A Complete Guide to Working Remotely

By
Leela Hopkins
VPM Staff
Updated
June 19, 2020

You're ready to start your remote business, but how do you set it up for success? The benefits that online businesses receive from remote working include lower overhead costs due to not having workers on site. You can select employees from all over the world. Plus working remotely gives greater flexibility and can increase staff productivity. With all those advantages we think it's important to go into detail on the most influential tips and tools to make working remotely work.

How to Set Up Your Remote Team for Success

Many remote teams will run into these challenges in setting up a remote team. They can be grouped in these four categories below:

  1. Team camaraderie and culture
  2. Remote hiring
  3. Communication
  4. Remote management

It helps if online businesses and those who support remote work make careful plans beforehand. We’ve listed the solutions to help alleviate or avoid these challenges many remote teams face.

Define Your Company Culture

The culture of your company will shape the type of team members and work environment you create. The following advice will help you set up expectations to contribute to a positive company culture.

Although it’s great to end up with a list of words or values, it is also very important, even more so with a remote or distributed team, to document what you hope your company culture becomes. Your culture is going to be more difficult to grasp for new team members so over communicate it and be clear. This is why continually communicating your mission statement will help workers understand the values they want to uphold for themselves and on behalf of the company.

At VirtualPostMail We Do The Following:

Welcome new team members just like you would in a physical office environment.

At VirtualPostMail we do what we call “Story-Time” where we virtually introduce all the team and spend the rest of the time getting to know the new individual team member through a variety of questions.

Some questions include the following:

  • Tell us about what you did before joining us?
  • What do you like about your role with us?
  • What inspires you everyday?
  • What are you passionate about?

Clearly setting expectations on which communication channels are to be used really helps set the tone and encourages communication. For example, you may want ‘serious’ documentation always by email, whereas casual discussions can be done via Slack. It is important to ask that team members stay logged in to these tools to avoid any barriers to that communication. Something as simple as keeping that tab open will keep the door open for communication as well as creating a more cohesive and collaborative workplace.

Take time to learn about others on the team. If you are physically sitting beside a team member in the office every day, it won’t take long to start learning a lot about them. This becomes more of a challenge when your team is remote. A solutions is having simple and fun activities. It can make a big difference and help to grow a positive company culture with a remote team.

At VirtualPostMail We Do The Following - Hold virtual meetings to keep everyone communicating with culture related news and events through “Lunch and Learn” sessions. At our “Lunch and Learn'' sessions we share TED talks or do activities related to our culture. During the "Lunch and Learn" we always finish by going around asking each team member to share opinions and speak about key takeaways from the hour. For us this helps to not only talk about our culture, but learn more about how others on our team think too.

Open Up Your Talent Pool To Hire The Best People

There are unique advantages and challenges in hiring remote workers. The same standard hiring process you use for employee interviews in person, do not apply.

First, consider what criteria the candidate and future team member should have. You are able to hire people from anywhere in the world, but you must ensure that they have the right qualifications, experience, and knowledge for the role. That is why your job listing and your expectations of the role should be clear and concise.

Remote Hiring Tip

Use project management tools like Asana to manage applicants. This will let you and other remote team members view, comment, and keep track of applicants.

Second, since you can’t have your candidates come into an office you’ll then need to set up a video interview with your list of candidates to get a better idea of the person’s personality, body language, and fit. Take note of how professional they sound and communicate during the interview process. In this way, you’ll see if that person suits your company culture and can successfully meet your objectives much clearer.

Remote Hiring Tip

Interviews should be done face-to-face with the help of technology such as Google Hangouts. Pay close attention to the interviewee’s ability to communicate, body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to get a better idea if they are a fit.

Third, make sure to ask the right questions in your interview. You will be hiring that person for a virtual position, which will require a different set of skills to an office job. Your questions should examine their independent working habits, behaviors under a deadline, and dig out their motivations for working remotely for example:

  • What is your remote work experiences?
  • What tools have you used to complete and manage remote projects?
  • What is a work challenge you ran into and what did you do to resolve that?
  • How do you stay organized?
  • How do you stay focused on deadlines when working remotely?
  • Have you ever had a tight deadline and how did you manage it while working remotely?
  • How would your friends and family describe you?
  • Do you have any hobbies outside of work?
  • Where would you eventually like to be in your career?

Fourth, it is important to ensure that the candidate already has the skills you need for the job. Mentoring or teaching them remotely is more difficult than in an office environment. It’s a good idea to ask your candidate to do online skills tests, provide writing samples, or even show you past examples related to the role, which they can perform during the interview. Thus you’ll avoid any surprises down the line and you’ll be sure that the person you hired can perform well at their job.

Remote Hiring Tip

Evaluating a candidate further might be essential. You can do this by checking their writing strengths using email and writing exercises. If it’s commenting and managing see if they can verbally communicate ideas via the interview with your list of questions.

Overall, here is some rule of thumbs you can use to define the best kind of remote worker to look for.

