Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, working remotely has quickly become the new norm, and that’s not expected to change significantly in the short term.
But what’s the best way to work remotely? That depends on the organisation and its line of business, as well its culture and the ability to make remote work successful.
The type of work being done will ultimately determine what percentage of a particular workforce can effectively work remotely. Companies in the finance and insurance (58%), public administration and defence (51%) and communications (47%) sectors are most likely to employ remote workers, while those in traditional manufacturing, retail and hospitality industries are less so.
While some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Atlassian are turning to fully remote workforces, it’s not for everyone.
Other companies are taking a hybrid or partially-remote approach where a percentage of employees work remotely for all or some of the time, while other organisations work within more of a split team structure.
Today, there are three common types of remote team set-ups.
Fully remote teams
In a fully remote team, each member, including the team leader or manager, works remotely, whether it be in separate offices, or at home or another location. There’s no company office and the only time you’re likely to meet colleagues face-to-face is at the annual retreat.
Most teams working in this style are often part of a fully remote company that stretches across numerous different countries and time zones.
For example, take social media application company — and long-time proponent of the remote workplace — Buffer, which operates a fully remote team of 85 employees living and working in 15 different countries. A glimpse of the company’s employee time zone map gives you a good idea of the vast distances the company successfully operates across.
Buffer says it does everything 100% remote first, including holding monthly all-hands and town hall meetings, to create a feeling of inclusivity and equality across the board.
While it takes a lot of effort to get business practices and processes right when your whole organisation is essentially operating in a virtual space, when it’s up and running successfully, it offers many advantages, including being able to attract the world’s best and most diverse talent, increasing productivity, boosting employee retention, and reducing costs.
Hybrid remote teams
A hybrid team usually refers to a partially distributed team operating in a flexible working environment.
In some cases, employees have the option to choose whether to work from an office, remotely or both. In other cases, some workers are required to attend the office for at least part of their working week to interact with other people in their team.
Hybrid teams are more commonly structured with the leader and part of the team co-located at a base office or headquarters, with the remaining staff working remotely.
Work flexibility is a key attraction of the hybrid remote working environment for employees because it offers the opportunity to work at both the office, so they can interact with colleagues, and remotely, when they just need time alone to focus on getting things done.
The hybrid model is how most remote workers actually start working away from the office, and today it’s becoming more popular with many companies, especially larger organisations, who are not ready, or unable, to take the step to a fully remote workplace.
Split teams work in a single location as part of their team, but also in tandem remotely with another team in a different location.
For example, an app developer might have its development team in Melbourne, its marketing and communication team in London, and its data analytics team in the US.
The teams operate on a similar footing and work together to reach the same goal. They share progress, information and data to support each other.
Sometimes team members will also work remotely in their own locations.
More recently in the wake of COVID-19, more companies are utilising the split teams model in response to the pandemic by dividing existing teams into separate working groups on periodic rotations so they avoid contact. The model involves one team working in an existing office, while members of other teams are required to work in remote locations separately. After a set period of time, the teams rotate so that each team will take turns working out of the main office.
Whether you’re working in a fully remote, hybrid or split team environment, there are a few important things to take into account when it comes to getting the most out of remote teams.
1. Communicate and collaborate
Take advantage of tools such as productivity suites, remote meeting and conferencing services, online collaboration tools, webinar technology, and project management apps to keep employees engaged.
2. Set up a functional workplace
Getting comfortable is key. From the shape of your chair to the height of your desk, to where you sit your monitor, keyboard and mouse, getting the little things right before you get started, will make for a much more productive remote working experience. We have prepared for you a guide on how to get the best working from home setup.
3. Improving connectedness
Keeping employees engaged with their colleagues, as well as the organisation itself, is key to a successful remote work environment. Schedule regular virtual meetings which have a clear agenda and structure. Host virtual coffee breaks, online lunch and learn sessions, online quizzes, trivia competitions or a virtual Friday afternoon chin wag.
For more info on successful communication, creating a productive workspace, and improving connectedness in the remote working world, read our Remote Work eBook.