment companies, who either integrate our SDK in their platform, or just prepare the rooms they need for interviews. One such company, is JobAdder, a cloud-based, global recruitment platform started in Australia.  Their team is based in 12 different cities around the world, and they've sent us an email saying that they love using appear.in to stay in touch across all timezones! This is exactly how we want appear.in to be used; both making it possible to hire globally and working as a globally distributed team.

The future of work, and making it work

The war for talent, and especially digital talent, is becoming more and more fierce. Allowing staff to work remotely gives them the chance to achieve a better work/life balance. In return, this leads to better results from more well-balanced, happy employees who stay at your company.

Sometimes working remotely only means you choose to cut commute time and work from your kitchen instead. Other times, it means lowering travel expenses while increasing the days you can spend at home for a long weekend. For a parent it means making it easier to juggle a busy family life and with your career. Offering remote working facilities help evening out the stereotypical gender roles of mothers often being the parent who works part-time in the office and part-time from home. The demand is becoming just as big from both parents working from home.

And sometimes being set up for remote working means the whole team can gather at an exciting offsite location together — staying connected to the world using a digital software toolbox.

All businesses should aspire to adopt remote working practices to some degree. With thanks to remote hiring and software tools that are now available, remote and flexible working is becoming a big priority for many employees and new talent. The future of work is not done by a desk every day of the week. The future of work is done from where it’s convenient, comfortable, efficient — and fun. Remember to evolve and keep up with that demand, or take risk of falling behind!


Written by Meri Sørgaard & Ingrid Ødegaard at appear.in with thanks to and collaboration with Laura Hanrahan & Sarah Lee at JobAdder 👋 🙂 *This article has previously been published on Medium.

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