What are the signs that remote work is failing? Teammates are not communicating. People are slow to respond to questions. Nobody knows what they are supposed to be working on. Company leaders are ready to give up and demand that everyone return to HQ.

But not so fast -- the distributed approach is not to blame.

The most common reason that remote work fails is not because of the distributed team -- it is because the company did not set the team up for success.

In fact, one study found that while 63 percent of companies today have remote workers, more than half do not have a remote work policy. But there is usually an even deeper issue -- another report shows that 60 percent of all workers do not even know what their company's vision is.

That is a disturbingly high number. How can a company have clear policies on remote work if there is no clarity on the work in general?

Companies cannot help teammates be their best if there is no clear purpose. Without that clarity, people waste time and energy trying to manage how they work with one another -- rather than managing the work itself.

Once you have clear goals and a solid plan, then you can focus on building the right remote work culture and getting the right people in place. The key here is autonomy -- hiring intrinsically motivated people who want to and can work independently.

These folks thrive when the goals and plan are exceptionally clear and the decision-making is decentralized. Give them the framework for success and you are on your way.

I have had the great joy of seeing this in action. As co-founder and CEO of Aha!, I get to witness our 100-percent remote team perform at the highest level every day. We are able to do so because of the commitment to excellence we have made as a company, using the concepts outlined below.

So, ready to think more deeply about your own remote work policy? Here is what has worked for our team:

Clear goals
How can you work well when you do not have clarity around what you are actually doing? Our team at Aha! uses our own software to build and share the plan, connect individuals' work to company initiatives, assign and check off to-dos, and much more. Letting everybody see how their tasks fit in with the overall plan lets them work with confidence and purpose -- no matter where they are located.  

Shared values
Remote work requires a culture of responsiveness and kindness. Colleagues know they can trust one another no matter how many miles separate them. But lip service is not enough -- your company must document these expectations if teammates are to live by them. We pioneered The Responsive Method and it serves as our guiding principles in how we deal with customers and each other.

Real transparency
It is vital that every teammate knows what is happening in every department throughout the company. That is why our team holds weekly company-wide meetings that cover everything from current financials to product plans to initiatives big and small. This not only lets people make more informed decisions and do their job better -- it also helps them feel more connected to the company and to one another, despite being physically separated.

Constant communication
Video meetings give everybody equal opportunity to pick up on those subtle facial and body cues that can mean the difference between momentum and misunderstanding. Frequency is important too. In the spirit of collaboration and keeping everybody informed, managers should have weekly 1:1 video meetings with their direct reports in addition to weekly team meetings.

Having a good plan and the right people in place is important. Make sure the company has the proper culture and structure in place so that all teammates can keep their focus where it needs to be -- on the work itself.

Does your company have a policy on remote work?

Published on: Jun 29, 2018