Remote work isn’t the future. It’s the present. Companies - big and small - are positioning themselves as remote-first organizations to attract talent. Many are even experimenting with their remote culture to build employee-friendly companies.
In this post, we’ll walk through 4 unique remote culture policies you can apply in your company.
1. Convert Kit’s Private team stories podcast
One of the main arguments against remote work is that employees don’t get to know each other and hence don’t collaborate well. That it doesn’t offer the chance to build relationships with each other. Convert Kit has solved this.
It has created a private team stories podcast. The company interviews every new employee about their life story, likes/dislikes, favorites, how they like to work, and more. “The whole team can then listen [to the podcast] and get a head start on building relationships.”
After that, they can hold a 1-on-1 meeting to dive deep. But, the podcast serves as the initial get-to-know-your-new-team-member guide. It helps everyone know about the new hire’s preferences and respect their differences.
2. Buffer’s 4-day work week
Buffer is one of the pioneers of remote work. Its employees are working remotely for the last 10 years. It continues to innovate in the remote culture – the latest being the 4-day work week launched in May 2020. Joel Gascoigne, Buffer CEO, wrote, “This 4-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first.”
And the results have been encouraging:
a) 91% of its team are happier and more productive.
b) 84% of the team gets all of their work done.
In conclusion, the 4-day work week proved beneficial for both the organization and its employees. It was so successful that Buffer made the 4-day work week official. It’s not alone. Microsoft trialed it in Japan and found a 40% increase in employee productivity.
Perpetual Garden trialed a 4-day work week and found a 24% increase in employees’ work-life balance. Plus, “their actual job performance didn’t change when doing it over four days instead of five.” The company made the 4-day work week permanent.
Even research suggests reducing working hours can decrease employee stress and improve well-being without impacting productivity - but only when implemented effectively. Here’s what Buffer recommends:
a) Launch a one-month trial. During that period, survey your employees' work productivity and check if it’s affecting your company's progress.
b) If successful, roll out a 6-month pilot trial. Continue surveying.
c) At the end of 6 months, check employees’ performance levels and whether it's having a positive or neutral impact on companies' revenue and customer satisfaction. If yes, continue working 4-days a week.
3. Basecamp’s guide to internal communication
The biggest bottleneck to remote work success is communication. Problems range from under-communicating to employees being not heard to lack of team building. These can compound to trust deficiency in teams and halt company progress.
So, be intentional about remote communication. Prepare a guide on how your employees should communicate and collaborate. Take inspiration from Basecamp. It distributes a communication guide to every new hire. Some points mentioned in the guide are:
a) You can not not communicate. Not discussing the elephant in the room is communicating. Few things are as important to study, practice, and perfect as clear communication.
b) Internal communication based on long-form writing, rather than a verbal tradition of meetings, speaking, and chatting, leads to a welcomed reduction in meetings, video conferences, calls, or other real-time opportunities to interrupt and be interrupted.
c) Never expect or require someone to get back to you immediately unless it’s a true emergency. The expectation of immediate response is toxic.
d) Be proactive about "wait, what?" questions by providing factual context and spatial context. Factual is the things people also need to know. Spatial is where the communication happens (for example, if it's about a specific to-do, discuss it right under the to-do, not somewhere else).
e) "Now" is often the wrong time to say what just popped into your head. It's better to let it filter through the sieve of time. What's left is the part worth saying.
f) If something's going to be difficult to hear or share, invite questions at the end. Ending without the invitation will lead to public silence but private conjecture. This is where rumors breed.
g) Write at the right time. You may have some spare time on a Sunday afternoon to write something, but putting it out there on Sunday may pull people back into work on the weekends. Early Monday morning communication may be buried by other things. There may not be a perfect time, but there's certainly a wrong time. Keep that in mind when you hit send.
h) Ask if things are clear. Ask what you left out. Ask if there was anything someone was expecting that you didn't cover. Address the gaps before they widen with time.
i) Every workday at 16:30, Basecamp (the product) automatically asks every employee “What did you work on today?” Whatever people write up is shared with everyone in the company. Everyone’s responses are displayed on a single page, grouped by date, so anyone who’s curious about what’s happening across the company can simply read from top to bottom. And if you have a question about anything, you can comment on anyone’s “what did you work on today?” check-in to keep the conversation in context.
j) Every Monday morning, Basecamp automatically asks everyone, “What will you be working on this week?” This is a chance for everyone to lay out the big picture of their week. It gives everyone a good sense of what's happening across the company this week.
k) Every few weeks, or once a month, Basecamp will automatically ask everyone a social-style question. “What books are you reading?” Or “Try anything new lately?” Or “Anything inspires you lately?” Or “Seen any great design recently?” Or “What did you do this weekend?” These entirely optional questions are meant to shake loose some stuff that you’d love to share with everyone else, but you hadn’t had an opportunity to do so. This kind of internal communication helps grease the social gears. This is especially useful for remote teams, like ours. When we know each other a little better, we work a little better together.
l) Basecamp has two initiatives: Heartbeats and Kickoffs
Heartbeats summarize the last ~6-weeks of work for a given team, department, or individual (if that person is a department of one). They're written by the leader of the group, and they're meant for everyone in the company to read. They summarize the big picture accomplishments, they detail the little things that mattered, and they generally highlight the importance of the work.
Kickoffs are essentially the opposites of Heartbeats. Rather than reflect, they project. They're all about what the team plans on taking on over the next 6 weeks. Projects, initiatives, revamps, whatever it might be, if it's on the slate, it gets summarized in the Kickoff. Kickoffs are broad in scope, so they don't cover all the details in the work ahead - the teams doing the work are the ones that wade into those weeds.”
Like Basecamp, you too should prepare an internal communication guide and distribute it across your company.
4. Mailman’s Freedom to own and experiment with your work
At Mailman, our goal is to work with people who are more talented and smarter than us. But, it’d be stupid to tell exceptional people what to do or how to do it. They know their things better than anyone else.
Therefore, the first thing we do is give everyone 100% freedom to own their work. What does it look like in practice?
We want employees to make all the minor/major decisions about the things that are their responsibilities. For instance, if they need to hire a consultant, they’re encouraged to go ahead, do it, even sign the contract on behalf of the company, and get going.
All we want the employee to do is make an informed decision. To make it, follow the following blueprint –
- Collect all the information and data that affect the decision
- Discuss the decision with your co-workers and seek disagreements ruthlessly
- With these new insights, make the decision
- Write an email or memo and let everyone know who should be aware of the decision
Another example is we encourage people to experiment with their ideas. For example, if someone sees a process that could be eased through an internal tool, they have complete freedom to make a minimal viable product of the tool. We bore the 100% cost.
And even if the product fails, no one is ridiculed. Instead, we encourage them to make more mistakes and continue experimenting. This is how Mailman gets new ideas from its employees and stays ahead.
These were some examples of how companies are adjusting their remote culture policies. If you think some of them can benefit your company, execute them in your company and check the results. I liked Convert Kit’s approach to team building.
Let us know how your company is tailoring its remote culture policies here.