Lessons from a remote-first workplace

?The COVID-19 lockdown enforced a new status quo: adopt remote working to achieve business continuity or suffer major losses. As restrictions start to lift across countries, the question is, what’s next for our remote generation?

Due to the nature of our business, more than 80% of our 1,500 strong global team at TheSoul Publishing was already working remotely prior to COVID-19. Our remote-first approach has helped us explore and improve our creativity, attract the best talent, support people with different working needs, and build a company where people can fulfil their potential.

It’s not always easy, but when managed correctly, independent working environments really allow self-starting individuals the ability to shine creatively. This is what we’ve learned along the way.

Set teams up for success

Flexible working needs to be normalised and established at an organisational level but remote working alone doesn’t create success. You need to empower your teams and give them the tools to do their best work.

Ensure that teams have the most comfortable, pleasing and productive set up, wherever they’re located. Providing the right technology, and ensuring all members have safe and comfortable spaces to carry out their roles, is imperative. Zoom has become a business staple of the pandemic allowing employees from all over the world to connect easily.

Similarly workspaces should reflect their intended use. Offices should support co-working and collaboration to maximise the benefit of having people together.

Remote working lends itself well to flexible working. By agreeing working patterns on an individual level, you empower your employees and they invest more of themselves in their work.

Celebrate global creativity

As a digital studio that produces entertaining content, driving creativity is a core component of our company’s values. We ensure that our working processes provide our team – comprised of producers, animators, script writers and editors – the ability to express themselves as they complete their tasks.

Having team members located in regions across the world organically allows a company to tap into local talent and generate that extra creative spark. We have seen the benefit of our remote team members infusing projects with their local perspectives.

Companies must seek and initiate the ideas from their globally structured team members. For us, this encouragement to share ideas has resulted in new channels and fresh approaches to our content execution.

Trust, process and communication

Managing a remote team needn’t be any more time-consuming, or less productive than working together in the office. The fundamentals are the same.

All working relationships should be based on the presumption that people inherently want to do a good job. Performance issues, when they do arise, tend to be fairly obvious and can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. This is neither better nor worse in the remote working environment.

Instilling process and giving people a structure within which to succeed, remains critical. TheSoul Publishing uses a task-tracking system which allows us to monitor employees’ workloads and outputs. This provides visibility, allowing managers to check-in on projects, and employees to get on with their day without being unduly interrupted.

Career development must continue

Whether your team is concentrated in an office environment or remote, it is important to keep the focus on boosting individuals’ personal growth and development.

We try to provide career development opportunities remotely such as access to webinars, online courses, and training modules on topics such as managerial preparation and self-management skills.

At the same time, you must remind your team, for example through internal company newsletters, that these career development tools exist and are offered in languages which reflect the workforce’s geographic locations and diversity.

Aleksandra Sulimko is HR director at TheSoul Publishing