Fix remote work
Inside 360

Now Is Our Only Chance to Fix Remote Work— Here's How We're Doing It

Companies are at a turning point.

After over a year of COVID-induced remote work, many employers have been persuaded of WFH’s benefits. They’re reassured that its disadvantages are minimal—or at least outweighed by the former. In other words, they’ve seen the light, and are willing to embrace full remote, flexible, or hybrid models, even outside of pandemic conditions.

But let’s not get complacent.  We’re coming off the heels of a once-in-a-century health crisis, and emotions are heady. Just because employers feel this way now, doesn’t mean the pendulum won’t swing back the other way, as it so often does. 

The time was ripe for a more generous remote work policy, and the pandemic pushed the world’s hand. But if we aren’t careful to fully, deliberately, and properly embrace what this represents—a true paradigm shift—we risk backsliding bit by bit into the pre-pandemic status quo. 

Companies that don’t build in room for socializing—remote or otherwise—might see employee complaints about feeling isolated pile up. Similarly, leadership teams who haven’t set up the proper processes to support their new remote-first policies will likely get bogged down in inefficiencies.

At 360Learning, we didn’t need a lockdown to discover that our employees were just fine working from home. In fact, we’d had a remote-friendly policy in place from the very beginning. COVID-19 helped us refine an existing framework, and it’s this new and improved blueprint that we’ll be sharing below. We intend it for any organization that’s ready to fully embrace a different and sustainable way of working.

But if we aren’t careful to fully, deliberately, and properly embrace what this represents—a true paradigm shift—we risk backsliding bit by bit into the pre-pandemic status quo.

Company culture: make it fertile ground for remote work

If you’re serious about building a remote-first work culture, the rest of your company culture needs to be aligned with that commitment. If you go full remote on a dime and haven’t put in place the proper infrastructure, things are going to get messy. 

At 360Learning, we’ve honed our company culture, called Convexity, around a remote-first approach. Concretely, this means:

  • Low meetings. We keep synchronous meetings to a minimum, and are sure to record and share written notes to ensure full transparency. This means time zones and physical distances become much less of a barrier to efficient communication.
  • Asynchronous work. In the same vein, we favor asynchronous work over synchronous as much as possible. We have a robust system for using Trello as a project management and information sharing repository, and each new hire is rigorously trained on how to adapt this process from week 1.
  • Written communication. Hand in hand with low meetings and asynchronous work is a preference for written communication. Trello comments, Google Docs, slides...Projects should be in writing and fully transparent so that everyone has equal access to information, anytime, anywhere.
  • Clear scopes and high accountability. For true asynchronous (and remote) work to flourish, each employee needs to have a clear understanding of their scope and a firm sense of accountability. Many meetings and chats are avoided when there is nothing fuzzy about who does what and who, at the end of the day, is responsible for which projects. We use the OKR system, updated each quarter and shared transparently, to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Metrics-driven environment: How can you tell if you’ve succeeded in the scope you’re accountable for? If the Objectives and Key Results you’ve set for yourself, as measured by the right metrics, are achieved. Using quantifiable metrics instead of subjective indicators keeps everybody honest and on track, whether you’re in the office or 1,000 miles away.
  • Transparency and communication. No water cooler talk or backdoor meetings. Top-down and bottom-up, communication needs to be written, but also transparent and frequent. We avoid emails (too closed off) and we’re sure to maintain a bi-weekly all-hands where questions submitted anonymously are answered. Salaries, performance’s all written, communicated, and public.

We can’t conflate Convexity with remote work—it’s much richer than that—but the former is indispensable for the latter. Though Convexity is a model particular to 360Learning and the culture we want to cultivate here, any organization that embraces at least some of these principles alongside remote work will be better positioned to weather future crises. If leadership teams are serious about sticking to their remote work policies, we firmly believe they need to adopt at least some of these, perhaps with their own, unique flavor added.

Now, for how we specifically approach our work from home policy, here are some starting points:

Any organization that embraces at least some of these principles alongside remote work will be better positioned to weather future crises.

