How We’ve Worked As a Remote Team for Over a Decade

By Emma Watson, Director, EWS Global Talent Sourcing

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans who primarily work from home increased from roughly 9 million to 27.6 million between 2019 and 2021.

That’s an increase of 206%! 

This huge surge in remote work was, of course, in reaction to the pandemic. But our team at EWS has already been working like this since 2010 – for many reasons. 

Our remote work model offers a number of benefits for both team members and clients and suits our values as a company. Since we weren’t forced into a remote-working set-up via a reactive pandemic pivot, when the entire world switched to working online we already had all the systems and supports in place to make it work. 

In this article, we’ll share some of the reasons why we designed our work this way, as well as the insights we’ve gathered from working remotely for over a decade. Also, we’ll cover how we’ve been able to address some of the trickiest remote working challenges and empower our team members to do their best possible work – no matter where they are.

Why Remote Work?

Remote working has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. The advantages this work model offers have had a significant impact on our company’s success and the quality of life of our team. 

Of course, working remotely doesn’t suit every team. Some companies and individuals may thrive better with an in-person set-up. We’re firm believers in taking the time to figure out the work-style that meets your needs, rather than following trends. 

With that said, some of the reasons why we’ve chosen to work remotely include:

It’s Better For Our Clients

Our remote team allows us to cover multiple time zones and offer our services around the clock, which is a huge benefit for our clients who operate globally. 

Also, thanks to a core team and flexible workforce spanning 11 countries across all continents, it means we are able to scale up easily whenever our clients need more support anywhere in the world.

It Allows Our Team to Thrive

By allowing our team to work whenever and wherever they want, we step away from the old-fashioned 9-5 office model that tries to impose productivity from the top down and instead place trust in our team members to do their tasks in a way that works for them. 

Many of our team members have busy lives outside of work. They are responsible for childcare, caring for sick partners and more. Being able to work remotely gives them the flexibility to work and manage their personal lives. 

As long as the work gets done, we allow the team to set up their workspaces and schedules in a way that suits their personal preferences. For many of them, this approach is energising and inspiring.

“Working remotely gives me the autonomy to decide where and when I work, allowing me to better balance my personal and professional life.  For example, I am currently writing this in a coffee shop in Transylvania!” – EWS Team Member

It Gives Us a Competitive Advantage

When you’re able to hire the person with the right skills for the job -regardless of location – you gain a competitive advantage over companies whose hiring pool is limited to their own postcode area. 

We’ve been able to build an agile and flexible workforce that consists of a mix of in-house talent and freelancers, and we’ve developed a pool for specialists over the years for specific markets or niche requests. 

Plus, when employees feel cared for and respected, they often have a stronger connection with the organisation and its goals and they do better work. We improve retention and allow for more diversity and inclusion, which ultimately allows us to perform better as a whole. 

Overcoming Remote Work Challenges

But of course, remote work is not without its own challenges. We’ve tackled these issues head on with clarity, honesty and communication, with the goal of finding solutions that work for the unique needs of our team. 

Here are a few examples of the challenges of remote working we’ve faced, and the strategies we’ve put in place to mitigate against them. 

Remote Work Challenge: Feeling Isolated From Coworkers

There’s no getting around it. It’s easy to feel disconnected from the very real people you work with when your only image of them is a few pixels on a tiny Zoom screen square. Loneliness and disconnection can wear down even introverted remote workers and leave them feeling uninspired and discouraged. 

Our Strategies

The key to combating this issue? Making each member of the team feel seen and making sure they know that their contributions are valued. We do this via regular online and video communication, as well as by establishing a supportive “open door” team culture. 

Also, we make sure our remote workers know that they are free to work from a coworking space or a social environment on those days when they are craving a bit more company than just their cat. 

“Without in-person communication, a feeling of isolation can occur from time to time.  Personally, I can offset this by visiting a coworking space.” – EWS Team Member

Remote Work Challenge: Maintaining A Healthy Work-Life Balance

When the distance between “office life” and “home life” is only mere metres, it can be difficult to switch off at the end of the day. One of the biggest challenges of remote work is the risk of burnout, especially when boundaries between work time and recreation time become blurred and team members are expected to be responsive at all hours. 

This is something we are always conscious of and we encourage our team members to unplug and spend time with their loved ones. 

Our Strategies

A recent study carried out on behalf of Stanford University found that global workers saved an average of 54 minutes per day by not having to commute to work. Rather than trying to recoup that time, we encourage our team to use the time they save for activities that benefit their mental health. 

We take downtime seriously and we strive to give our team autonomy and respect their privacy. They are trusted to finish assignments and accomplish tasks without a team leader or superior constantly looking over their shoulder, and free to work during the hours when they are most productive. 

“Having a flexible work schedule allows me time to go for walks and take some positive steps towards exercise and wellbeing. When I historically worked in an office environment, I felt I should be working and would not take that time to leave and get out of the office. I would end up being indoors all day and sometimes not move from my desk.” – EWS Team Member

Remote Work Challenge: Work Always Brings Challenges

No matter what work model you choose, working together successfully is never easy. Many companies make the mistake of thinking that switching work models is the one-time fix that will make everything suddenly run smoothly once and for all. But of course, there’s no such thing. 

Whether your team is office-based, remote or a hybrid of the two, maintaining productivity and harmony and getting the best performance from your talent requires constant creativity, adaptability and compassion. 

Our Strategies

The most important thing we’ve learned? Hiring correctly is one of the best ways you can set your team up for success.

Not everyone is suited to remote work, so we aim to hire people who thrive in a remote set-up and who are independent and self-motivated. We also seek out people who have strong resilience and awareness. The ability to form and nurture relationships easily via phone or video is also a highly important skill. 

Also, once you build your team of talented remote workers, it’s essential to listen to them and take action on their feedback. After all, your team members know what they need in order to do their best work! 

Share Your Stories With Us!

Does your team work remotely? How do you deal with the challenges inherent in this type of work model? We’d love to hear about the creative strategies, policies and ideas you’ve come up with. Please feel free to share them in the comments below!

P.S. If you know anyone who would find this article helpful, please feel free to pass it along to them! 

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash