By building a solid foundation and company culture, organizations will thrive in a virtual world.
By Kelly Scheib
It’s been three and a half years since the pandemic forced the business world to pivot almost overnight to remote working when possible. The assessments of remote or hybrid work have been coming in for almost as long and organizations are split. Companies—including high-profile tech-focused companies like Amazon, Tesla, and Google—are calling employees back into the office. But at the same time, other organizations are doubling down on remote work, making it a core part of their business identity and culture. A remote-first workplace requires an effort to adapt and an understanding of performance management based on outcomes.
A More Meaningful Understanding of Productivity
Mistaking employees’ visibility for productivity can be counterproductive. Measuring productivity is a complicated endeavor, and it must start with the goals of the business.
To accurately measure productivity, managers first need to define success. The path to success must then be broken down into concrete, identifiable goals and clear expectations around deliverables. From there, business leaders and managers need to measure their employees’ success against the organization’s specific goals and objectives.
By 2025, an estimated 32.6 million Americans will be working remotely—about 22% of the workforce.
Build a Strong Remote-First Work Culture
For a business to succeed wherever its individual employees are working—in the office or remotely—leaders should seize any opportunity to set up their teams for success. Managers are often best equipped to understand the inner workings of their teams, including their preferred channels and styles of communication. That understanding will inform communication policies for the team, including how and when they show up for collaboration. Managers should establish regular check-ins to ensure oversight and accountability and to provide the guidance and mentorship that allows employees to grow and thrive.
This is not only a task for team leaders. Company leadership, at the highest level, always defines culture. Upper management has an opportunity to get hands-on in creating a strong and flexible culture to support a remote-first workplace. Remote work requires intentionality, with transparency and trust built into its framework. A remote-first culture needs to be built to enable both synchronous internal collaboration and asynchronous individually focused work.
In building a strong remote-first work culture, trust has to go both ways. Leadership needs to trust that employees will deliver strong work, and employees need to trust that executives are steering the ship in the right direction. This can be accomplished by communicating transparently about the state of the business at predictable cadences, like weekly company-wide townhall meetings. It’s also crucial to foster a culture where employees know that company leadership genuinely cares for their growth and well-being. To this end, it’s key to offer creative perks and strong benefits to equip managers with tools to recognize when their direct reports are struggling, and to ensure that employees have clearly defined paths to promotions and career transitions.
Businesses should also look for opportunities to bring teams together in person—not just key meetings, but dinners, meet-ups, activities, and the like. It’s easier for people to feel present in these in-person interactions when they’re intentional, purposeful, and not routine.
Another significant benefit to the business: A remote-first workplace opens the hiring base to talent potentially anywhere, and the ability to work remotely is a great incentive for top talent, especially as more and more companies start strictly enforcing their return-to-office policies.
Ultimately a motivated employee base and a nuanced understanding of what productivity and success look like can give organizations a clear competitive advantage if they decide being remote-first is right for them.
Kelly Scheib is chief people officer of Crunchbase.