  • Hire doers - By hiring doers you will get things done. This is necessary for those working from a secluded island. You don’t have to give doers tasks to know that projects and tasks will be completed. However, it’s still necessary to provide direction and guidance around the most important things to be executed and goals for doers.
  • Hire people you can trust - You must trust who you hire because if you find yourself worrying what that person is doing you have a problem.
  • Hire people who can write - In a remote setting communication is one of the most important parts of a remote team.
  • Hire people who do not need a social workplace - People on remote teams must be comfortable without the social setting. The best remote workers will thrive in this type of environment and it takes discipline and focus.

Communicate Effectively

Online businesses need to overcome the challenge of communicating remotely. When you talk in person, there are a lot of physical and other non-verbal cues available to aid communication, but remote conversations can be fraught with misunderstandings.

You can combat this by ensuring that you frequently connect with your team. This might entail some repetition of tasks and expectations, but it’s necessary to ensure everyone understands each other.

It’s useful to employ a project management tool to help with general organization. There are many to choose from, such as, Asana, Trello, Monday.com, Wrike, and it’s a good idea to use one that you know works well for you.

After handling the organizational aspects of your collaboration, set up your means of communication. It can be difficult to make time for video meetings, but they are essential for productivity. And what if you have a quick question that doesn’t need an email? Slack is a lot of companies’ favorites for casual team discussions, but Microsoft Teams work equally well too.

Schedule Meetings Thoughtfully

Good management involves scheduling meetings in advance because you avoid meeting clashes and employees in other time zones have the opportunity to prepare for the meeting request in time. If you do need to hold a last-minute meeting, you should be aware of everyone’s availability beforehand.

A recommendation is to give your team the agenda in advance and also an opportunity to add items about the meeting topics, resources, examples, data, or presentations you'll be reviewing or discussing. Taking follow-up notes after meetings is also useful to make sure everyone has the same information. Google Calendar and Google notes is an easy way to handle thoughtful meeting schedules and share important topics.

At VirtualPostMail We Do The Following - Weekly 1:1s are always held within departments by managers with us. Even if the 1:1s are short we do this because it is important to give and receive feedback and stay on top of things as a team. It keeps everyone on the same page with projects and focused on the same end goals. We highly recommend this on your remote team.

Provide Access to All Tools

Regardless of location, all employees should have access to the necessary tools for completing their daily duties.

Remote workers are likely to require more technology to do their jobs beyond the usual tools such as email. We recommend making a checklist for the individuals, including tools and access information that different departments require.

At VirtualPostMail We Do The Following - We personally like to walk new hires through all the programs and tools that are specific to them during on-boarding. We also introduce new tools as needed along with training. This gives them the chance to ask questions and become confident in the use of the tool before diving right in. Overall, this helps also provide team members with the comfort of navigating our tools.

Tips for Working Remotely

As important as it is for setting your remote teams up for success, it’s equally critical to set up your individual workers for successful remote work. Having to manage schedules within the home environment present their own challenges. So here are some tips that we’ve found to help make things easier.

Put a Daily Routine in Place

Having a set routine may seem pointless when working from home, however, without one it’s easy to procrastinate and lose initiative. A good starting point is using the same schedule as in-office colleagues or creating a schedule you’ve been accustomed to in a physical office setting. This will help keep you on task and manage your time.

You can also set harder tasks for the mornings and easier tasks in the afternoon, when your productivity is lower.

Another idea is to begin scheduling personal tasks and work tasks into your calendar as to also help establish a routine.

Set Up Your At-Home Office Space

If you have an office space at home, this is naturally the best place to work. However, if there’s no such space, it’s a good idea to allocate one particular place to work where you’ll be undisturbed, which helps to separate work and home life. Distractions are difficult to avoid, especially if you live with others, so try to find the quietest environment. When you’re finished working for the day, you should be able to shut down your computer and switch off.

Some people enjoy working from home in the morning and in a coffee shop in the afternoon, to break up the work environment. Keep the work schedule consistent no matter where you choose to work so you remain productive.

Allow Yourself to Take Breaks

It’s often difficult for remote workers to “turn off” or allow separation of work and home, so breaks are needed. Think about how a normal day in an office goes. For example, you get in on a Monday and chat to colleagues about your weekend, do some work, then head to the kitchen to make a coffee.

When you’re working remotely, don’t be afraid to do the same. Of course, you won’t have in-person colleagues to chat with as frequently, but it’s a good idea to take breaks often. Otherwise, burn out can occur quite quickly from trying to work incessantly.

Choose the Right Tools for Remote Working

Working remotely is different for everyone and depends on individual style and the kind of work you do.

Successful remote work relies heavily on having the right tools to stay in touch and productive. The following is a list of the best tools to help your remote team achieve optimal results.

Remote and Online Businesses

Google GSuite

There are two main benefits of using Google GSuite. It's universal and most of your employees will be able to access the platform and possibly be familiar with it. Moreover, you and your staff can use the many available features, such as Google Sheets, Google Docs, Google Analytics, and Google Slides. The shared Google Calendar feature is very useful for online businesses.

Asana

Asana provides management for projects big and small, and is perfect for creating tasks and delegating to team members. This makes it easy to see where and what everyone is working on. It has a chat feature which pops up in each task to keep your conversations organized. You can upload documents from Dropbox or Google Drive to make collaboration easier.

