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Max Ong Zong Bao
Max Ong Zong Bao

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Building a Remote Organisation


Both me and my business partner had been doing our best to build a remote-first startup. Since that is the way that both of us would imagine ourselves to be part of. Besides, I think being a remote-first organisation has the advantage and disadvantage that comes with it.

This becomes more important than ever due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Which could force more people in adopting remote work to reduce the spread of the virus.

Why Remote Work?

The main draw point for us is that the need to get office rentals to house your workers in a single location can be expensive due to land space in Singapore.

Since both of us are a remote worker. Therefore we rent space for meetings that co-working space or cafes around Singapore does the trick for us.

This reduction on the cost could be reinvested to purchase better project management, video conferencing and other quality of life software to help improve the productivity of your employees.

Which helps a lot in allowing you to run lean especially that you are not planning to raise funds from investors or you are just getting started for your startup.

The downside to it is there will be a time task which might take longer to be completed. The turn over rate of employees will be higher as well due to the arrangement and building personal connections among co-workers. From daily proximity in an office location or just bumping into them for a chat during one's break.

Setting Up The Foundations for Remote Work

So far from my experience in working remotely from non-profit organisations, VC and other startups.

Having been a remote worker there are the good and bad organisations out there. Therefore I hope your organisation won't be replicating the mistake these bad organisations

Below is my suggestions on how to build the foundations of remote work based upon by past experience as a remote worker and working with multiple organisations:

  • Converting steps and processes down as documentation or tutorials for each task.
  • Have a manager assigned to onboard new remote workers with access to documentation & tutorial.
  • Establish the order of priority based upon communication channels:

    • Video: Through either Zoom, Google Hangouts, Telegram, WhatsApp or other video conferencing software either as one to one video call or conference call
    • Phone call: Short call for instant communication and confirmation which messaging app like Slack, Mattermost, Telegram, WhatsApp could not accomplish.
    • Messaging: Instant message or responses to questions or other related obstacles encountered while you are carrying out your tasks.
    • Email: Acts as a paper trail or longer form of information where a messaging app is unable to accomplish.
  • Setting up a general chat group, where everyone discusses work to raise concerns, obstacle they face, progress update and to ask questions.

  • Using a project management software like BaseCamp, Trello, Smartsheet to list down the type of tasks is ongoing. Which provide a general overview of involvement for each team members to understand what is going on.

  • Setting a when daily, weekly and one to one meeting. To discuss problems that are faced by your workers.

  • Hiring remote workers who are:

    • Independent
    • Disciplined
    • Result-oriented
    • Great attitude
    • Self-directed
    • Shows initiatives

One way to understand a potential hire or remote worker is to give them a trial paid work of 2 weeks for a particular task to observe their behaviour which has been done by Automattic who is the people behind WordPress.

Tracking Progress & Productivity

This is the part that I tend to disagree with the most is the use of employee time tracking software like Hubstaff. Which is Orwellian for my taste for remote workers.

Having gone through a job previously that employes it to track the time spend per day for a worker feels like a nightmare. Which comes to no surprise that I just quit after a few days. Due to its excessive need to track an employee's time spend, mouse movement with multiple screenshots per day.

Which you could track their progress through your project management software, progress update through the general chat and meeting them daily, weekly or one to one meetings with the remote worker.

Having gone through the employers who use it, feels more of a factory work environment that requires you to clock in and out based upon agree duration of shift.


I hope this will be useful to help to implement the remote organisation. Do leave your comments on how you had implemented it in your organisation.

As while I was researching, there's not a lot of information regarding the various processes and systems to become a remote-first company or built it from the ground up. Besides just cases studies like Invision, Cisco and a few companies that I know of.

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The original post was on Building a Remote Organisation - Reading Time: 4 Mins and cover image by Randy Fath on Unsplash


Top comments (7)

kurisutofu profile image

This is the part that I tend to disagree with the most is the use of employee time tracking software like Hubstaff. Which is Orwellian for my taste for remote workers.

I work from home and the question I'm asked the most is "how do they know you're working?"

I always reply that being in support, it's obvious if I'm not but even so, the company does not really check and just look at the results.
It's a difficult concept to grasp for a lot of people (especially in Japan, where I am).

steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

Wow, I'm actually quite surprised & amazed that you were able to find remote work in Japan.

Since my understanding of your country's work ethic, is that Japan doesn't really gel well with remote work.

Since they work crazy hours and had work policy like you can't leave work until your boss leaves.

Being from an Asian country, I kinda hate this mindset from the older generation that you should work till you drop dead for the company.

I'm a hard worker but I will only work harder for myself than a company that is not mine.

kurisutofu profile image

This is because I'm working for an American company with no presence in Japan :)
It's true that it's very rare to find this in Japan.

That being said, now a very few startups are doing it ... hopefully, it will spread ...

rachelsoderberg profile image
Rachel Soderberg

I couldn't imagine enjoying software monitoring my every movement and "amount of activity per day" - especially as a Software Developer/Engineer! A great deal of our working time is spent physically inactive but mentally contemplating things, or writing on a whiteboard. It's just not possible to measure our productivity by hours of mouse movement or lines of code written per day. I would have quit within a few days as well.

steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

Yup it's kind of mind-boggling that there is such little trust between a employee and employer for it.

Which is instantly a red flag for me if I know that they employ such time tracking software.

I would instantly assume that it is a low wage work because of lack of trust in the employee.

kelkes profile image
David Wippel

Some countries force employers to track working hours. How would you handle that in a remote setup?

steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao • Edited

Hmmm.. I might not operate in those counties or I would request to ask them to send their number of hours worked through their own tracking software like rescuetime.