April 12, 2019 Last updated April 4th, 2019 413 Reads share

An Effective Guide to Building and Managing a Remote Team

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With “work-life balance” a growing factor influencing the employee retention rate in organizations, and younger generations valuing the flexibility to work from home more than a salary raise, remote teams are becoming a crucial part of the future workforce.

Here are a few positive statistics about remote workers:

  • 83% of employees believe they do not need an office to be productive. [Workforce Futures]
  • 80% to 90% of all surveyed employees stated that they would like to work at least part of the time remotely. [Google Workplace Analytics]
  • Employees who spend three to four days working from home tend to be more engaged and happier in their jobs. [Gallup]

Remote teams are pretty common for businesses who want to work with the best of talent from across the globe, but may or may not yet have the budget to open offices in every nook and cranny of the world.

Such businesses leverage the power of remote teams to hire the best workforce (geography-agnostic) across the globe to get the work done.

Buffer: A pioneer in remote team management

With a team of 80+ employees working across six time zones, Buffer is one of the best known “social media management tools” in the world. Fun fact: They don’t have geographical headquarters.

 

The Buffer employees communicate on Slack, break into “Impromptu Hours” every week where they have on-the-spot conversations with each other. They host water cooler Wednesdays where they share a random question on their Slack channel with the hashtag “WaterCooler.

So, if you are concerned about how successful is remote working, we would say you “pretty much”!

The flipside of remote working: Hesitance

Despite the openness towards remote working, 85% of employees surveyed by PowWowNow feel managers still need to come to grips with the concept and adapt their skills to manage a remote team.

With 48% of managers not allowing their teams to work remotely, now is the best time the course of management changes in the favor of remote workforce. If you are struggling to manage a remote team, here’s what you should do:

1) Be transparent about your expectations and the business.

Every remote employee has a different style of working and schedule, and that may not necessarily suit everyone in the organization. Therefore, when you are building your remote team, make sure you inform them of their roles and responsibilities clearly.

The clearer your remote employees are about what they have been hired for, the better they’ll do the work. Additionally, get them involved in all aspects of your business, share the company objectives and expose them to how your in-house team operates.

Your remote team can never function like your in-house employees and vice versa, but you should promote a common ground so that both the teams can learn from each other and serve you better.

2) Implement a time tracking tool.

Trust is an essential factor in remote working. When you hire remote workers, they expect you to have faith in them. If you micromanage them consistently, they will get annoyed and even switch jobs.

But we understand your end of the story as well. Set clear objectives for the team members, track their performance and boost your organization’s productivity.

Here a time-tracking tool comes in handy. Explain to your remote employees the advantages of having one like how it can help them manage their time better and be more productive.

With the tool, every employee will feel like they are in charge of the time. At the same time, managers can spot the weaker spots in the routines of their team members and do something about them.

Remember – time is of the essence!

Tools such as Timely and Tool help business owners with hassle-free time tracking.

3) Have regular meetings – for work and fun.

Absolutely! This is a challenge especially if your remote employees work in different time zones. But having regular video conferences or phone calls is essential to get to know your remote team.

But it isn’t necessary that you talk only “work” during the call. You and your remote workers can grab a cup of coffee together, even when sitting miles apart and have a casual conversation on video.

The Buffer team, as we mentioned before, enjoys “Impromptu Hours” every week where all the employees have on-the-spot conversations with each other. This is a great way for your team to get to know each other when working remotely.

4) The challenges of remote collaboration.

While managing a remote team, the manager has to focus on establishing clear goals, coordinating multi-geography meetings, communicating clearly and utilizing individual and collective strengths.

Communication is one of the most pressing challenges in any organization – more so where the interactions happen by email, chat, and calls. To ensure that there is a free flow of information, one requires the right set of tools. The right tools make your job easier. Here are some of the tools to facilitate communication in virtual and remote teams:

You can track your team’s progress and know what needs to be done and when. Collaboration on tasks and maintaining multiple portfolios to track different goals become easier.

Since everybody has access to the tool, it is much easier to keep all the employees on the same page.

Although not every tool is a good fit, research all the available options and take trials of the tools best suited for your needs. Train your staff to use them consistently and to the fullest benefit.

5) Don’t let your remote teams focus on multi-tasking.

Because that’s a waste of time. Machines multitask, but that exercise is detrimental to the productivity of human beings. Did you know we lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting ourselves back on track when we switch between tasks? Our concentration levels are at an all-time low when that happens!

Therefore, encourage your remote employees to implement a healthy practice of staying in work mode for a predefined set of hours. Ask them to fix a time to respond to emails or to attend virtual meetings.

Your remote teams may not take frequent breaks like your in-house staff, nor would they have more extended periods of unproductivity since they work from a location of their choice. Thus, this approach to work will add value to them.

Going remote: the next step

Organizations that embrace remote working in the future will increase employee retention by 10%. Therefore, the sooner you start, the more beneficial it will be for your brand. Although the same office policies might not apply to the work-from-home staff, treat them like your in-house staff.

How can a business owner not avail access to a large pool of global talent without the hassle of incurring work visas and transportation expenses? Do let us know what worked for you and what didn’t.

 

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Shyamal Parikh

Shyamal Parikh

Shyamal Parikh is the founder and CEO of SmartTask. SmartTask is an online collaboration tool that helps companies increase their productivity by as much as 40%.

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