Tips for Transitioning an Office-Based Company to Remote Work // Fast Company
By David Lavenda
Despite the recent Yahoo ban on working from home, many organizations are eager to reap the benefits of a remote workforce. But just as with any organizational change, getting started isn’t easy, in large part due to the struggle of managing information and creating a collaborative environment across a geographically remote workforce. Specifically, it is hard to create a water cooler environment where spontaneous collaboration occurs when working remotely.
So where better to turn for advice than to AIIM, the industry organization of information managers. AIIM, the Association for Information and Image Management, is a global, non-profit organization that provides independent research, education, and certification programs to information professionals. Founded in 1943, there are now over 85,000 participants in the AIIM community, according to Peggy Winton, VP and CMO of AIIM. I figure if anyone should know about managing information, it would be these guys.
“Washington, D.C. traffic was getting worse and worse, so AIIM decided to allow teleworking,” Mancini told me, explaining AIIM’s motivation for allowing employees to work from home. “We started with teleworking one day a week.” At first, select employees were allowed to work from home, and as they gained experience with the organizational dynamics, additional people were allowed to join the program. Next, people were allowed to work several days a week out of the office. As the program became more successful, the organization started to hire remote workers and allow others to relocate away from D.C. The program has been going on for over a year already.
In fact, the program has become so successful that AIIM now has only one “in-office” work day per week. The office is open the other four days, and employees are free to come in and work, but they are only required to come in on Wednesdays. Today, finance and IT people still come in every day, but the reduced use of office space has allowed AIIM to move to a smaller workspace.
Recently, the AIIM office has been reconfigured to take advantage of the new way of working. Office space was reduced and individual offices were eliminated. The organization now uses a hoteling arrangement where employees come in and grab any open space to work; there are no longer any permanent work spaces or offices. AIIM installed a large conference room and some quiet meeting spaces for people to confer without disturbing others. And laptops and mobile devices replaced desktop PCs so people could work from anywhere.
Working from many locations also required the introduction of new collaboration tools to allow people to connect during the day. Skype was originally used for voice and messaging. Email is still used for more formal communication. A recent move to Microsoft’s cloud offering, Office 365, has simplified email administration, and now allows employees to use Lync to communicate internally. Mancini says he himself now uses Lync four to five times a day, but since it doesn’t always work well for multi-person conversations, AIIM also uses outside services for some conference calls. Citrix’s GoToMeeting is used for remote meetings, especially when those meetings include outside parties. Yammer microblogging allows employees to share “what is going on” and recently there has been some experimentation with Yammer Notes to allow employees to co-edit text without having to share documents.
For organizations that want to embrace teleworking, Mancini shared his “lessons learned.” He offers the following 10 pieces of advice: