This article offers 5 great tips on the opportunities of a distributed workforce with a focus on communication.
The global pandemic has made it necessary for most businesses to adapt to the changes that have happened within their organization and are continuing to occur. While many of these adaptations are seen as forced, or negative, there are some new changes that may have a positive impact on how businesses are run today. One of the positive results of these changes is that some business owners are realizing they are able to have employees work from home and are discovering the benefits to this approach. What are the benefits of working from home? Sure, it works for some businesses, but can my business support employees working from home? These are some of the most common questions business owners have contemplated during this time of change.
Matthew Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic and founding developer of WordPress, calls the business approach of having employees working from home a “distributed workforce.” With such a broad, temporary push for work-from-home, it is easy to forget that many companies were already heading in the direction of working from home or using remote workspaces, just like Automattic. In the 4-minute video below, Matt shares his views on having a distributed workforce, along with some tips on how business owners with an office can integrate his philosophy.
If you are looking for more information on Matthew Mullenweg, please checkout Part 1 of this series!
Matthew Mullenweg’s tips for a distributed workforce:
1. Document Everything
This tip is important for 2 different reasons. To begin with, documenting your conversations or thoughts can be essential in the decision-making process. When you are in an office space interacting face-to-face with staff every day it is easy to make a decision with someone as you are passing each other in the hallway or grabbing coffee in the kitchen. If conversations are occurring online behind the scenes between some co-workers, while others are not able to access those conversations, some decisions may be made without all team members having an understanding of what or why something has taken place. It can also be easy to lose track of who has been made aware of the changes that arise from a decision being made. Documenting everything is a solution to these troubles!
The process of documenting exactly what you have done and where you have left off is vital when handing off projects to others within the company, or when employees are joining and leaving the company. It can be a manager’s worst nightmare when a staff member leaves the company and they have absolutely no idea where a project has been left off. More work means more people are involved, which means there is more opportunity for missed information or miscommunication. In order to help with the ease of sharing work and working as a team, track everything that has been done and still has to be done within all projects and tasks. This simple step of recording information becomes especially vital as your business’s distributed workforce grows.
2. Move Communications Online
The more communication you share and give employees access to online, the less time is spent communicating to individual staff members. For example, if you give employees access to a recorded Zoom video meeting that took place, they are able to access and watch the recorded video instead of you having to communicate what was discussed. You also can make communication easier as you can now talk about important issues instantly with staff members, partners, collaborators or suppliers from anywhere in the world with internet access!
3. Find the Right Tools
As Matthew puts it “the things that changed how you work probably aren’t objects anymore. They’re things you access through your computer” – and this man has got a point! Thinking back to recent years, most of the innovations and tools that have come out for businesses are centered around technology and computers. From video conferencing to project management, day-to-day communication and productivity, you can bet there is most likely an app or service created for exactly what you need. Matt’s advice is to “experiment with different tools that enable collaboration, then see what works.” So, time to see what tools are out there for your business to use!
4. Create Productive Face-to-Face Time
Matthew recommends flipping the traditional time that is spent in an office face-to-face. In the traditional setting, you are away from your co-workers only 3-4 weeks of the year, meaning you are together about 48 weeks of the year. For a distributed workforce, Matt recommends coming together for short, intense bursts. At Automattic, they come together for a mix of work and play once a year for one week. The goal of their week together is to help everyone get a deeper connection with their colleagues, all while ensuring all the employees are aligned and on the same page as the company. After this week together, the employees can then go home and use the rest of the year to demonstrate and build on what they learned and experienced at the gathering.
5. Help People Create their Ideal Space
Now that we’ve discussed how distributed workforces offer employees control over their environment, it is important that we also try to support them in creating their own work environment. Matt shares that Automattic offers each employee both a co-working stipend and a home-office stipend. The co-working stipend allows employees to put money towards a co-working space with others, or to simply purchase a coffee so they are able to use the internet in a coffee shop. The home-office stipend allows their employees the flexibility to purchase items that will allow them to create the most productive workspace for themselves.
With the fast-paced, ever-changing world we live in, we are constantly having to adapt; especially when it comes to keeping up with the busyness of business. With proper documentation, online communication, the right tools, productive face-to-face time, and a bit of help creating an ideal workspace for your employees, you could be well on your way down the distributed workforce path. Perhaps it is time to consider the distributed opportunities that could be experienced within your company if you were to distribute your workforce. Who knows, maybe these new workforce opportunities will forge a new path forward!
If you are interested in more information about a distributed workforce, you can access podcasts and a website run by Matthew Mullenweg at Distributed.blog.
Now, we know that in life there are 2 sides to every coin. If you are interested in some of the disadvantages that may come with having a distributed workforce and allowing employees to work from home, check back for our series on “Disadvantages of Working from Home.”