Best practices for successful WFH 

Our blueprint for enabling successful remote working is based on providing the right support and incentives:

We are frugal with our offices

We let 360Learners choose how they want to organize, but ask them to commit: if an employee says they need an office to do their best work, they need to use it—there’s no room for squandering. To that end, we encourage employees to come regularly to one of our offices only if:

  • Their home isn’t suitable for work (too small, you’re renovating, your kids are noisy…)
  • Their activities require a physical presence (hosting a breakfast event for partners…)
  • They need to meet clients in person (kick-off meeting…)
  • They need to team build (after-work event, go out to lunch…)

To manage an inconsistent flow of people, all our offices are operating as hot desks, with booking in advance. This was especially useful during the pandemic in order to ensure social distancing, but it’s continued to be handy for regulating office presence as well, since nobody currently has a desk they can call their own.

We support your home office

So, if you won’t be working from one of our offices, you’ll most likely be working from your home—and we want you to have the setup that you need to be comfortable and productive. 360Learning provides:

  • Essential equipment (high-quality laptop, headset, mouse, external keyboard…)
  • A 200 euro monthly budget for home office set-up and other remote expenses
  • Reimbursement for travel to business meetings and team events

Employees should not feel like they are being penalized or penny-pinched in a remote-first company. Happy, productive employees need the right environment to flourish, and that’s what a corporate budget is for. 

Employees should not feel like they are being penalized or penny-pinched in a remote-first company.

What if you’re a ‘people person’?

At this point you might be thinking that this remote working stuff is all well and good, but surely most people want to have at least some face time with their colleagues?  What about those employees that enjoy an in-person chat, or just like working in the company of others? Yes, we make room for them, too.

Firstly, it’s perfectly acceptable to use your 200 euro monthly allowance to book a coworking space. Maybe you feel like getting out of the house but aren’t within commuting distance of the office, or you might live nearby to a few colleagues. Either way, there’s flexibility for 360Learners to find a coworking spot that fits their needs. 

And then of course, we can’t forget the importance of team building. In addition to the 200 euro monthly budget that can be used to book a coworking spot, we also grant a separate team building budget of 30 euros per person per month. This can be used to book a group class (cooking, wine tasting…), team drinks, game, or what have you—virtually or in-person. It’s essential to enable colleagues to socialize, build connections, and get to know each other informally, no matter what their work setup is. 

A remote-first work policy should not lead to an isolated workforce, plain and simple.

A remote-first work policy should not lead to an isolated workforce, plain and simple.

A 360Learning marketing team building activity done virtually.
A 360Learning marketing team building activity done virtually.

How much do 360Learners embrace WFH?

Working from home can be extremely beneficial for the individual employee and company alike. Removing commuting time (and stress, and budget) can add hours to someone’s day, making them more productive, concentrated, and satisfied: in short, promoting work-life balance. 

It also opens up recruiting possibilities to far-flung applicants and reduces the impact of differences in time zone (increasingly important as companies become more global), and can bring different teams—but also external providers, freelancers, or agencies—onto the same page. The budget that used to be spent on office expenses can now go to better use, and nomad-minded workers can try living in a new city if they’re so inclined.

But the proof is in the pudding. Do 360Learners really enjoy a remote-first policy, or is this all just conjecture? We crunched the numbers, which speak for themselves:

  • 50% of our workforce will not come back to the office even for one day (up from 34% 6 months ago). 
  • More than half of them, 31% no longer live within commuting distance of an office (versus 10% 6 months ago). 
  • Only 21% of our staff says they want to spend 3 days or more in the office each week (down from 28.9% 6 months ago).

WFH isn’t a panacea, but a viable option to consider

Clearly, 360Learners are favorable to a remote-first environment. Good thing, too, because it’s a foundational principle of Convexity. But some guardrails do need to be implemented to be sure that WFH leads to better work-life balance instead of blurred lines and burnout

We also don’t want to squash out the spontaneous ideas that often spark from casual meetings. Convexity does a good job of providing these measures, but we’re always vigilant to be sure the potential pitfalls of remote work don’t start to creep in.

For us, the pandemic only solidified our commitment to a remote-first workplace. For others, it’s a golden opportunity to make the lasting company culture changes needed to embrace remote work in the long run. The risk is that companies fail to seize the moment, or worse—they jump in headfirst without laying the proper groundwork, and end up sliding back to ‘the old-fashioned way’ because of poor results or peer pressure.

Each company has to determine the right set-up for their goals and workforce. But for any organization that thinks remote work is a viable option (and we think it is for many), we hope these details help set you on your path.

And for employees that think Convexity and 360Learning’s mission of spreading the Collaborative Learning movement is right for them? Well, we just might have a (remote) position ready and waiting for you on our jobs board.