Virtual Business Address and Virtual Mailbox

VirtualPostMail is a good choice if you want a sophisticated way to manage your personal and business mail under one service. It provides you with a permanent business address to use for registering your LLC or corporation. It also offers check depositing, package forwarding, mail forwarding, mail scanning, and free registered agent services.

Zoom

Zoom is an easy to use video conferencing tool, which offers call recording, screen sharing, and the attendees do not need an account to access it. Only the person setting up the call needs an account. This makes it very easy for communication with clients and colleagues both international and domestic.

Slack

Slack is a popular casual chat app suitable for teams, which offers messaging services and the ability to create customized channels that can be used for collaboration.

Accounting

Accelo

Accelo enables visibility across your client database, improves processes, and manages billing all in the one system. This means that it’s easier for everyone to accurately track invoice records.

FloQast

The FloQast tool was designed by accountants especially for use by accountants. FloQast seamlessly integrates with your ERP and Excel reconciliations to simplify your monthly close with a centralized checklist and automated tie-outs.

Virtual Business Address and Virtual Mailbox

Accountants need an address to receive mail such as a client’s company financial files. Use the virtual mailbox for your digital storage of mail and for record keeping purposes. The address is also needed on the company’s website to show the financial firm credibility. Listing a home address as an office address is not allowed in some cases, and in others, it makes the business less professional.

Zapier

Zapier is an expert at integrating multiple applications for accounting.

BizPayO

BizPayO makes payments easy. It offers manual and automatic payment services from bank accounts and credit cards.

AuditFile

AuditFile is a secure, cloud-based solution that helps CPA firms and internal audit teams perform efficient audits, reviews, and compilations.

Receipt Bank

Receipt Bank connects accountants, bookkeepers, and businesses to unlock the value of accounting data.

QuickBooks

QuickBooks keeps everything organized in one place and is excellent for tax purposes. Easy-to-read reports and dashboards help you make smarter business decisions.

Microsoft Access

Microsoft Access can quickly help you create appealing and highly functional applications with its rich and intuitive design tools.

DocuSign

DocuSign helps organizations connect and automate how they prepare, sign, act on, and manage agreements. As part of the DocuSign Agreement Cloud, DocuSign offers eSignature, which is a way to sign electronically on most devices, from almost anywhere, at any time.

Legal

Google Drive

Keeping your files organized in a central online location is necessary for legal online businesses. Team members in multiple locations can easily locate and access files on Google Drive for case purposes.

Microsoft Teams

The Office 365 subscription includes Microsoft Teams. Remote employees will find it useful for communication and collaboration. It works well in conjunction with the Microsoft Office suite of products, such as Email, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Microsoft Teams lets you make voice and video calls as well as offering a direct messaging service.

Virtual Business Address and Virtual Mailbox

With the need for digital documents, mail scanning, mail forwarding, and generally receiving mail and packages you can use a virtual mailbox. Use the business address to register for your LLC or corporation and protect your privacy on state websites. Get a professional business image instead of using your home address that can expose personal information. Conveniently receive personal and business mail under one platform to digitally manage all legal, client, and business documentation for record keeping and tax purposes.

Clio

Clio offers cloud-based software to law firms that handle various law practice management tasks including client intake, contact management, calendaring, document management, timekeeping, billing, and trust accounting.

Scanner App

The Scanner App is a time-proven scanner machine that stays on your phone and can scan almost anything you’d wish to scan.

Casetext

Casetext is a primary legal research tool for lawyers to gather case facts, legal problems and desired outcomes, finding legal information and laws, as well as legal analysis.

Real Estate

Virtual Tours by Google Maps

Invite customers inside with a 360° virtual tour of your property on Google Search and Google Maps.

Virtual Staging Solutions

You can inspire home buyers and help them better imagine their future home, making your real estate listing stand out from the competition.

TruPlace

TruPlace provides floor plan tours, professional real estate photography and professional vacation rental photography, to perfectly showcase your rental properties.

Virtual Business Address and Virtual Mailbox

Enjoy the privacy of a business address instead of using a home address and get a professional business image to conveniently manage your communication with public facing material for customers and clients.

Periscope

Periscope offers a free way of live streaming virtual home open tours to your clients. You can continue to hold open homes, even when people can’t physically be there.

HelloSign

HelloSign can collect e-signatures on documents no matter where you or your clients are. The free version offers 3 documents signed, which is a great way to try it out.

Gmail

Gmail offers many features to connect with your clients plus stay on track of appointments as well as general property information by using their organizational tools.

Conclusion

The tools and advice described in this article can make working remotely much easier. We’ve covered the following that you can implement now.

  • How to set up your remote team for success.
  • Tips for working remotely for individual team members.
  • A list of remote tools (startups and online businesses, accounting, legal, real estate) for specific industries.

Do You Need A Virtual Mailbox or Virtual Address?

As a remote business with no physical location how will you get and mange your mail? You’re working from home and don’t want to expose your private information, what is a good business address to use? VirtualPostMail can solve both of these problems and give you much more to go fully remote.