Building teams for remote work
The flexibility and freedom of remote work opportunities presents many attractive perks to employees and employers. But working remotely can also come with its own set of challenges - particularly while building a remote team that’s productive, resourceful, and successful.
How to create a strong remote team
Face-to-face interactions with employees build accountability and motivation. But what if the team is distributed?
Here are a 5 key tips when building a successful remote team:
- Make sure all the team members are on the same page. Remote teams can easily become disjointed if team members aren't working towards a shared goal. With that in mind, make sure everyone agrees on predetermined objectives before starting work remotely.
- Set clear expectations. When working remotely, it's important to set clear expectations for what each team member is responsible for. This will help prevent confusion and ensure that everyone is held accountable.
- Communicate often. One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is staying connected with your team members. Communicate often, both in person and through remote working and telecommuting tools. For the best results, make no assumptions; overcommunication is key.
- Find the right people for the job. In order to create a successful remote work team, it's important to have the right people in the right roles. A project manager is essential to keeping projects on track and ensuring that everyone agrees.
- Document everything. By documenting all communications, remote teams can ensure that everyone is on the same page all the time. This makes knowledge sharing easy and onboarding a breeze.
It's also important to have someone who can be the point person for human resources issues, such as hiring and onboarding new employees, and resolving any points of confusion or potential conflicts. Other key roles include a virtual assistant and technical support experts, like software engineers. By handpicking the right people for these roles, your remote work team will be off to a successful start.
Hire workers with the remote frame of mind
As a recruiter, you're always looking for the best talent to fill your company's open positions. And while there are many talented workers out there, the reality is, not everyone is a good fit for remote work.
Building a team that sits idle and views time at the desk more important than completed projects will miss deadlines and inevitably cause headaches.
With that in mind, when you're screening potential candidates, look for those who have an entrepreneurial, remote frame of mind. Self-starters and professionals that can work with “loose” requirements feel more comfortable working independently and won’t need constant supervision. The right employee for the job should also be good at managing their own time, are intuitive, and self-motivated.
Give your team what they need to be productive
The future of work is all about giving your team what they need to be productive. This means providing them with the right remote training software and resources. Thankfully, the rise of remote working and the digital nomad movement has led to a proliferation of remote work and collaborative tools designed to help professionals stay connected.
Here are some key features to look for in a collaboration software:
- A messaging system that allows for real-time communication. This is essential for real-time collaboration and updates between team members.
- File sharing capabilities so that your team can effortlessly share documents, images, and other files between themselves.
- A task management system that allows project managers to track and assign tasks, as well as receive updates on work-based tasks.
- A remote website or remote browser that can be used for either cobrowsing or to provide customer support and customer success.
- A chat room where team members can discuss topics unrelated to work projects. This can help build camaraderie and bolster morale.
Managing Remote Work
Just like managing people in a traditional setting, managing remote teams presents its own set of unique challenges.
To ensure your team continues finding success in a remote setting, here are some best practices that you can employ in a team’s workflow.
Best Practices for planning and meetings
- Plan regular remote standup meetings and send out an agenda ahead of time. This will ensure everyone stays accountable, is prepared for the meeting, and will contribute something of substance.
- Make sure attendees have access to the necessary equipment and are familiar with how to use them. This includes a computer with a webcam, microphone, and stable internet connection, as well as any software required for the meeting.
- Stick to pre-agreed time commitments by reminding participants of any time limitations. This is particularly important for teams that are spread across multiple time zones.
Best practices for project planning
- The goals and objectives of the project should be clear. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and clearly understands what goals they are working towards.
- Create a plan that includes a timeline, budget, and a list of tasks to be completed. This will establish that the project must be executed efficiently and on time.
- Stakeholders should be kept up to date on the progress of the project and any changes or updates to the plan. This will avoid any surprises or delays later on in the project.
Best practices for virtual meetings
- Whether it be the entire team or a 1:1 virtual meeting, plan for interruptions and make sure everyone knows how to handle them.
