Five tips for managing a remote workforce, from a CTO who works from a decked-out caravan while travelling Australia

Mitch-Malone

Linktree chief technology officer Mitch Malone. Source: supplied.

Many businesses are quickly coming to the realisation that the freedom and flexibility offered by remote working has enhanced – rather than hindered – their team’s productivity.

And post-COVID-19, that realisation is going to accelerate.

My first remote-working role happened by accident. I applied for a Brisbane-based software engineering position while based in Sydney, and neither of us realised the issue until there was an offer on the table.

Now, 10 years later and as CTO of Linktree, I’ve taken my office on the road, working and building the global social tech platform from a decked-out caravan, as I travel the country in search of the ultimate work-life balance (and the greatest rock climbing opportunities).

My belief in the benefits of remote working has only grown stronger — it gives companies access to a greater range of talent than one city could hope to provide. And from an employee perspective, it empowers teams with trust and gives them the opportunity to actually live a full life alongside their work.

Here are a few things I’ve learnt about building a remote workforce and culture.

It comes down to the company culture

It’s assumed that you need to be a certain personality type to be a remote worker, but what it really boils down to is company culture and the strength of your shared values.

Companies that have a defined culture and hold themselves accountable to their values will find that their employees — both in-house and remote — naturally assume and work towards the same goals.

Talk, talk, talk

Whether I’ve been working from the hills in Croatia or beside a river in Dubbo, communication has always been the key.

It’s a common misconception that remote working can be an isolating experience.

In a team setting, it should be the opposite.

A successful remote working strategy requires proactive and always-on communication.

Whether it’s checking in throughout the day, discussing plans or sharing updates, continuous, real-time communication through channels such as Slack and Zoom allow you to create a strong sense of belonging and collaboration.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to success

Every team will be different and it’s not just a matter of slapping on a standard agile strategy and hoping that it works.

While some teams benefit from synchronous morning stand-ups, others prefer to use integrated Slack tools to provide updates and sync.

Success comes from finding the strengths and weaknesses of each team and putting the tools in place to enable them to communicate and work together effectively.

Keep it online

If you intend to create a long-term distributed or part-distributed function, you need to ensure the conversations that happen — whether strategic, product-driven or simply water-cooler — happen online and in the open.

It might be faster to just jump on the phone with the CEO, but it quickly becomes non-inclusive.

Transparency in conversations at all levels helps to further build a sense of trust and team.

Set boundaries and follow them

It’s up to business leaders to set the example and ensure that the lines between home and work don’t become blurred.

Personally, I start my day, dressed and ready, at 8am — the same mindset I would have if I worked out of the office.

When the day is done, I encourage my teams to switch off and use the time saved to reinvest in themselves and their home priorities.

It’s important to work hard, but never at the expense of your mental health.

Where to from here?

Having the foundations in place to expand remotely allows Australian tech platforms to reach a larger pool of talent and to grow more rapidly.

There’s a false assumption that employees perform at a higher level because they have someone looking over their shoulder.

I hope this COVID-19 period has been educational and that those same leaders now realise that high-performing employees are going to be high-performers, whether they are in the office or working remotely.

They simply need the tools and support from leadership to empower them to succeed.

NOW READ: Should bosses spy on workers? How businesses can solve the COVID-19 productivity puzzle

NOW READ: Live local, work global: In the era of remote work, Australia could become a destination for the world’s best talent

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