Commuting to work — 1 hour. Parking the car –15 minutes. Running into Kathy in the hallway and chatting about her weekend — 10 minutes. Attending Charlie’s birthday party and eating some cake — 30 minutes. Oh, and it’s Monday. Time for that team meeting over lunch.
So goes the life of an in-office employee. Forget an eight hour work day. It’s more like four. And, because employees don’t get much done during the day, they need to work later to finish things up. This all adds up to time away from home, hobbies, and health.
Fortunately, there’s an easier and more streamlined system: remote work. While it doesn’t work for every type of business, it does for some of the fastest growing companies in the United States.
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Advantages for employees who work from home
In a digital age, why not eliminate the unnecessary distractions and time wasters of a traditional office? In a national CareerBuilder survey conducted in 2016, around 2,000 hiring managers and 3,000 private sector U.S. workers listed productivity killers.
Several distractions mentioned could easily be eliminated simply by working remote:
- 39 percent office gossip
- 27 percent coworkers stopping by
- 24 percent meetings
- 20 percent noisy coworkers
- 9 percent sitting in a cubicle
Advantages for employers
It’s great for employees to have increased flexibility and less commute time, but what about the benefits for employers?
Just like employees, employers save. Companies cut operating expenses like office space, utilities, office supplies, and smaller factors like mail distribution, or even employee destressers like ping-pong tables. Also, they save time searching for employees. With access to an infinite pool of candidates, you are not constrained by zipcode.
This model is great for startups. Instead of pouring capital into business amenities or perks like break rooms for employees, this money goes right into growing the business. This is a winning situation for employees, employers, and investors.
This all sounds great, but large companies like Yahoo took away their work-from-home policy. Can being remote add to a company’s bottom line? What about employee productivity? How do you stay connected as a company?
5 companies doing remote work right
Five U.S. companies that employee remote workers recently made Inc.’s list of fastest-growing companies. These companies have at least a 4 out of 5 rating on Glassdoor or Indeed. Proving employees are happier, companies are saving money, and these companies’ growth strategies keep increasing yearly.
Acceleration Partners is a performance marketing firm focused on high-end account management for top consumer and e-commerce companies like Target, eBay, and Adidas. They are a marketing consulting agency that develops customer acquisition programs. This includes affiliate marketing, organic search, and paid marketing. AP was founded in 2007 and is based in Needham, MA.
All AP team members work remotely from home. Some might work a day or two during the week in a coffee shop or co-working space, but everyone is working remotely. Their team members span coast to coast and even internationally with a team member in London.
“Robert Glazer started Acceleration Partners with a vision to build a great company while not sacrificing family time,“ said Emily Tetto, Director of Talent and Culture at Acceleration Partners. “So, our remote culture was born very intentionally right from the first employee.”
Keys to success
- Hiring is essential: They believe you need to hire employees that are likely those that want or need to work from home, know how to work as a team, and who are willing to help, even if it doesn’t directly benefit them or their department. Plus, the company performs an in-depth onboarding process for all new employees.
- Some face time: Twice a year, the AP team gets together for a few days for team building, training, and face-to-face collaboration.
- Professional development: AP offers multiple professional development options and has two training programs: one focused on developing strong managers and one geared toward cultivating strong leaders.
- Unified culture: Topics such as company financials, submitted RFPs (request for proposals), and operational developments are shared bi-weekly via Zoom video calls.
- Culture vision: Or as they call it, “culture deck,” meaning every employee understands the company vision and expected behaviors to make their company a success.
- Zoom video and web conferencing: Zoom is their go-to tool for bi-monthly company-wide meetings, individual team meetings, and occasionally, client meetings.
- Slack: Slack makes it possible for the AP team to communicate and collaborate in real-time. Team members use it to video or phone conference, send quick individual or team messages, send photos/files, share company announcements, troubleshoot technology issues, stay on top of client projects, and to just keep ideas and communication flowing.
- Asana. Asana is a productivity and task management tool that allows team members to share, plan, organize, and track progress of the tasks that each member is working on.
- Basecamp. Basecamp is a project management tool that helps team members manage multiple projects at a time with to-do lists, file sharing, chatting, messages, calendars, and time tracking.
- Google Docs. Google Docs is used company-wide at AP for collaborating with team members and clients on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
- TINYpulse. TINYpulse uses anonymity and simplicity to assess how workers feel about everything from their job and team members, to what they’d like to see from the company’s leadership team, and any issues/concerns they might have.
FlexProfessionals is a recruiting firm founded by three partners, all mothers, and experienced business women. Their business matches the need for part-time flexible work for both job seekers and companies. FP was founded in 2010 and is based in McLean, VA.
