Employee priorities have shifted over the past eighteen months. According to a recent survey, almost 40% of workers have indicated that they would rather quit than return to the office full time. The mass shift to remote work has shown employees that they don’t have to choose between career and lifestyle, and this new stat shows that employees have no intention of making this choice once offices reopen.
Dr. Bill was started as a remote-first company, years before the shift caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing us to get a head start on building a business and culture that thrives beyond the confines of a physical workplace. As more companies look towards a fully digital workforce as the norm, I’m happy to walk other leaders through how we have fostered a collaborative, mission-driven team.
Building A Connected Team
For employers, a key concern with remote work is being able to keep the team connected and ensure effective collaboration. When the majority of work is virtual, it becomes easy for people to work in silos which can cause a lot of inefficiency or miscommunication. You can proactively get ahead of this challenge by providing ample guidance to your team on the types of work and tasks that can be performed asynchronously (independently and not in real time) versus synchronously (together and in real time).
Challenges are also more easily resolved when colleagues have a relationship beyond their immediate working relationship. To form camaraderie with colleagues, leaders must find ways to create in-person moments, virtually. This can take place in the form of a virtual activity. For example, at Dr. Bill, we organize team lunches where we’ll cover the cost of a meal, jump on a video call, and get to know each other beyond work. Much like an in-person event, this kind of activity helps to spark conversation that is unrelated to work. As a company, facilitating these moments is essential to not only employee wellness, but team communication. If team members can build relationships beyond day-to-day tasks, miscommunication becomes less frequent and conflict resolution becomes easier.
Use The Right Tools For The Right Purpose
With all of the digital collaboration tools that now exist, building a remote-first company has never been easier. The options are endless. To be successful, you need to be clear in defining what tools to use when and for what purpose. Some tools are great at enabling asynchronous work (ie. Email, Slack, Jira, Confluence, Google Docs, etc.), while others are designed to support synchronous work (ie. Phone Calls, Zoom, Mural, Slido, etc.).
In establishing which tools work for your company, it is essential that you are nimble in trying various tools before committing to one. The faster you can say no to a tool that isn’t serving you, the more successful your team will be. Times of hyper-growth often reveal which tools are working and which are not. Watch for signs of friction and be quick to find a new solution.
Foster Workplace Accessibility and Improve Customer Service
In many ways, remote work makes workplaces more accessible, and accessibility is a necessary requirement for fostering diversity. It widens the addressable talent pool by eliminating constraints and increasing flexibility. Ultimately, this makes getting the right people in the right roles easier.
Our team is spread coast-to-coast across Canada. This model has allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of the various regions we operate in and has enabled us to hire experts in those regions.
Another benefit to hiring across geographies and time zones is the ability to provide improved customer service hours. This model ensures customers feel settled, knowing that they have access to support when needed, and employees don’t feel pressured to work around the clock.
Setting Standard Through Mission and Values
What we have found over years of fine-tuning our remote workforce, is that a company needs a mission that teams can build structure around. In addition, supporting the mission with a strong set of values with actionable behaviours is critical.
For Dr. Bill, our mission is to make Canadian healthcare better by making physicians’ lives better. Having a pursuit that is meaningful to all of us on the team drives us to find solutions for the challenges we face, despite not being together physically all the time.
Setting your mission, and communicating it to the team, is key to ensuring employees act and produce work in alignment with your company mission, especially as a remote team.
Whether part-time or full-time, remote work opens up various growth opportunities for companies who embrace it. When done right, customers will receive top-level care, employees will gain greater work-life balance, and your business will feel the benefit of these positive impacts.
Vikram Luthra is the CEO of Dr.Bill.