WOW Christmas Day is in 1 week! 1 week! so soon and still so much to do.

Earlier in 2013 Marissa Mayer – who would seem to be a focused and visionary woman – shook up Yahoo by essentially recalling their remote workforce. Her reasons were valid, she had a vision for a newly energised Yahoo which required reinvigoration of their culture, resetting accountabilities and lifting productivity. Her move came under fire from many sectors, staff in part due to her decision to have her own child located in a nursery adjacent to her office, at-home workers who suddenly had to start coming into the Yahoo office, telecommuting advocates from many companies and then there were the general nay-sayers, the anti-commuters and other vocal groups.

Small and Medium businesses however don’t have the resources to provision an office in more than one or maybe two locations, so find themselves embracing remote workers – whether located in their home, on a customer site or within a shared workspace. A couple of months back I read “Remote by Jason Fried and Heinemeir Hansson the founders of 37 Signals. They admit in the foreword the timing of their book release couldn’t have been better with their core message flying in the face of Marissa Mayer’s initiative. It’s an easy read and I do recommend every business owner and employee who works remotely or wants to work remotely put this on their Christmas reading list.

As a result of both Shane and I reading, and identifying strongly with this book we are working through embracing the key messages from the book, it’s a journey and we are really enjoying how things are progressing to date:

1. Treat the need for Social Interaction Seriously – we operate a co-working space here in Wellington, OptimalHQ, so are looking to locate our remote workforce in similarly social and relaxed co-working spaces. We already used Yammer for all of our communication ie: I don’t send emails to the team unless it’s HR related, all of our internal communication is visible so anyone who is interested can be kept in the loop, so yammer meets a very basic social interaction need.

2. Provide tools for remotely located team members to communicate and collaborate – in addition to yammer we have recently introduced Sococo to the mix, a tool recommended to us by another remote working company Boost. Shane and I are logged into and available on Sococo whenever we aren’t in meetings, it provides a continuous online presence to talk or just listen to the chatter, breakout rooms where 2+ people can have a private chat and share their screens, and large meeting rooms where our whole team can hold meetings with shared screens. The voice quality is excellent compared with skype or google.

3. Hire employees you trust and respect – and then trust and respect them to do good work – we certainly take our time over employing anyone, more so with remotely located team members, trusting and respecting our team is one of our core values, it’s about a happy ending.

4. Schedule In-person meetings a couple of times a year – at the moment I travel alot so meet our remote team members at least once a month, I talk to them online via Sococo everyday and that dialogue flows just like it would if they were sitting in the same office. We are conscious of the need to keep that in-person contact as a consistent part of our team’s operation.

Here are Bronnie and Jonathan sporting their new headsets located at OptimalHQ – it’s been an adjustment but we are slowing getting there and now everyone is on the same basis communication wise which is awesome. Vic.

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