The Ultimate Guide to Transitioning to Remote Work

Jen Dewar
By Jen Dewar
Remote work is a term for companies that embrace flexibility and allow workers to work from home some or all of the time. The argument in favor is the ability for employees to enjoy a greater sense of work-life balance while employers have lower overhead, among other advantages.

While the implementation of remote work policies has largely been an experiment, with the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s becoming a must for many organizations, at least in the short-term.

Covid-19, also referred to as the Coronavirus, is forcing employers to rethink how employees work.  Now, many employers now find themselves scrambling to implement work from home policies fit for the current world. Social distancing is the new tagline taking over social media, and what’s ultimately happening is that remote work is being put to the test on a large scale.

What many businesses and employers have found is that they’re woefully unprepared for disruptions in business as normal, including when it comes to remote work. Despite the hurdles, having a clear plan and strategy in place makes remote work a viable option, whether it’s something you temporarily turn to as the world “hunkers down,” or it’s something that becomes a more permanent component of your workplace.

Having a plan in place for remote work makes sense outside of this event. Remote work gives companies the opportunity to continue business in the wake of other potential scenarios, such as natural disasters.

Sapling’s Ultimate Guide to Transitioning for remote work will Cover:

the WAVE of Remote work

Before the concern over Covid-19, there was already an upward trend in the number of people remotely working in the U.S.

Between 2005 and 2017, there was a 159% increase in the number of people working remotely in the United States. From an estimated 1.8 million workers in 2005 to over 3.9 million in 2017.

Naturally, remote work is most prevalent among cloud-based online businesses. This presents a bit more of a challenge for roles that require manual labor or in-person presence like hospitality.


the Benefits of

While we’re in a temporary period of increased remote work, there are ongoing benefits for businesses that adopt these policies on some level. In situations like what’s currently being faced, the benefit is business continuity in a time when operations might otherwise be disrupted. Beyond that, here are a few of the other business benefits of letting employees work remotely:

1 Employees Value Remote Work

Remote work environments can be a valuable way to improve your employer brand and appeal to talented employees without having to spend more.

2 Remote Work Improves Productivity

91% of people are more productive working remote - that's a lot more productivity in the day versus the office.

3 Reduced Costs

When businesses have remote work policies, it can decrease their overhead and reduce their expenses that come with maintaining in-office employees. Based on the study of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, there was a $38.2 million reduction in office costs.

Furthermore - a study in 2017 found workers were willing to accept 8% less pay if they had the option to work from home. 

4 Lower Environmental Footprint

Businesses that commit to more remote work options reduce their carbon footprint. Research collected by Instant Offices shows that US employees working from home prevent the emission of ~3.6 million tons of commuting-related greenhouse gases every year.

5 Access to Top Talent

When a business allows for telecommuting and remote work, it expands its talent pool and reduces geographic barriers to recruiting and hiring the best workers.

What’s important for businesses that are considering remote work, regardless of external situations, is that they first understand the hurdles so they can overcome them and implement the changes more smoothly and effectively.


Setting and Managing

First and foremost, if businesses are evaluating implementing remote work, they have to ensure it’s something that will work as far as employees’ roles.

It may be that none of the positions within your business are suited to remote work, or maybe you find that a certain percentage of them are. Some businesses find that all roles can be moved to remote work.

One of the biggest issues that employers often face when transitioning employees to remote work is that they don’t effectively set, communicate, and manage expectations.

1 Speak to Your Team

start your plans by speaking to the people who know most what they need in a remote work environment — your employees. Ask their feedback regarding how comfortable they are working remotely and what their concerns might be. You can also ask them what types of tools and technology will best support their transition.

2 Build Expectations

Once you have that feedback, start building out specific expectations for your employees. When employees begin working remotely, they may feel as if they have to be available 24/7 and alternatively, they might feel they can be available less often than they would be in a traditional office environment.

3 Develop Communication

Create guidelines for communication including how often employees are expected to communicate, when they should communicate, and how long they have to respond to essential communications.

You may also need to define what is essential communication, versus what lower priority communication could be.

4 Create Metrics for Success

You’ll need to outline what specific deadlines are, and as a business, you may ultimately need to reevaluate how you measure the success of your employees. Adopting a solutions mindset that focuses fully on what gets done and the results (vs. a more micromanagement approach) helps drive momentum towards your most important shared company goals.