They have 12 “internal” employees (nine in the DC metro area and three in the Boston metro area) that support business operations. And every employee works remotely.
Between 75 and 100 employees are placed at client sites at any given time. They estimate that about 50 percent of these employees have a work arrangement where they are allowed to work remotely at least part of the time.
“Our company was founded in part to change the way businesses hire, to re-think corporate culture, and to create workplaces that embrace the kind of flexibility desired by today’s workers,” said Sheila Murphy, co-founder of FlexProfessionals. “Our mission and business model reflect a totally unconventional and non-traditional approach to the workplace.”
Keys to success
- Part-time hours: FlexProfessionals all work part-time. On average, individual team members hours range from 20-30 hours per week.
- Flexible schedules: They are a 100 percent results-based organization, As long as the job gets done and the clients are serviced in a timely manner, team members are not required to notify a partner when they take a morning, afternoon or day off (unless they need back-up).
- Remote work environment: All team members work virtually 50 -100 percent of the time, depending on their job.
- No tracking of leave time (sick, personal, vacation): Unlike most companies, they do not track vacation, sick, and personal leave. No employee has ever come anywhere close to abusing this policy. More often than not, management finds the need to encourage staff to extend a vacation or take time off.
- Work culture based on transparency, trust, and open communication: They believe in transparency in how the business operates, and they regularly give team members the opportunity to voice their opinions, ideas, and concerns freely and openly.
- Weekly face time: Many of their team members are in sales and many factors that go into closing the deal are outside of their control. So they meet once a week for sales staff to seek input from the team wherever they need help.
- Commitment to staff development: Every quarter they have a Wednesday meeting to NOT discuss day-to-day business activities. Instead they devote one hour talking about the financials of the company and progress towards annual goals. The second part of the meeting is dedicated to staff development and training.
Percona offers solutions for both MySQL and MongoDB across both traditional and cloud platforms. They provide software, support, consulting, and managed services to companies like Cisco Systems, Time Warner Cable, Rent the Runway, and the BBC. Percona was founded in 2006 and is based in Raleigh, NC.
“The business success we have enjoyed relying on remote workers is mirrored by the positive feedback and loyalty it has generated,” said Peter Zaitsev, cofounder and CEO of Percona.
“Our staff appreciates being able to work for an innovative, global company without worrying about having to move their families to wherever the headquarters is or might move to. Most importantly, we let our people be themselves and give them the space to succeed.”
Around 95 percent of the company’s 150 team members work remotely spread across 29 countries and 21 states. They believe this culture goes hand in hand with a happier team and the advancement of technology.
Keys to success
- Hiring the right people: Their remote worker model works because they scour the world for top talent, and especially look for those who have already had success working remotely. They know these motivated self-starters, accustomed to working on their own and setting their own goals, use the freedom working remotely provides to effectively manage their time and achieve success.
- Tools to succeed: Percona makes sure to give their staff the tools and guidance they need to achieve their assigned tasks.
- Empower remote staff: They reward accomplishments, coach individuals who need support, and always encourage sharing bold ideas. The staff truly appreciates the confidence, trust, and respect that this policy engenders.
- Communication: Since they are a virtual company, it’s vital that communication from both staff and management be clear. Their team is expected to communicate where they are on projects and the company sends out weekly updates as to goals and new initiatives.
- Work/home connection: Unlike a typical office setting, since Percona team members work from home, they might go out for groceries or take an exercise class at 10 in the morning. Understanding that the remote culture is unique for each employee is important to Percona. They also ask managers not to send late-night emails if issues can wait until the morning. Additionally, they encourage their staff to unplug for vacations.
- Virtual management meetings: To replace regular face-to-face contact, they issue frequent internal communications to keep everyone updated on various areas of the company. Percona has recurring online meetings led by members of the executive team that keep everybody in touch with the direction of the company.
- In-person visits: Percona schedules periodic remote worker visits to the headquarters for department meetings.
- Skype: Since their team is all remote, the company uses video/audio calls to get quick answers to questions.
- Slack: Percona uses this program to send messages within teams, talk as a group, or move right into an audio called based on a discussion.
Rev360 delivers the RevolutionEHR software platform and a growing suite of ECP business services to RevolutionEHR users. The RevolutionEHR software platform is the leading cloud-based electronic health record and practice management system for eye care. Rev360 was founded in 2006 and is based in Madison, WI.
Rev360 has close to 200 employees and all of them work remote.