- Keep virtual meetings short and focused, and avoid talking about non-urgent topics over video or voice calls.
- Follow up after the meeting with any actionable items or next steps that were decided upon.
Agile Reporting and tracking tools
In order to manage remote work successfully, it’s important to incorporate agile reporting and tracking tools into your team’s workflow. These tools allow both managers, supervisors, and team members to track deadlines, progress, and identify potential problems before they balloon into serious issues.
One of the most effective ways to do this is with Kanban boards.
Best Software Tools: Kanban
Kanban boards are a visual way to track work as it flows through the structural processes you have in place. To give you an idea of how this type of software is used, Kanban boards are typically, but not always, made up of cards that are placed in one of three columns: To Do, In Progress, and Done. As tasks move through the flow, the cards are moved from one column to the next.
Most notably, Kanban boards help remote teams see where their process is bottlenecking and will visually assist in identifying opportunities for improvement.
Engaging and motivating remote teams
The best way to avoid remote work failures and instead engage and motivate a remote team is by using a variety of methods. These include:
- Establish common goals and objectives. Remote teams can be held together and driven to success by establishing and agreeing upon common goals and objectives. This will create a sense of purpose for the team, regardless of their physical location.
- Encourage communication and collaboration. One benefit of working with a remote team is that team members can be spread out all over the globe. However, this also poses a challenge, as it's difficult to ensure everyone is kept in the loop. Encouraging communication and brainstorming is key to overcoming this obstacle.
- Facilitate regular check-ins. In order for remote teams to feel connected, it’s important to have regular check-ins where team members can share updates on their progress and any challenges they are currently facing.
4 Ways to Invest in Your Team
If you're thinking about hiring, establishing, or expanding your current remote team, here are 3 ways to invest in your remote team:
1. Make Career Progression a Priority
Arguably, the most effective way to invest in your team is to be sure team members are constantly growing and developing new skills. How is this achieved? By setting up short- and long-term check-ins with each member of the team.
Weekly check-ins provide managers with an opportunity to give feedback and provide support, as well as highlight or identify any potential problems that may arise. The best part, weekly check-ins are a two-way street. They also create a space for employees to raise any issues or express any concerns they may have early on. That way, issues can be tackled before they fester into feelings of resentment or dissatisfaction.
Quarterly reviews allow employees to reflect on their progress, identify any areas they may need to work on, and set goals for the upcoming quarter.
Additionally, quarterly reviews are a great time for managers to assess each employee’s progress and identify any areas in which they may need additional support. Support may include something as simple as feedback or more complicated, like the offer of training or development programs that will assist them to improve their skills.
2. Celebrate Successes
Employees want to feel appreciated and invested in. When a team member feels their work is valuable and that they are contributing to something larger than themselves, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and productive.
The best way to conjure these feelings?
Simple. Show your team they are appreciated and that you care for their successes. Whether it be a pat on the back, a note of congratulations, or a show of public praise, celebrating successes big or small will encourage your team to grow and develop professionally.
3. Create an Open Culture
One of the biggest challenges faced by distributed teams is replicating the social aspects of a physical workspace offers. To counter the necessary evil of distribution, cultivating an open culture can really help to combat the lack of social interactions a team is likely to come against when working from different localities.
So what’s the best way to tackle this?
One way is to adopt an open door policy. This means always being available to your team whenever they may need your assistance or guidance. Even if that involves jumping onto a call for just a few minutes. This hands-on management approach is the type of leadership many employees miss from an office or physical workspace.
Another super effective way of creating an open culture is to recreate “water cooler” moments. Water cooler moments are amongst the biggest casualties of remote work. This kind of serendipitous interaction leads to inspiration and ideas that are much harder to come by when sitting at a desk.
To combat this, be sure to encourage collaborative interactions between your team members. Whether that be a video conference call, opening a space for conversion on a messaging app, or simply designating some time in a weekly meeting.
Allowing your team to bounce ideas off one another is the perfect way to create a feeling of togetherness and belonging.