5 Managing Changes in Compensation

One of the big issues that companies face as they move to remote work is how to manage changes in compensation. There may be shifts to compensation, but they should be based on factors such as the quality of work, accuracy, and overall contribution to the company.

It’s important to be cautious of making changes in compensation simply because employees are working remotely. You need to ensure that you’re paying based on the value your employees bring you, and look beyond billable hours as you decide on compensation structure. Otherwise, you risk the possibility of losing top talent.

Most employers still offer paid time off, even when employees work from home, and some companies attract workers by offering additional benefits such as travel stipends (because employees can still work remotely even if they’re traveling)

6 Providing Budget for Remote Team members

The vast majority of remote workers pay for their own internet connection and their computer or laptop. Most employers pay for the software and cloud-based tools used, but depending on the situation at your workplace you might want to create a budget to help employees set up remote offices with the equipment they need.

If this is something you’re thinking about, be aware of what the laws are in your state. For example, under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are required to make sure employees are working in a safe and healthy environment, even if it’s remote.

Employers are also required to reimburse remote employees for all their work-related expenses, including workstations employees create at home.

One way to facilitate covering the costs of setting up remote workspaces for employees is to provide a stipend.

7 Rolling Out a Test

One of the best ways to start gathering specific feedback and also gain an understanding of where issues might arise is by starting very small.

Let a few employees work remotely for a week and see what happens during this time. Where are the bottlenecks occurring, and what can you do to alleviate them?

You can start to see more clearly how processes may need to shift, as well as expectations.

You can use this test run to help build your remote work policies.

8 What to Include In Your
Remote Work Policy

The following are things to make sure you address, as you create remote work policies:
  • How will remote workers track their results? What will progress look like, and how will it be measured?
  • How will employees stay accountable?
  • When will meeting times be, and what tools will be used for communication?
  • What are work hours going to be? Do you need to take different time zones into consideration?
  • How will employees stay connected with one another?
These policies might not be universal across the organization—you may need to tailor different policies for different teams and employees, depending on their role.

9 Legal Considerations

If you’re shifting to remote work policies, you have to keep in mind legal requirements and labor laws.
Things to keep in mind include:
  • You may need to update employees’ contracts, if applicable, to reflect changes in the work environment or scope of work.
  • Be aware of local regulations regarding labor laws because when you shift to a different way of working you may be noncompliant without realizing it.
  • What are work hours going to be? Do you need to take different time zones into consideration?


Implementing Remote Work

Beyond defining expectations and creating solid policies, the most important thing any business can do to implement remote work is to have the right tools and technologies in place.

There are many cloud-based options that can be used for communication, project management and data analytics.

If you’re managing remote employees, you need to think about things a little differently, and your managers need to be prepared for this. The following are tips for managing remote workers and creating smooth processes.

1 Video Chat

Use video chat as often as possible. While email and chat are important too, with video, it becomes easier to see the more nuanced elements of communication that are happening. Video chat is also a good way to keep relationships strong between managers and employees, even when they aren’t in the same physical location.

2 Regular One-on-Ones

One-on-ones between managers and employees will keep everyone feeling not only connected but also recognized. Schedule weekly one-on-ones if possible.

3 Facilitate Career Development

Ensure that managers are working to create development opportunities and a clear path toward career advancement for remote employees. Set goals for employees and work with them on how to achieve those goals. Don’t treat remote employees like freelancers or contractors.

4 Bolster Online
Communication Skills

Ensure managers have strong online communication skills. Managers should work on honing their writing skills because effective communication is one of the most important things you can have in a remote work environment.

5 Deliver Transparency

Use solutions that promote transparency. For example, HR platforms are a good way to ensure transparency so that silos don’t develop and everyone feels as if they’re working together, even though they may physically be working independently.

6 Regular Company Updates

If your employees are shifting to remote work primarily because of Covid-19, you need to understand that they are justifiably likely feeling apprehensive and maybe scared. Send them regular updates and let them know what’s going on within the organization and keep everyone in the loop on any updates.

Best Practices and tools

Company culture can be challenging to maintain with a dispersed workforce, so it’s up to you to keep remote employees engaged and connected in a way that’s in-line with your overall corporate culture, mission, and values.

