Remote Work At BELAY
* As of December 2019
BELAY Remote Company Q&A
Tricia Sciortino, COO - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
We provide virtual staffing solutions for small businesses.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
We were remote from day one.
How important is remote work to your business model?
Remote working is our business model. We took the remote working concept and created an organization around its efficiency, necessity, and flexibility.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
There are so many benefits that mean something different to each individual. Here are a few we see and hear about frequently at BELAY:
- Flexibility with schedule
- Avoid long commutes to the “office”
- Better work-life integration (present parent/spouse)
- Organization cost savings (office overhead/expenses)
- Employee cost savings (attire, gas, meals, attire, after-school care, etc.)
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
We saw a gap in the marketplace and knew people and organizations would benefit from the remote workforce. With a remote worker, you are not bound by location to find great talent. It also allows the talent to work with high employee satisfaction and flexibility.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
- Is this person a team player? Is he/she excited about joining a team and accomplishing goals together rather than looking to be an individual super star? A humble but driven personality is a great indicator of a team player.
- Strong work ethic: We work hard and play hard around here. We love people who like to have fun but also place big value the “get it done” attitude. Our organization works at a very fast pace and we demand excellence. When talking with candidates, I listen for examples of grit—when life or a job was tough and how they persevered. I’m looking for someone who is willing to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty to accomplish a task/goal.
- Passion: If I can determine that someone has passion…for something, anything…then they usually have the ability to get on board and live out the company’s mission. Their work will have purpose, and that is very important to us. This is one of the main reasons I love meeting with people via video. I love to ask what he/she is passionate about and then sit back and watch and listen. I can feel their excitement. This is what I want for our customers. I want someone who is passionate about what we do and as a result our customers can see it and feel it too.
- Professionalism: When interviewing a candidate, I would expect him/her to be punctual and dressed appropriately. I listen for good communication skills and how well he/she is able to articulate their skills and experiences. I appreciate when research was done prior to our meeting and the candidate comes prepared with thoughtful questions for me regarding the company, team, position, and future growth. This level of preparedness shows me that the candidate is serious about this opportunity and his future career.
- Tech Savvy: Ability to be comfortable in a remote work setting is important as it’s not for everyone. Candidate needs to have solid knowledge of the programs, software, and technology we use to run our business effectively, and be resourceful enough to figure things out.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
We use video conferencing for all of our interviews (Zoom), except for the final. [There’s an] initial screening interview to gauge culture fit and adequate skill requirements (HR). Then a second video interview with the hiring manager to deep dive into experience and personality fit within the team.
From there, the candidate will interview with a member of the team he/she is applying for. The candidate will hear about “day in the life” and have an opportunity to ask questions of someone currently in the role. The BELAY team member is also looking for culture fit for the company and the team, as well as experience/knowledge that relates to the position.
The final interview is done in person, typically over coffee or lunch. Over the course of the interview process, we have a series of essay style questions for our candidates to answer, a personality test, and we check references.
Do your remote team members meet in person?
Yes, twice a year we pull every corporate team member together for a few days where we are inspired by guest speakers, encouraged by our own leaders and teammates, and celebrated by those we call friends, family, and coworkers. Additionally, we have quarterly on-sites in smaller groups to collaborate and work together and build unity.
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
- Open and frequent communication: It is so important to over-communicate and follow up with team members afterwards to ensure the message was perceived as intended and if there are any questions. We rely on email and chat so much that it is critical to know when to pick up the phone or even have a video conversation. Because everyone is remote, fostering communication builds relationships and bonds team members. We don’t want people feeling like they are off on an island somewhere.
- Trust: We like to say “fill the gap with trust” here at BELAY. When you can’t walk down the hall to see if someone is working on that time-sensitive project, you have to trust that your team members are doing what they say they are doing and that they will deliver a quality product to you on time. Treating people like professional adults and giving them the trust and flexibility to be present at work and at home pays off in increased productivity.
- Technology: Having the proper technology allows us to feel connected (team, clients, etc.) as well as work effectively and efficiently.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
Our PTO/VTO is generous and flexible. Our full-time employees get five VTO days/year (Volunteer Time Off), as well as 15 days PTO (personal time off), and three bereavement days.
What were your biggest fears in managing remote workers?
I don’t know that we had any preconceived fears in working remotely, but I think generally speaking most organizations are fearful of remote workers because they fear productivity will decline. However, the fear is unwarranted. Statistics show that remote workers outperform their in-office peers due to lack of distractions (office parties, anyone?) and there’s an overall increased employee engagement and happiness due to reduced commutes and better work-life integration.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
We intentionally started a virtual staffing agency with the intent of showing the world how this can be done, and by living it ourselves.
How do you nurture your company’s culture in a remote work environment?
- No gossip policy
- Empower employees who know they are trusted
- Servant leadership—invest in our people (holistically, not just professionally)
- Live out our core values and mission
- FUN! Virtual coffee talks and happy hours over video conferencing, family and service days. Workplace by Facebook to encourage “water cooler talk” in a virtual environment. Work hard, play hard mentality
- Activities that encourage team members to spend time with others outside of their department
- VTO – volunteer time off benefit to serve in your community
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Trust. It will take large amounts of trust as you won’t be able to “see” the work of the team. And hiring those who are self-motivated and trustworthy with the work is crucial for its success.
Technology. You’ll use more than you think and you’ll need to be tech savvy, as well as those on your team.
One of the very first things a leader should do when starting a business is to clearly define their core values and identity. And that doesn’t mean just throwing together a generic mission statement and asking your employees to memorize it. For a culture to be compelling, it needs to be both unique and recognizable.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
The hardest part of managing a remote workforce is creating and maintaining a dynamic culture. You must be intentional about setting expectations and over communicating. Your team will follow your leaders. So, make sure your leaders are transparent and available. Be willing to work together through multiple communication platforms like instant messaging and video conferencing. Accessibility builds trust and cohesion.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
- We use video conferencing—Zoom—to be able to engage with each other, build relationships, read body language, etc.
- Chat/IM/Slack—for those quick chats that you don’t want to get lost in email. From one-on-one conversations to group messaging, it enhances collaboration and is user-friendly.
- We know when we need to pick up the phone to communicate with team members.
- We encourage transparent communication, address any issues, and have a no gossip policy.
What has changed about how your remote team operates?
We leverage video conferencing more and more to communicate and “see” one another. It has helped fill communication gaps by allowing us to read body language and see facial expressions
What are the biggest benefits of being a remote worker?
Living in the metro Atlanta area, it’s hard not to mention traffic. The increased productivity from eliminating commutes is a big benefit of working remotely. Fewer office distractions also help to increase focus on important business initiatives. Ultimately, the productivity boost resulting from working in a remote office allows me to carve out intentional time dedicated to important parts of my life like my participation with volunteer organizations and spending time with my treasured family.
What tips do you have to disconnect when working remotely?
Finding and protecting a work-life balance is important for the remote worker to be able to disconnect. Tips for establishing a work-life balance include proactively mastering your calendar. Plan out your schedule by blocking times for specific activities. This includes planning free time. Once you have established calendar rules, stick to them. Establishing a strategy for answering emails also helps to disconnect by alleviating the pressure to check your inbox during established non-working hours.