How to successfully implement a remote working culture

Not every organization that potentially was able to, was already set up for remote work when Covid hit. It might have been for security reasons, not being in line with the working culture or for other reasons. Many organizations then went through big changes and introduced remote working and adopted a remote working culture because the circumstances required it. We at OpenProject are advocates for remote work. We have been working as a remote team for more than 10 years and want to share some best practices with you.

But let us first discuss remote work in general and why it is the best option for us.

Advantages of remote work

More focus

When working from home the employee can potentially work with less interruptions. It is easier to not be disturbed by colleagues because the barrier to call someone is higher than just popping into the office. The home office is also less noisy and busy than going to the office and offers fewer distractions. And at home the employees have exactly what they need to feel comfortable. All this contributes to an environment that makes it is easier to focus on work. In essence, your employees will get more work done.

Sourcing the best talent

Once you allow your employees to work from anywhere, the talent pool gets much bigger and allows you to choose the best candidates. There is no more regional handicap caused by an office but instead it opens up opportunities.

Healthy team

Covid is the best example for moving to remote work to keep your team healthy. Times where colleagues ill with a flu would come to the office and spread it are gone.

Better work-life balance

Working from home can improve your employees’ mental health by offering a better work-life balance. No more commute means more spare time. Moreover, usually the home is the center of your employee’s social life. Without a commute and more flexible working hours, the remote team members can slot in doctor’s appointments and other life administration more easily. This is an advantage for your employees which adds to their satisfaction and they will return it to you in the form of dedication and hard work.

Costs

Instead of investing in real estate, you can invest back into your people. This could be trainings, equipment, salaries and other benefits.

Remote work does not only come with benefits. Check also the disadvantages to evaluate remote work for your organization.

Disadvantages

Distractions

If the set up at home is not ideal, it can result in a lot of distraction and consequently reduced productivity. For example in a case where the employee is living in a flat share with others being around throughout the day or if the partner is also working from home, if children are spending time at home whilst the parent is working.

Security risk

Working in a remote set up can raise data security concerns. When employees are working from home, accessing and sharing data from outside the network, their devices are more susceptible to ransomware and cyber attacks that steal login credentials.

Lack of social office life

Employees will miss out on the relationships built in the office, around the coffee machine, in informal meetings etc. which is an integral part of forming a team and a network within an organization.

Blurred lines

Working from home requires self-discipline to get the work done and also to draw a line between private and work life. It is easy to quickly get back to the laptop after dinner or on the weekend.

For us, the benefits of remote work clearly outweigh the disadvantages and with our internal rules, we are trying to manage the disadvantages and keep them to a minimum. For more than 10 years, our team has been working remotely. Now we put our practice into a remote working guideline that we want to share to inspire you.

OpenProject remote working guideline

This guideline has the objective to facilitate our collaboration as OpenProject team in a remote set up. With this, we are striving to create an inspiring, efficient work environment.

Expectation management

In a remote setting, visual and emotional cues are more difficult to observe. Hence, a line manager could miss that a direct report is tired, overworked, suffering from a burnout, emotionally not stable. To avoid this, we align our expectations with those of our employees at different occasions:

Goal setting

We set quarterly goals for the whole team. These quarterly goals are then broken down into tasks for each individual. Through this we make sure that each one’s contribution is recorded and aligns with the overall company goal.

Feedback conversations

Each employee has a minimum of two performance feedback sessions per year with their line manager. These meetings provide the opportunity to check for both parties if everything is going ok or if changes are necessary. This way, we make sure that every team member is working under optimal conditions.

Communication is key

We pay special attention to transparency, open communication and documentation so that the whole team is always up to date and not missing out. The following tools help us to distribute our information.

Daily team meetings

Every team at OpenProject has a short daily meeting or stand-up where information about progress on goals is shared, decisions are made and critical next steps discussed. These meetings ensure that everyone can continue their daily work without delay.

Weekly company meetings

Once a week we hold a meeting with the whole OpenProject team to make sure everyone is up to date with what the other teams are working on as well as company goals and general updates.

Company handbook

Documentation is key in making sure everyone has all information available at any time. Our company handbook includes any and all information our team members might require in order to successfully complete their tasks.

The right equipment at home

To work efficiently from home, our employees also need the right hardware. We send it either directly to a new employee shortly before their start date or handed over personally in the case of an onboarding week in Berlin. If a current team member needs different or new equipment, they can simply put in a request and have the equipment sent directly to them.

Live a feedback culture

We continually provide feedback related to our team members’ performance to help them learn and develop. In a remote setting there is less interaction within the team, so we make sure that the necessary feedback is still shared by creating additional opportunities.

  • In our quarterly company goal meeting we discuss what went well last quarter and what can be improved.
  • In every weekly company meeting we have the item core values on the agenda where we name the colleagues that actively lived and represented OpenProject’s core values.
  • Very detailed feedback sessions are the one-on-one feedback conversations between line manager and direct report that happen at least twice a year.
  • Of course ad-hoc feedback is always welcome and can be given especially for daily work.

Encourage social “remote office” life

We like to celebrate small and big wins together and would have team calls to get together, talk about the great achievements. We also initiate calls to socialize, chat and get to know each other better on a personal level.

The rules

While remote work allows for much greater flexibility, there are a few rules necessary to make it work for us.

Working hours

We have core working hours defined. Team members need to be available for colleagues and meetings from 11 am until 4 pm CET. Team members working outside of central European time zones and team members in direct client contact align with their managerS. Roles with direct client contact may require a more strict schedule.

Time-tracking

Due to legal requirements in the EU, freelancers are required to track their time. Of course, we are using OpenProject for this. Employees are not required to track their working hours unless they are working on a customer project where hours will be billed.

Workspace

All team members should work from a dedicated workspace, either in their home or in a co-working space or similar. We would like that space to be quiet with as little distraction as possible and it has to have a good internet connection. We recommend using a LAN cable connection instead of WiFi. We have compiled guidelines for ergonomically healthy work and furniture to help everyone to protect themselves while working. The location of the workspace is completely up to the employee.

Data security

Information security and data privacy is an important factor at OpenProject. Our data security guide entails our data safety policies which include e.g. the use of 2-factor-authentication, encryption of hard drives, password requirements and much more. On top, all employees receive a data privacy training.

We hope you got some inspiration from the way we work. Above all though, we would like to stress the importance of information security in the remote set up. If your team is working remotely, please make sure that your security set up is done correctly. You find more tips on this here.