Remain connected with employees, and use technology for face-to-face interactions when needed.

If your employees use a chat program, it’s easier to encourage collaboration that keeps employees engaged with one another. If possible, try to make sure you regularly assign teamwork-based tasks as well. When possible, and outside of the Covid-19 situation, try to arrange some opportunities for employees to get together face-to-face as well.

For example, maybe you have a company-wide in-person meeting once a quarter or once a year. At times when that’s not possible, think about company-wide virtual meetings.

These don't have to be about work - these opportunities for fun as well - like random virtual coffee matchups, work from home pet competitions, virtual happy hours or game nights. While they may not be about work, these types of casual conversations are important because they’re creating relationships between employees.

Zapier is a great example of bringing together remote teams and strong corporate culture. According to Zapier, they build culture through the use of the right tools, transparency about company values and culture, and regular sharing of work updates so that everyone feels like things are being accomplished and they can trust their coworkers.


Security for a Remote Workforce

As cyberattacks and breaches continue to weigh on businesses around the world, the risks can be even more significant for companies with remote teams.

First, you need to include guidelines in your remote work policies as to how employees are expected to maintain security. Be as clear and definitive as possible, so there’s no room for confusion. Many employees don’t necessarily understand the scope of cybersecurity risks, particularly when they’re working outside the office.

Include security training as part of the steps you take to move toward a remote environment.

Companies are finding that the use of two-factor authentication is working well to manage potential security issues with remote workers. Two-factor authentication or 2FA requires the use of multiple levels of security before an employee can access certain documents or information.

Choose tools that allow for strong administrative controls so that employees have access only to what they need, and consider the use of applications to monitor data transfers and usage.

The Tools You Need to Transition to Remote Work

As mentioned, having the right tools is critical to transition to remote work in any capacity. Any tools you use should be user-friendly, simple to implement, and scalable. Tools to consider as you transitio n to remote teams include:

1 HR Solutions - Sapling

The most important thing you can have to facilitate a smooth transition is a solution like Sapling. Sapling is an HR platform that helps companies be strategic in their decision-making, and it automates workflows.

Sapling delivers an excellent customer experience, regardless of where employees are located.

Whether you’re onboarding a new employee or you’re keeping current employees in the loop as they transition to a remote-based role, Sapling features the necessary features to make it happen. The use of an HR platform like Sapling, lets you organize teams and access employee information quickly.

2 Communication - Zoom, Hangouts or Skype

Communication is critical for geographically dispersed teams. You’ll need connected communication tools that will ensure everyone is on the same page. Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype provide great solutions.

3 Cloud Storage - Google Drive, Dropbox and Box

Cloud storage can be a way to offer everyone access to important documents and files, regardless of where they’re located since many files may be too large or too sensitive to send by email. When choosing a cloud storage solution, look for options that prioritize security, simplicity, and ease-of-use. Google Drive, Dropbox or Box are the preferred picks.

When choosing a file storage platform, also keep in mind synchronization. You want a solution that ensures files are automatically updated to make collaboration work well, and you want accessibility control as well so that you can keep up with who has access to what files and who can change them.

4 Password Management - Onelogin, Okta, 1Password, Lastpass

If you have a password management tool for employees, you can ensure they have access to what they need, but you’re reducing security risks. Password managers typically encrypt passwords and add more security to your overall remote work strategy.

Onelogin, Okta, 1Password or Lastpass are the preferred picks.

The Key Takeaways for
Transitioning to Remote Work

It’s an important time for employers to start evaluating what their contingency plans are during uncertain times, as well as whether they’re equipped for employees to work remotely. 

Employers need to take a look at not just the benefits of employees working remotely, but also what they need to put in place to facilitate the transition.

Sapling supports the world's biggest remote companies

With nearly 1,000 team members, InVision uses Sapling globally to connect and empower their fully distributed team.

Leveraging Sapling's connectivity with their favorite tools including Greenhouse, Paylocity, Okta and more - the people and IT teams are able to build a streamlined, consistent and automated employee experience.

See more Success Stories
Sapling was pivotal in supporting our company scale remotely from 100 to over 1,000 people.

The onboarding connectivity, data and automation bridged the gap from our recruiting machine to successful employees.
Clarke Valberg, CEO of Invision
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