How to Set Up A Fully Remote Company in 10 Steps

Hiring Remote

Now that you see all the benefits of remote work, you may want to create or transition to a fully remote company. This guide of stress-free tips shows you how:

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Did you know that We Work Remotely has been a fully remote company since 2013? Despite our close-to-10 years of virtual workplace experience, we’re still learning how to best support remote teams. And we love sharing the tips we pick up along the way.

However, nothing could have prepared the remote world for COVID-19. As we saw in our State of Remote Work in 2020 Quarterly Reports, companies had to quickly transition to an emergency remote work environment to protect their employees and prevent spreading the coronavirus. 

Now, businesses are trying to decide whether their employees should return to the office or continue working from home. 

Since both companies and employees saw the benefits of remote work from a first-hand perspective, it’s no surprise that many are choosing to transition to a fully remote workplace as a result.

So if you’re curious about what it takes to join these trailblazers, this guide contains a roadmap of all the steps you’ll need to take. 

How to Set Up a Fully Remote Company in 10 Steps

Before we begin, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. What’s the difference between a fully remote, flexible, and hybrid company?

A flexible workplace gives employees the freedom to work remotely or on-premise whenever they choose. And a hybrid company allows certain employees, but not all, to work off-site full-time.

But a fully remote company doesn’t have a physical location where employees work. Instead, business happens in the virtual realm. Employees work from home or at their local library, coffee shop, park, etc.

Not sure which model is best for your company? We discussed the pros and cons of becoming a remote-friendly company in this guide and dished upsides and downsides of a hybrid WFH model in this one.

To set up a fully remote company, just follow these 10 steps:

1. Let Everyone Know About the Remote Transition ASAP

Companies that went through a temporary remote work model because of COVID-19 should let their teams know they’re transitioning to fully-remote as soon as they decide. 

The truth is, some employees may not like working remotely, and that’s okay. Remote work isn’t for everyone. The sooner you let employees know about the transition, the more time everyone has to make arrangements one way or the other.

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To figure out a timeframe, see how long it will take your company to handle the technical aspects of leaving your on-site location, such as getting out of your lease, canceling utilities, replacing on-prem software with cloud-based solutions, etc.

Once you choose an official start date for remote work, share it with your team. Employees will be expected to work remotely and follow all remote work-related policies starting from this day.

2. Create a Remote Work Policy

Just like a standard work policy, a remote work policy outlines all the rules and guidelines for working remotely. Reading this will tell employees more about your company culture, what’s expected of them, and how to conduct themselves in the virtual workplace.

So before making the transition, outline a remote work policy that addresses:
  • How employees should communicate 
  • How employees will track their work hours (if needed)
  • Which software they will be expected to use
  • How project management, deadlines, and deliverables work
  • How productivity will be measured and performance evaluated
  • Work breaks, sick leave, and vacation policies
  • Workspace safety and security

Check out our guide on How To Create a Policy For Working Remotely for an in-depth rundown of this crucial step.

Make sure to consult with HR and team leaders from all departments to draft a comprehensive remote work policy. And try to update your policy each year.

3. Determine Employee Availability, Scheduling, and Time Off

One of the perks of remote work is having a flexible schedule. However, certain roles, such as those in virtual customer service, may require you to schedule employees’ work hours for specific times.

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So in order to limit employee work hours and create healthy work-life boundaries, you’ll need to outline rules for employee availability and scheduling, such as:
  • Who can work flexible hours
  • When employees must have availability (and in which time zone)
  • When they must take breaks (to discourage off-the-clock violations)
  • Vacation time
  • How employees should convey sick days / when they can’t work
  • Short-term and long-term disability policies

Keep in mind that global teams don’t keep the same schedules. As the remote team at Doist learned, it didn’t make sense to give all employees the same days off since they celebrated holidays at different times. So they standardized 40 vacation days per year for every team member to use as they wish [*].

4. Decide Which Remote Tools Your Team Will Use

Remote work only became possible within the last 10 years thanks to the rise of cloud-based technology. Now, teams can connect online instead of working in the same office.

