Due to the pandemic, many organizations switched to fully remote working or a hybrid solution. With the latter, you work at the office for a few days a week and elsewhere for the rest of the week. Working fully remote is now less common. We still do that at CE-iT. In fact, we have always worked without an office.

Permanent remote working implies a different way of collaboration. In this blog, we share some of our experience and take a look at how other organizations do it. A recurring theme at these organizations is written communication. If you want to work successfully without an office for a long time, investing in the writing skills of the team will help.

Illustratie van een huis met een locatie icoontje.

Why work without an office

Whether you work fully without an office or whether you work hybrid, remote work has many advantages. We mention a few:

  • People save (a lot of) time on commuting. They skip the traffic jams in the morning and are fresh when they start working.
  • You work more efficiently without an office. It is easier to concentrate without people standing at your desk.
  • In an office, people often schedule physical meetings that take up a lot of time. At CE-iT we don’t have regular meetings. We schedule a meeting when working together on a project or when people have questions. And only with the people who matter to the consultation.
  • Remote work is more sustainable and better for the world because people don’t unnecessarily travel from one place to the other twice a day.

Basecamp: Work doesn’t happen at work

One company that went remote early is Basecamp. Founder Jason Fried already gave a TED Talk in 2010 about remote work and that work does not happen at work. One of his arguments is that people are frequently disturbed during work in the office. He compares it to sleeping. You sleep best when you sleep uninterrupted because you don’t immediately fall asleep again when you wake up. The same goes for work.

Basecamp has established [rules of thumb] for communication. These state that written communication is leading. You want information to be available when someone needs it and that people are not disturbed, and you achieve that with written communication. Meetings are a last resort when all else fails.

The company has a page full of tips and links focused on remote work that you can refer to for inspiration.

Distributed: Matt Mullenweg

Just like with Basecamp, written communication is the key to success at Automattic. And that information is accessible to everyone online as much as possible.

Automattic is the company behind WordPress and Tumblr, among others. It has over 1300 employees and has been operating remote since its inception.

Matt Mullenweg – one of the founders and CEO of Automattic – says you have to empower people to create a good working environment. For some it is at home, for others it is a co-working space and for others it is a mix of the two. The idea is that people work in an environment in which they perform optimally. Matt talks about this in the TED Talk below.

Another striking point at Automattic is that they do not focus on (online) presence. It’s about what someone does. If four hours a day is enough for your work, that’s fine. It is about the result and not about the number of hours you work or are present. This means that they focus on smart working and this leads to few meetings.

GitLab’s Guide to All-Remote

Gitlab is a company that works completely remote with more than 1500 people. Like Automattic and Basecamp, they share their experiences with everyone. They have an extensive how to work remote guide with answers to almost all questions related to remote work. The guide has a separate section for remote managers. That’s useful because the role of a manager is different in a remote company. A manager must be visible, servant, empathetic and work based on trust. As it should be everywhere.

Write, write, write

At Gitlab, people not only work remotely, but also at other times. They work asynchronously. How is that possible? Written communication and that is the common thread in many organizations that have been working fully remote for years. It is the primary form of communication and that can take some getting used to for people.

Writing requires clear thinking and formulation so that the message is clear to the recipient. As an organization, you have to invest in this skill because it does not happen automatically.

How we do remote at CE-iT

We recognize the best practices of the companies mentioned and look at what works in our practice. Both for the organization and for individual colleagues. At the beginning of the pandemic, we collected useful tips for working from home, and they still hold true today.

Invest in cooperation and mutual contact moments. You don’t run into each other at the coffee machine, but contact between is important. We are constantly trying new ways in this area, like VR meetings in Horizon Workrooms. In 2021, we started with it for internal meetings.

Our experience so far is that it adds a lot when you collaborate and have consultations remotely. For example, it is clearer who is speaking and there is more non-verbal communication. This makes it more personal than video calling with Teams or Zooms. We only see each other in real life a few times a year, and Horizon Workrooms is a nice addition to that.

Personal contact

We have a few last tips because a pitfall of remote work is that you lose personal contact. Or that the contact becomes more impersonal. The following points will help you avoid this:

  • Say hello when you reach out, both by phone and text messages, just like you do in the office. So good morning, hello, etc. It’s a small thing, but it helps in keeping it personal.
  • Make sure you have a short meeting as a team at fixed times during the week. You use this to coordinate work, but also as a moment for social contact. (This is not the same as regular meetings)
  • As a manager or team leader, you need to stay in touch with both the team as a whole and with the individual team members throughout the day and week.
  • Actively tell what’s going on, what you’re doing or if something doesn’t work out. If you don’t do this, someone else won’t know what’s going on, and you might get stuck unnecessarily.

At CE-iT we believe in remote work and just like working in the office, it requires attention to make it a success. Regardless of the size of the organization.