4. Treat all employees equally
All too often, remote employees are not given the same treatment as their in-office counterparts. This can lead to resentment and a lack of team cohesion. In order for a remote team to be successful, it is important to treat all employees equally, regardless of their location.
This means providing the same level of support, communication, and resources. That can be as simple as sending snack boxes, replicating the feeling of a tearoom, or shooting through stipends that cover their home office expenses.
Whatever it is, treating in-house and remote employees the same will create a sense of unity among team members. That way, they’ll feel like an integral part of the company.
Mitigate the risks of remote work
Employees who work remotely can be more productive, but they also face unique challenges.
Data Courtesy of Buffer & Angelist
As found by the IWG’s Remote Workplace Survey, there are several key steps business owners can take to ensure your remote team’s success.
The first step in risk mitigation is to create a strong remote team culture. For some teams, this may not pose many issues. But for others, particularly those that have a long-standing, in-house work culture, paving a new way forward is likely to pose some challenges.
It’s certainly not impossible, though.
Your first step should be to establish clear expectations. This includes outlining what every member of the team can expect in terms of communication, workload, and deadlines.
Concerns about privacy and data security of both employees and the company can also cause a level of distress. And this is understandable. On one hand, employees want to be sure the information and data stored on private devices they also use for work is safe and secure. While, on the other hand, companies wish to maintain productivity without sacrificing security measures.
Again, clear expectations are the key to success here. A workplace policy around security issues is a great place to start.
Another key to mitigating the challenges of remote work is having the right tools in place. This includes a reliable internet connection, excellent communication tools, and adequate security measures.
Finally, it’s important to be aware of the emotional risks of working remotely. Employees who work from home may face burnout, isolation, and even loneliness. For this reason, be sure to connect with your team members offline, such as through an in-person meeting.
That way, you’ll get a feel of how they're handling the pressures that come with remote work.
Remote Culture Pitfalls and how to Avoid Them
One of the biggest dangers is that remote team members can easily fall into a communication black hole. This happens when team members stop communicating with each other, simply because they don't feel like they need to or they're not sure how to start the conversation.
The result? Team members stop working together as a team and the projects begin to fall apart.
A way to prevent this from happening is to set up some ground rules for communication. For example, remote leaders should encourage everyone to communicate regularly, even if it's just a quick update on what they're working on. And if someone falls silent, be sure to check in with how they're doing.
Planning for the future of your remote workforce
To set up your workforce for future work remote success, remember these 3 rules.
Embrace the new "work-life balance"
Some people are hesitant to embrace the work-life balance as they're afraid they'll lose out on important face time with their boss or co-workers. But studies have shown that remote workers are actually more productive than those who work in an office setting.
With this in mind, don’t be afraid to encourage your team members to embrace a remote life.
As a leader, you can do this by measuring their success by productivity and task completion over visual presence or hours spent at the desk. Flexible work hours also help some remote workers stay productive and motivated. Encourage time away, allow them to spend time with their families, and, if you can, do away with the traditional 9-5.
The beauty of remote work is that it facilitates greater flexibility for balancing work and life responsibilities. With no more commuting, traffic jams, and the cost of fuel weighing them down, remote workers feel more relaxed and often find more time to spend with their friends and families.
Hire outside your HQ location
If you're looking to expand your business but don't have the resources to do so locally, hiring remote workers can be a brilliant solution.
There are several advantages to hiring remotely.
First, remote workers can be located anywhere in the world, which gives you access to a global talent pool. Additionally, working with remote employees can save you money on things like office space and equipment. And since communication is handled electronically, there are no geographical limitations on when and where your team can work.
Keep it simple
In order to be successful with remote work, it’s important to keep things simple.
One way to do this is by having a specific routine and process that will help you and your team stay focused and organized. Here's one that we try to follow.
Last, but most importantly, it is imperative that you choose the right communication tools that will eliminate distractions and allow you to connect with your team effectively.