Your remote work policy should outline which tools employees will use for their various work tasks. This software should seamlessly integrate with your current processes. Depending on your business, you may need:

Project management software for teams to organize, collaborate on, track, and deliver projects. These virtual HQs offer a streamlined workflow where anyone on your team can check in, work on, or monitor deliverables remotely. Check out options such as Trello, Basecamp, and Asana

Cloud storage, where employees can upload, access, share, edit, backup, and download files and information from one secure location. Dropbox and Google Drive are popular choices here.

Communication and video conferencing tools, such as Slack, Skype, and Zoom. When everyone uses the same tools to stay in touch, your remote team can collaborate productively and reduce miscommunication. 
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Time-tracking software, which keeps employee hours from going over budget/overtime. Look for software that integrates with your HR and payroll platforms for simplicity. 

A virtual private network (VPN) may be called for if your remote team handles very sensitive material (such as medical records or credit card data). This enhanced cybersecurity may protect your company from unintentional data leaks.

You’ll find both free and paid versions of software falling in these categories. Try to test out a few to see which ones your team likes best.

5. Establish Communication Guidelines

Remote teams must communicate more than on-premise employees. However, this doesn’t mean you should bombard virtual teams with emails and Slack messages 24/7. This type of micromanaging lowers productivity and leads to distractions.

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So set clear communication guidelines that cover:

  • Which communication channels should be used (i.e., Slack for daily check-ins and Zoom for weekly meetings). 

  • Communication frequency. When employees expect a daily stand-up or weekly video call, they can prepare thoughtful contributions and work them into their schedules.

  • Ground rules for virtual calls, such as going on mute if you’re not speaking and silencing notifications. You should also let employees know when they’re expected to be on video vs. audio calls.

  • Message response times. When you switch to asynchronous communication, employees can take their time to respond to messages. However, you’ll want to set guidelines for availability (i.e., do not disturb times) and response times (for example, Slack messages need a reply by EOD).

6. Determine Workspace Setups and Expense Reimbursements

Employers typically provide all the equipment, software, and tools employees need to complete their jobs on-premise. So you may want to create a “workspace in a box” that contains everything a remote employee will need to hit the ground running, such as:
  • A laptop or desktop computer
  • High-speed internet
  • Cell phone or tablet
  • Membership for remote software, apps, and communication tools
  • Office supplies
  • Ergonomic office furniture (i.e., chair, desk, wrist pads, etc.)

If you don’t want to provide this equipment, you can reimburse your employees or give them a one-time stipend to cover these expenses. 

Certain US states (like California, Massachusetts, and Illinois) actually require employers to reimburse employees for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred during work hours. So check your local laws to see what you’re responsible for.

7. Implement an Effective Remote Onboarding Process

A remote onboarding process helps transition new remote employees. Managers and team leaders will set clear expectations, run through your remote work policy, answer questions, and make sure everyone has and knows how to use your remote tools and software.

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During your remote onboarding process, you may want to:

Psst! Check out this Guide to Onboarding Your (New) Work From Home Employees for more helpful ideas!

8. Provide Support for Your Remote Managers

Managing a remote team isn’t the same as managing an in-house crew. And if you don’t give your managers adequate training, support, and resources, they may struggle with leading, motivating, and training your virtual employees.

These resources will help your managers be their best:

9. Brainstorm Remote Team-Building Ideas

Your remote employees can feel isolated, disconnected, and lonely working solo every day. But making it a priority to connect and socialize strengthens company culture, creates a fun virtual work environment, and unites teams for better collaboration. 

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The Zapier team hosts virtual dance parties every Friday afternoon, for example, and GitLab uses virtual coffee breaks for team social time [*][*]. To keep your crew engaged, consider working in these 5 non-cheesy team building tips for remote employees.

10. Hire More Remote Employees

As you transition to a fully remote company, you may lose current employees along the way. You may also be able to add new team members with the money you’re saving. Either way, you’ll need to learn the ins and outs of hiring remote employees.

These guides will help you stack your global team with winners and ensure you comply with legal hiring guidelines:

Here’s another remote work tip: skip the mega job boards. These sites aren’t optimized for virtual employment, so you may spend a ton of money to post an ad without any strong candidates to show for it.

We Work Remotely is the largest remote work community in the world. Post a job here, and you’ll have over 2 million visitors with actual remote work experience check it out.

Once you complete the steps in this guide, you’ll be a fully remote company ready to make the virtual workplace your new norm. And you’ll have eager candidates ready to join your remote team. Let us know how it goes! 

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