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6 Tips for Becoming a Remote-First Company

When COVID-19 hit Austin, Texas, in March 2020, CareerPlug closed its office doors. Employees gathered their laptops, monitors, desk knick-knacks, and all the candy they had hidden in their cubicles and prepared to work from home for the next month.

That month turned into two months, which turned into three months, which turned into four months, and so on.

Like so many other Americans, we were in a constant state of uncertainty, wondering when – if ever – we’d see our coworkers and our precious cubicles again. Leadership at the company quickly became laser-focused on creating conditions that would make remote work feel “normal.” 

And eventually, it did. After months of remote work that resulted in steady – even increased – productivity among the team, it became clear that the strength of the company came from our people, not our office.

CareerPlug Founder and President Clint Smith decided that it was time to begin thinking about ways to evolve the company for the better. “As a leader, I knew this could have been a critical inflection point for the company. So I made sure to sit back and listen to what people wanted. And what they wanted right now in these uncertain times was flexibility,” Smith says.

“I want my team to be able to structure work around their lives, not the other way around. I trust them to do exceptional work wherever they are. So we came up with a remote-first vision that lays out what we believe a remote-first company should look like,” Smith added.

As a result, CareerPlug has now joined the growing list of remote-first companies that are abandoning their offices forever – including Twitter, Zillow, Upwork, Nationwide Insurance, and more.

Here are some tips the leadership team at CareerPlug has learned about creating a remote work policy.

1. Define your culture.

This is, by far, the most important thing to consider when creating your remote-first vision. So take the time to get it right! 

Even before our workforce dispersed, when the majority of our team worked in our Austin office, we valued transparency over ping pong tables, work/life balance over daily catered lunches, and genuine connection over boatloads of swag. Don’t get me wrong – playing games with coworkers, sharing a meal, and proudly showing off our branding are important to us too – but what’s most important are the core values we share and live by every day. 

  • Establish your core values as a company. These should serve as your “north star” that guides all of your business decisions. 
  • Survey your employees to determine which parts of your office culture are the most valuable to them. 
  • Invite employees to suggest new ways to incorporate office culture into remote work life.

As a business leader, you don’t need to have all the answers right away. COVID-19 caused the work landscape to shift so drastically that many of us are just trying to figure it out as we go. That’s why it’s important to take this time to listen to your team and take some cues from them. 

Once you define what makes your culture great now, you’ll have a baseline understanding of what it should continue to look like going forward as a remote-first company. 

2. Figure out what effective communication looks like for your team.

You probably don’t need us to tell you that communication is key in a remote work world. We’ve all seen our fair share of Zoom conferences and Google Meet happy hours by now. 

When creating our remote-first vision, we wanted to make sure that we were erring on the side of over-communication.

When it comes to the specifics, you’ll need to figure out what communication is most effective for your team. That means establishing:

  • Channels of communication – What gets communicated via email? What gets communicated via Slack? What gets communicated via meetings?
  • Frequency – How often should you have company-wide meetings? What about team-specific meetings? Or one-on-one meetings with direct reports?
  • Stakeholders – Consider implementing something like a RASCI matrix to assign who is responsible, accountable, supporting, consulted, and informed for any given project. 

By taking the time to set guidelines for communication, you can alleviate some common remote work difficulties like creating accountability or Zoom fatigue

3. Set expectations for how success will be measured remotely.

Managing remotely begins with figuring out how to measure your team’s success in a way that makes sense for your company. Some teams have a culture that thrives on ensuring that all employees are accessible at their computers from 9 to 5. Some teams are more flexible – particularly if you have employees spread across different time zones. 

At CareerPlug, we trust our employees to continue bringing their best to work remotely just as they did in the office. Here’s what our employees see when they read our remote-first vision:

  • We track your results, not your time. Remember: Trust, not micromanagement. We set clear expectations and goals and trust you to bring your best at work every day, surfacing roadblocks and asking questions to help you meet your goal. In other words, the problem isn’t that you’re choosing to watch Netflix instead of working, the problem is that while you were watching Netflix your work didn’t get done and the results show it. 

This also allows our employees to work in whatever environment they choose. We have one employee who enjoys exploring the country in a renovated campervan, which means she isn’t so much a work from home employee, but a work from van employee. She joins us at every meeting thanks to her mobile WiFi hotspot. 

Regardless of how you choose to measure productivity, make sure you communicate your expectations to your employees.

4. Support your employees in creating comfortable remote workspaces.

At CareerPlug, we realized that the money we would save by letting go of our office could easily be redirected to our employees. We’ve allocated a stipend for each employee to better equip their home offices with things like desks, chairs, additional monitors, ergonomic accessories, and more. 

Of course, remote work requires reliable internet, so we offer an additional internet stipend to help offset those costs to our employees.

We also arrange for travel to a central location at least twice a year for big events (like our summer “Pluggies” awards ceremony and our holiday party) and budget for both in-person and virtual team building and social events to keep people connected.

We didn’t have any of these expenses before the pandemic, but when we consider what we’re gaining as a result – a fully supported and engaged remote team – our decision was easy.

5. Consider recruiting non-local candidates for future roles.

Long before COVID-19 hit, we ran into a recruiting problem in our local job market. Because Austin is a popular tech hub (on par with Silicon Valley), competition for talented software engineers is high. Many of our city’s best engineers were already happy at their respective companies, which made finding and hiring the right people all the more difficult for us.

After months of searching with no luck, we decided to expand our search for software engineers nationwide and offer a remote position. By broadening our candidate pool beyond Austin city limits, we were finally able to make the right hires for us, rather than settling for someone local. Now, our engineering team includes employees in Louisiana, Massachusetts, Florida, and Hawaii. 

Our advice: Try recruiting nationwide, but be sure to research tax implications for hiring employees in other states first. 

6. Modify your onboarding process for remote hires.

Finally, if you decide to continue to build your team with permanently remote employees, don’t forget to create a remote onboarding experience that helps your new hires feel welcome. Watch the video below or read our guide on remote onboarding tips to learn more.

Sample Remote Work Policy

Click on the image below to read CareerPlug’s official Remote-First Vision. Let us know what you think on Facebook or LinkedIn!

sample remote work policy

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