How we deliver our services remotely
by Pierre Morsa — March 3, 2020
With the current health crisis looming, remote work may no longer be a choice, but a precautionary measure. How do we do it at Ideas on Stage?
From day one, Ideas on Stage was created as a digital company. In fact, for many years, we didn’t have a physical office. Even today, we strongly encourage our employees to work remotely and limit their travel to what’s necessary. We can deliver 90% of our services at distance to our clients, whether it’s the creation of a presentation, coaching or training. I think that what we learned in ten years of remote work may be useful to other companies who are not used to this type of organization, and this is what I’d like to share in this article.
The key success factor: autonomous employees
Let me say this immediately: remote work does not suit everyone. My personal observation is that successful remote employees all share a common quality: autonomy. Successful remote employees are autonomous, self-starters. They are the diamonds of a remote work environment.
Procrastinators, people who need a daily kick in the butt to get things done, will struggle in a result-oriented work environment, but can still succeed with active supervision. Employees who always find excuses for everything, try to avoid responsibilities and rely on others to get their own work done are the least efficient when working remotely. But honestly, they were never that efficient.
It’s about the result, not the number of hours
Measuring the performance of remote employees based on number of hours worked is only possible using permanent surveillance, à la Big Brother. There are even tools that check how often the employee moves his mouse and types on his keyboard! I call that measure of performance HSOYA: Hours Sitting On Your Ass. A successful remote work environment measures mainly one thing: work done, in quantity and quality.
A result oriented work environment brings us to the next logical success factor: clear deliverables for each team member. Each team member knows the deliverables he is responsible for, its boundaries and the deadline. Large deliverables should be broken down into smaller ones that never take longer than a couple of days to complete.
An adaptable organisation
As a CEO of a company or the head of a department with remote workers, keeping a traditional, top-down organization is the surest way to spend ten hours a day doing video calls. In a remote work environment, the bottlenecks of a top-down, highly hierarchical environment becomes even more apparent: it just holds everything back.
Instead, I think that a high level of adaptability in the organization works best. Instead of being stuck in a rigid organization chart, individuals freely assemble themselves into teams and task forces based on their skills and availability to work on the deliverables.
An unlock mechanism
Autonomy is good, but it’s not easy to handle. Sometimes people can get lost or are unable to use their autonomy wisely. Conflicts can arise between people and project needs. In a decentralized system, work will not always be distributed evenly and fairly between team members. If not taken into account, it can give a feeling of unfair treatment to employees, foster resentment and bring projects to a halt. This is why it’s important to have procedures in place to raise and unlock these stress points quickly.
Dropbox, Office 365, Email, Slack and Zoom are the core tools that we use to enable our decentralized work. Some of us also use Youcanbookme and Zapier. These tools are simple, but their use is not “obvious”. It’s important to get people to use them properly, and have someone in charge of the administration of each tool.
Even if we work well remotely, having team events from time to time is important. We do two remote calls per week, one focused on sales, one focused on projects. We also have regular face to face meeting in our offices. Once a month, we meet to work on the development of the company, and once every quarter we have a bigger two-day event.
Conclusion: it’s easier than you think
Adopting a remote work environment is easier than you think. Nowadays nearly all companies have digital tools. The biggest obstacle is psychological: moving from a top-down, rigid and high control organization to a decentralized, adaptable and results based organization requires a shift in mindset and practice. But if people are forced to stay home, moving to an efficient remote work organization will become a matter of survival for many companies and an opportunity to accelerate their digital transformation.