“The co-founders lived in two different states and neither wanted to move so the company was remote from the start,” said Tim Barg, Director of Marketing at Rev360. “Today, we keep growing, but will always remain remote as it gives employees increased flexibility, self motivation, and the freedom to prioritize their work day to maximize their productivity.”
Keys to success
- No micro-managing: The company has a relaxed and fluid environment. Directors will often send an informal text or touch points throughout the day to see how projects are progressing. This allows employees to jump in and out of conversations around their work. As long as deadlines are being met, managers know employees are being productive.
- Hiring “remote” employees: Not everyone is meant for a remote work culture. Rev360 hires employees that understand they will be on their own to complete their job.
- New employee meeting: Once a year, all new employees meet in person for a conference. This helps them integrate into the remote Rev360 culture and to understand how to best meet goals.
- Foundation built on trust: Rev360 hires employees they know will get the job done remotely. They trust projects will be completed on time. Giving employees that responsibility makes employees feel more empowered and connected to overall company goals.
- Yearly in-person meeting: Once a year they have a company meeting called Ignite. This gives employees company goals, plans, and the vision for the coming year. Plus, this is a chance to connect with employees in other parts of the country.
- Regional get-togethers: Departmental teams strive to get together a few times a year. If some employees live near each other, they can get together occasionally for idea sharing, go through project objectives, and get questions answered. For example, several on the marketing team live in the Western Chicago suburbs and collaborate in person from time to time.
- Tradeshows and functionality meetings: Rev360 staff attend several tradeshows throughout the year which allows sales staff to interact in person with their customers. Also, the company will host informational product meetings where doctors can see how their software works in person and have questions answered.
- Skype: Although they do not video chat too much, they do use Skype to talk through various projects.
- Microsoft teams: The company is migrating from Skype to this platform. Microsoft Teams allows Rev360 to share Microsoft Office tools (Powerpoint, Excel, Word, etc.) while chatting online about current projects. This program also integrates with Skype for audio/video calling.
- Third space: This was co-founded by Rev360’s CEO, Scott Jens, specifically to help serve Rev360’s virtual employee team make-up. Employees use this program to chat about work, personal life, or even career goals. It cuts down on the remote isolation some employees feel. It adds that “water cooler” talk some crave.
- Salesforce: This CRM tool is used by the sales staff to organize reports, manage customer data, and help expand services to new doctors. Since the sales team is also 100 percent remote, it’s helpful to have an online system so all employees are aware of the sales team’s efforts.
The Cheat Sheet is a premium lifestyle site. They provide readers information on a variety of topics in an approachable and entertaining way. Articles include advice, reviews, and guides without all the clutter. It was founded in 2009 and is based in Asheville, NC.
Their culture was deliberate from the start. Almost all 50 employees work remotely. Being a company of writers at a digital publication, it’s an ideal environment.
“Our industry is highly competitive and being remote allows us a tremendous talent pool,” said Meridith Burrows, VP of Human Resources. “We can recruit the best team out there since we are not constrained by geography.”
Keys to success
- Open door policy: Communication is important for any company to be successful. The Cheat Sheet maintains an open door policy throughout their entire company. This is especially vital being 100 percent remote.
- Flexibility: As long as deadlines are being met, work can be done whenever works best. This leaves plenty of time for hobbies and family time.
- Streamline productivity: The Cheat Sheet measures productivity through different metrics commonly used in the online media industry. Specifics include: number of articles, page views, and time spent on the site to name a few.
- Flexible holidays and paid time off: The Cheat Sheet has a generous vacation policy. Employees can choose which holidays to take off based on their schedules.
- Coworker get-togethers (informal): Although The Cheat Sheet does not require in-person meetings, they strongly encourage it. They have an incentive program where employees get together socially when they are traveling to a location where another team member lives. The Cheat Sheet will reimburse a dinner, a concert or another activity they choose, as long as they send a picture of the co-workers getting together for that activity.
- Coworker get-togethers (formal): If coworkers reside near the same town or city, often times they will meet at a local coffee shop to discuss ideas or a topic they are currently writing.
- Slack: When employees want to communicate about an idea, they will use this digital program to collaborate.
- Google hangouts: The Cheat Sheet meets on Hangouts to discuss which writer is working on which topic and to identify timelines and deadlines for writers.
Going remote is a scary leap for employees and employers alike. Employees may worry it’s too isolating and miss the comradery of the office setting. Employers may fear losing employee productivity. But by hiring self-disciplined employees, creating a plan for a remote culture, using effective time tracking software, and utilizing the latest online communication tools, it can be done and be extremely profitable.
Are you a remote company or are you thinking of going remote? What are your thoughts and do you think it works for your industry? Let us know what you think in the comments below.