Much of the world has been forced into unexpectedly working from home over the past month. Unsurprisingly, there’s no shortage of stories about how difficult it is. There’s also no shortage of articles about the tools and techniques that you need to use to make it work. “You just need Zoom and Slack and everything will work out great!”
We’re no stranger to remote work. We set our company up as a hybrid from the start, with each of us having the ability to work both from home and from our warehouse. In the beginning we still had to pack boxes, so we only got 1-2 days at home each week. But eventually that became 3-4 days once we had the appropriate staff. We made it a priority because we saw the advantages of remote work, primarily the personal flexibility to work when it was convenient, and the solitude that allows for long stretches of deep focused work.
Making that work has taken a lot of effort. Over time we’ve developed policies like our I Have a Question document, which hardly gets referenced anymore because it’s second nature. Whether you’re working at home or in the office, it’s good management to value output over hours put in, to delegate ownership, to value people’s time, to prioritize deep work, and to minimize interruptions.
It shouldn’t matter whether you’re distributed across the globe or sitting in the same room. Making that successful transition is not about the best conferencing tool, or installing tracking software so people can be virtually monitored the way that they are in the office. It’s initially about understanding the magnitude of the transition, reducing expectations, and giving employees some leeway to adjust. And then it’s about fixing the underlying aspects of your organization that prevent your team from doing its best work. The companies that make those changes will be better off in the long run, whether they eventually go back to the office or not.