Five lessons about remote working that could help you and your organisation make lasting change.

My focus is now on remote work coaching and part-time CFO roles. Before that, I worked for multinational tech companies with complex operations and diverse teams. In my most recent role as CFO and Ops director for Asoko Insight, I saw remote working as a massive cost-saving opportunity – and something that would enrich the lives of our employees. So, we went 100% remote worldwide; years before the pandemic.

Change must come from the inside out

I appreciate that most companies had to go remote suddenly during the pandemic. However, gigantic changes like this usually need time to plan, organise and embed. We can go backwards and make a cultural change, but a cultural change only comes from the inside.

Give everyone a book about remote work. Have a Zoom meeting and ask all staff for their unique takeaways. I can recommend Remote: Office Not Required by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried.

Human connection is vital for all us. If you are part of senior management, the relationship between your team members is your responsibility; it will make or break your team impact and efficiency. Do weekly sessions on alignment; to make sure everyone is on the same page, let employees present and participate.

Give team members a go at management. I used to get random people from the company to do some of my tasks for a day. Giving responsibility to employees is one of the best ways for engagement and motivation. Encourage employees to lead remote communities, out of office activities or a fun hour.

Turn people management into engagement

One of the best things we introduced was peer-to-peer reviews. We changed our entire employee evaluation strategy.

Before, a process team manager evaluated each employee. We would sit down every six months and 12 months for an employee review.

We changed it to a more engaging and inclusive review system, where team members review each other and even review their managers. We simplified things by asking five questions to each employee about their peers. This whole system worked in creating a strong bond between employees, entirely in a virtual environment.

Virtual OKRs

Every company has a vision, a set of objectives and a way of measuring their progress. We created a hybrid method of managing our employees and making sure our alignment was strong.

OKRs stands for Objective-based Key Results. It was made famous by Google. Now a lot of successful companies use it. We decided to follow suit but changed it to work for an all-remote company. This graph shows, in simple terms, how it works:

It creates a visible alignment between an employee’s connection to the grand vision of the company. This gave us a chance to improve efficiency, stay connected and measure team progress. It also gave employees view between what tasks they have to do (no matter how small a job) and what impact it has on their team and the vision of the company.

You will need a foundation and framework for building a remote-working company. You can feel like you are lost and not motivated – this is one of the biggest reasons I educated myself in these methods. But a sense of connection is all you need to create!

Digitise operation and finance functions – a real-time dashboard visible to all

As a CFO, I need to see all kinds of data; be it financial, operational, or technical. A real-time dashboard is a CFO’s dream, now possible with the latest tech. It is incredibly vital for a remote company.

Create a dashboard with OKRs, KPIs and employee highlights – track visits to this dashboard to make sure everyone visits it once every day – this creates an all-important hub that is extremely important, and CFOs should be driving this entirely.

Remote working as the CFO

Remote working has many benefits. We cannot compare remote working during a pandemic to how it would have been if we could still travel the world or to our favourite coffee shop to work.

The most important things for me are mental wellbeing and organisation. I honestly believe you can get more work done when you do not spend all your time looking at the screen. Take a walk around the house or go to the nearest coffee shop or call a friend. Also, organise your day. If you don’t, you work without purpose, and you need one – every day.

Hayat Amin is Director of Beyond Elevation, a consultancy service that helps companies go remote and provides a pay-as-you-go CFO service.