Getting the Rest of Your Organization Onboard with Working Remotely

What do you do when the rest of your leadership team is not sold on remote work?

Or, if you’re the only team that’s remote in a co-located company?

These situations can be tricky, as you either are stuck in a way of working that isn’t most conducive to you and your team. You feel like you’re being held back.

While there’s no silver bullet, and of course, the path will be different depending on the situation, here are a few recommendations for ways to think about getting the rest of your company on board with remote work.

Answer the elephant in the room.

“How do I tell if they’re working?” Whether or not your leadership team tells you what’s behind their hesitancy around remote work, this is likely one of the primary forces. Naturally, people are concerned that productivity and output will decrease if people can’t be productive. Maybe if people aren’t in person in an office, they’ll be spending their time on other things. Or if they are working, can you really get the same quality of engagement and interaction if people are remote? You can address this question head on by sharing statistics, such as: In Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work, 99% of respondents want to work remotely at least part of the time for the rest of their careers, and another 2019 survey found that 64% of employees work remotely at least part of the time and that 67% would quit if their workplace became less flexible. In fact, in our own survey of almost 300 remote managers and employees, 43% of remote managers and employees believe that being remote positively affects their performance, and 65% of remote managers and employees say that being remote positively affects their job satisfaction.

Play detective out the other hang ups.

Figure out what else is holding your leadership team back from wanting to make the jump to being remote. Are they unsure what tools and process should be in place? Are they concerned about how it will affect culture? Acknowledge that these are important and valid questions – and then share your version of the answer to them. Share the tools and process discussed in Chapter 3 and how that could be adapted and fit to model what processes and tools you already have in place. The most crucial thing is that you let these hangups keep hanging. Address them.

Make the case for output, hiring, and retention.

You don’t want to just assert defense against the negative perception of remote work. You want to assert the positives. Why are you so keen on remote work? It’s not that you want an excuse to work in your pajamas (and even if that were a reason, that’s not necessarily bad, if it doesn’t detract from performance). Share how supporting flexibility and autonomy that employees want helps with retaining folks – and with hiring. You open up the pool for who you can actually have work at the company if you can hire from anywhere. And lastly, you can also argue how because remote work requires a bit more emphasis on communication and process, this in fact creates a work environment that encourages and is ripe for higher output.

Forcing function for systemizing things.

At the very least, what remote work does require for it to be successful is for there to be clear processes and systems in place. In a way, it becomes a forcing function for the things you already should be doing in a remote company. For example, one-on-one meetings are absolutely critical in a remote team – and it’s something teams should be doing regardless of whether or not they’re remote. But when you are remote, you can’t afford not to hold one-on-one meetings. The set-up begs for it. This is the same for acting with empathy and writing out and documenting communications. These are “good things to do” in co-located teams, but “must dos” in remote teams. By becoming remote, you in essence, force your team to adopt practices that will be most beneficial for it in the long-run.

Be transparent with your experience – describe both pros and cons.

One of the most effective ways to convince the rest of your team to go remote is to be honest with your personal experience with it. What have been the upsides and downfalls? What have previous teams that you’ve worked on with gotten right… and wrong? What should the leadership team be conscious of if they were to decide to transition the rest of the company to be remote? This honesty will show them that you’re trying to put forward all parts of the story –- not just one. And, the information itself will help them actually prepare the team in the best way and put it in the best position for success, if it did decide to go remote.

Be proactive with process.

If your team is already remote: Show, don’t just tell. Show the processes that you have in place, how you collaborate, how you have one-on-one meetings. Show how you share decisions and resolve conflict. Proof is in the past experience and success of what you’ve been doing as a remote manager. If you don’t have this proof, write-up what you would do if your team was remote – and why. It’s always more believable if you can help your leadership see it’s believability.

Start the conversation here. Be forthcoming with examples from other companies and your own team. And always keep the bigger picture in mind: Remote work, when done right, can help everyone work better, together.

That’s what everyone – including your leadership team – wants after all.

Takeaways:

  • Address the elephant in the room that your leadership team may be concerned with productivity if they were to become a remote company.
  • Figure out what the other hang-ups are around process, culture, etc.
  • Make the case for output, hiring, and retention.
  • Share how going remote can be a positive forcing function for systemizing your team’s processes.
  • Pull back the curtain on your own experience with remote work – both the pros and cons.
  • Show how you’ve already made remote work successful, within your own team, or at another company.

Put this into practice with Know Your Team:

  • Point to Know Your Team as a tool that can help support you as a remote team: You can get feedback with our Culture Questions, ask fun Social Questions, and get updated on what everyone is working by way of our Heartbeats – all without having to be in-person or to call an all-team meeting.