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Best practices from a remote-first organisation

(Image credit: Image Credit: Perfectlab / Shutterstock)

Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson
implored the British public to remain indoors and only travel when completely necessary in a bid to tackle COVID-19, the global health crisis that is bringing daily life over much of the world to a halt. While the effects have, of course, been acutely felt by individuals as they can only travel outside for “essential trips” - it has also spelt havok for businesses who are now acclimatising to the world of remote working. It has brought numerous new considerations for business leaders in terms of technology and culture that simply weren’t considered before.

Perhaps the most critical consideration for businesses operating in this new environment is their people — maintaining the security of their staff in what is a deeply uncertain time. As many companies made the responsible decision to allow people to work from home before lockdown, they are then faced with the added challenge of ensuring that employees have tools and infrastructure in place to properly do their jobs without exposing the organisation to the risks of cyberattack.

CrowdStrike is perhaps better suited than most for this situation - our organisation is purpose-built to enable remote working across the globe. While many organisations have implemented remote working practices to some extent - typically allowing employees to occasionally work from home or enable a small portion of their workforce to work remotely - CrowdStrike’s distributed workforce is 70 per cent remote and spread around the globe. Companies will find that in this environment, traditional models of ownership, management and work implementation are replaced by documentation, collaboration, and dissemination.

With such extensive experience in facilitating remote working, we believe that remote engineering will play an integral role in the future of the technology industry. The situation presented by COVID-19 shows me that building a flexible remote-first culture is a critical capability for every modern business, regardless of sector, industry or location. Here we have compiled some best practices from CrowdStrike about how to maintain performance and productivity among remote employees, as well as key considerations for building a remote-first workforce:

1. Documentation is the key to success within a remote-first culture.

Documentation is one of the most pivotal parts of implementing a remote-first culture. The integration of documents and technology goes a long way in echoing the office feeling and usual productivity. As such, organisations should start with the assumption that multiple team members will be involved in each task. This necessitates that everything be written down and documented which can be problematic given that different organisations have various documenting processes. For instance, at CrowdStrike, we use tickets, but organisations can also use any number of tracking software tools or systems, many of which are available online for free at a very affordable cost. Simply pick one that suits your organisational requirements and run with it.

Once information is documented, it must also be disseminated. Implementing both the processes and systems to ensure that information is shared throughout the entire team, as opposed to having information sit with pockets of people in the same location, is a critical enabler to success.

Over time, our constant attention to documentation revealed something curious: because everything is written down or recorded, people seemed to be more mindful about how they work. As a remote-first organisation, our employees assume that each task will be handed off - which makes them approach their job with a new level of conscientiousness and consideration.

2. Encourage flexible working hours to improve performance.

One of the benefits of a widely dispersed workforce is that employees are spread across multiple locations, time zones and cultures. While this may not be the case for a lot of companies, this gives an advantage to multinational corporations and in turn minimising disruption from localised issues like natural disasters, political events or health emergencies like COVID-19 that affect everyone, everywhere.

In our business, 24/7 availability is necessary in serving our clients. Breaches can happen at any time, including on weekends or holidays (in fact this is actually more likely in cyber). While our planning and scheduling ensures that someone is always officially available to respond, our workforce flexibility policy is designed to allow people to work when they are most productive - whether that is late at night or on a Saturday morning. Further, because we have strong documentation and dissemination processes in place, our people are free to focus on outcomes and results, as opposed to the hours on the clock. Whilst this approach will need some adapting for most businesses, it will likely pay dividends in staff motivation and satisfaction for all types of business.

3. Leverage technology to improve communication and build engagement

CrowdStrike has been in the business of extreme innovation throughout its history. The processes we have in place today have only come through much experience and learning. When I first joined, we had staff placed across the globe without one central hub to work from. While this is unusual, especially for tech companies, this gave us the ability to build our flexible workforce the way we wanted to.

Complicating matters, the tools to support a remote workforce weren’t fully developed at that point. Over time, we invested in Slack and Zoom, which helped bring the team together. We record team meetings and host digital forums so that people can still participate even if they aren’t able to attend in real-time. Developing a comprehensive technology strategy to help ensure the full engagement and productivity of the workforce is crucial to enabling a remote-first organisation.

4. Consider the culture. Building a remote-first culture requires trust

Trust is an integral part of the implementation of a successful remote working strategy.

As COVID-19 forces many businesses to shift to a temporary remote workforce culture, it is becoming clear that some businesses need to rethink certain aspects of their way of working. For high-functioning organisations, there should be no question that employees will get the job done, whether they are working from a cubicle, a cafe, or their kitchen. Previous experience here suggests that a remote-friendly workforce is not only a necessity for the current situation, but also a preferred format for employees as there becomes a greater emphasis on workplace satisfaction. 

As we continue to watch events unfold, we recognise that our remote-first culture allows our people to live and work in a way that promotes overall health and happiness. We hope that one of the silver linings to our collective COVID-19 experience is that organisations the world over will begin to see the same.

Amol Kulkarni, Chief Product Officer, CrowdStrike