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Transitioning to permanent remote work? 4 Cross-functional considerations to make beforehand

As more companies are going public with their long-term remote policies, permanent remote work appears to be more of a reality for the way we work moving forward. During our webinar focused on, “Managing the Cross-Functional Transition to Fully Remote,” panelists from GitLab, Shopify, and Workable joined us to discuss the major considerations their respective companies made to transition to permanent remote. 

At this point, while we may not understand everything about the duration of this pandemic, we’ve come to understand that COVID-19 is not going to simply go away within weeks.In Workable’s recent “New World of Work” report, 71% of respondents said remote work and distributed teams will be a major paradigm shift moving forward. It would seem that companies are indeed entertaining the idea of transitioning to remote-first, if not permanently then for an extended period.

Additionally, we found that 74% of recruiters and talent acquisition professionals said they were either exploring permanent remote work, in the process of going fully remote, or have already made the transition. As Hired recently announced our move to be fully remote, such a transition could not have been made by a single person or function but through the collaboration of leaders across the organization with employees in mind. Among the many considerations that are made when deciding whether to become a permanent remote company, everyone on the panel focused on four key areas. 

Financial implications

As far as financial considerations of being remote-first, the idea of relocation — especially to areas with lower costs of living — becomes more accessible and attractive to many employees. In our 2020 State of Salaries Report, we discovered that 53% of tech workers surveyed mentioned they would make the move if they were able to work remotely, with 64% who said they’d potentially relocate within the next 3 years. Despite having that insight, Craig Diforte, SVP of Finance at GitLab warns that if companies have employees who are working in various states or jurisdictions, there are payroll, corporate income tax, sales and use tax implications that should be considered. Depending on how long an employee is within a jurisdiction, it can trigger corporate income tax and sales/use tax for the company. The key is doing your homework and consulting with your tax advisor and your payroll provider to make sure you are appropriately managing your tax risk as you consider how employee mobility may impact your bottom line.

In addition, there could be new costs that are incurred which are associated with team off-sites, group bonding activities or home office allowances/reimbursements that are worth accounting for — especially if you are a larger organization. Diforte (GitLab) provides these examples needed to keep infrastructure and company culture happy and productive.

Infrastructure of work

When it comes to the infrastructure of work, our panelists describe how the top three priorities for them included technology, physical space, and documentation. Employees need to be set up to work effectively. This is where companies may need to consider the costs of hardware or connection modifications needed. With respect to physical space, companies invest a lot into their office spaces that they may only need a portion of now. Of the people who could potentially need or want to return to the office, companies would most likely benefit from downsizing their space to account for the offset of employees who will be working remote. Diforte of GitLab recommends that companies do a cost analysis while also asking themselves if they need a physical space, if they could change the space they currently have, and if the costs of the current space could chang  to better meet their current and future needs. Lastly, David Sakamoto, VP of Customer Success at GitLab, includes that documentation of meeting agendas, minutes, business processes and decisions is key to ensuring all team members can be in sync regardless of not working alongside each other physically. No matter where employees physically work, this helps to prevent any lapse in communication and enables folks to work more effectively async if needed.

Work-life balance

In a recent Workable survey 45% of executives said productivity is a top concern when it comes to working remote. Conversely, Sakamoto shared that leaders should be more concerned with overproduction vs. under-productivity during this time. Employees may suffer from Zoom fatigue, employees isolating themselves, and burnout. Jen McInnis, Senior Lead of Talent Expansion Operations at Shopify, theorized that there is an impostor syndrome of working from home where employees can’t see what their peers and colleagues are working on so individuals may feel like they need to not only work harder but more hours in order to keep up. Fear of not doing enough can perpetuate feelings of isolation and burnout, both of which need proactive management.

McInnis (Shopify) shares that Shopify offered a solution to this problem where it has placed more weight on impact over the hours they put into their work week. This helps confirm for employees that their impact is valued more than working late nights just to get a project done. She states how, considering COVID has presented the worst version of working remotely, companies shouldn’t lose sight of other circumstances employees are facing in the midst of maintaining their full-time job. How employees are contributing and making an impact to the company adds more value toward achieving goals and shipping products compared to expecting work outputs during traditional working hours. 

Employee connection

Last, but certainly not least, is the importance of the remote employee experience while working remote especially during a pandemic. When you transition from from in-person to digital first experiences, companies must reimagine and reinvent their culture. Sakamoto encourages companies to assess their company values and determine what values might help or hurt the organization when being fully remote. McInnis shared that a strategic move that the company made in their transition to remote was to move from cities and locations to timezone regions. Within each respective region there is at most a 4-5 hour time difference between them so there’s an opportunity for both synchronous and asynchronous work within the teams. As a rule of thumb, it’s critical for management to help instill a remote culture that is intentional with communication, staying connected and checking in colleagues and peers more often than not.