In brief

  • The global coronavirus pandemic has compelled many businesses to adopt remote working practices.
  • Crypto and blockchain firms, with their decentralized ethos, are ahead of the curve.
  • They can offer valuable lessons to teams working remotely for the first time.

The global crisis prompted by the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in governments taking unprecedented measures to curb the spread of the virus. Individuals have been encouraged to self-isolate, and entire countries have been placed in lockdown.

The coronavirus has acted as a catalyst, accelerating trends that are changing the way we live and work; from streaming entertainment to food deliveries, to remote working.

In many ways, the crypto industry is ahead of the curve as far as remote working is concerned. Many blockchain firms are already pioneering this decentralized approach, including Decrypt itself, and its parent company Consensys. 

“Although the crypto community is growing, it is still a rather dispersed community,” says Patrick Flood, co-founder of BlockBR, an asset tokenization firm based in São Paulo, Brazil. “Good luck putting a team together all in one place!” That has its benefits, though. “In my opinion, you will be able to build a stronger team if you open at least some remote positions,” Flood says. 

So what can firms who’ve been thrown headfirst into the world of remote working learn from the decentralized approach of crypto firms?

Your employees already want to work remotely

Even before the coronavirus struck, employees were prepared to embrace remote working. They like the freedom to work anywhere, and the flexibility to make work fit into their lives—not the other way around. In fact, 75% of people think flexible working is the ‘new normal’, according to a recent survey from IWG, and 83% of those surveyed said flexibility would give one company an edge over the other, when faced with two similar job offers.

Flood is surprised by the number of companies that have yet to embrace flexible working. “There is a huge gap between the amount of workers who want to work from home and the amount of companies who hire remote workers,” he says.

He can’t see why companies wouldn’t offer remote working, especially as cryptocurrency itself is creating more remote working opportunities for other industries. “As the world becomes more globalized and cross-border payments via cryptocurrencies become simpler, it will become easier and easier for workers to work from anywhere, for a company located anywhere,” Flood says.

Be flexible, or be left behind.

Be sensitive to cultural norms

In Brazil, employees work Monday through Friday, from 9am to 6pm. Since remote working has been slow to catch on in Brazil, Flood points out that employees in the region may expect to work only those same hours. Other countries take a more flexible approach. “Some developing countries like Thailand have embraced remote work,” he says. “They have grown an industry based around digital nomads.”

Remote teams around the world working hours

Some countries may have a different working week to your own; employees in Jordan, for example, usually work Sunday through Thursday. Understand your employees’ preferred working patterns up front, and do your best to schedule any meetings around them.

Get the right tech

There are all kinds of tools you could use to keep team members collaborating. Popular options include Zoom, Slack, Basecamp, Trello, and Google Drive. You may need to try out a few different options with your team before you decide what works. Or you may decide you don’t actually need anything fancy.

Flood keeps it simple for his teams: Microsoft Word for work, WhatsApp for updates, PayPal and a cryptocurrency wallet for payments. You should also remember that some apps are banned in certain countries; there’s no sense in using Facebook to reach team members in China. Employees may also need new equipment to do their jobs well. Have open conversations from the start about what tools they require.

Brush up your remote hiring skillset

If the coronavirus lockdown continues for an extended period, companies will have to prepare to hire remote workers as well as maintaining their current workforce. The good news is, there are a number of handy tools and resources available to help you work out who would be a good fit and who might not at a distance. 

When it comes to interviewing, career coach Nick Morgan says that live video interviews are a great way of reading how someone deals with pressure, and to establish if they have a genuine enthusiasm for the job. 

Other useful tools include:

  • Psychology Today has a great 102-question test on its website to help test a potential employee's self-motivation.
  • Eskill has a number of off-the-shelf employment tests you can use to help establish a potential employee's skill set.

Encourage people to make the company culture their own

Just because you're not in an office, doesn't mean that company culture isn't important. Remote working companies need to adopt tools that help people feel part of a team. Buffer's head of people, Courtney Seiter recommends creating channels for people to hang out and have the digital equivalent of a watercooler moment. Some of the tools she recommends include:

  • HipChat
  • Sqwiggle
  • Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram and Discord groups for sharing books and other material
  • Self-improvement hackathons
  • iDoneThis

It’s also worth building a social calendar for remote workers. During the coronavirus lockdown, Consensys is hosting daily “coffee mornings,” lunchtime chats and after-work “virtual pints at the pub,” to foster a sense of community among remote employees.

Trust your employees

Above all else, you have to trust your employees. US market research company Gallup surveyed 10,000 people last year about good qualities in a boss.

The number one quality is trust. Remote workers (or, indeed, any workers) will struggle under micromanagement. Plus, you’ll drive yourself nuts trying to constantly monitor people across time zones. Commit now to judge them on what they produce—not when and how.

You need to work with your employees to set deadlines and expectations, then allow them to do their jobs.

How remote working exemplifies decentralization

Flood says remote working has enabled the crypto industry to become stronger ambassadors for cryptocurrency itself. “We now have a means of transferring a scarce digital good (money) without the need for third-party intermediaries,” he says. “When you combine the Internet of information with the Internet of value, you get a complete digital economy. As the digital economy grows, so will opportunities to hire and work remotely.”

It’s not easy to manage a remote team, especially if you’re used to working with a team under one roof.

But the tools are there, as is the desire to work remotely. The future isn’t around the corner, it’s already here—a little earlier than expected.