More and more people are choosing to work remotely, abandoning the traditional nine to five for a more flexible work environment. With the help of the internet, people can work from home, cafes, and even out of the country as they travel to different places. We call them digital nomads, and they’re pretty much living the dream.
This opens up two major opportunities for businesses: to cut down on overhead and operating expenses, and access to a wider range of talent from across the globe.
But managing people across continents comes with unique challenges. Communication isn’t as easy as swinging by your employees’ desk for a chat, and there is no light-hearted exchange at the water cooler. This results in different relationship dynamics among the team and the management.
The good thing is that technology gives us many solutions to these challenges. There are hundreds of services available online that lets you communicate, collaborate and manage a workforce even when they’re scattered all over the world.
Here are some tips that will help you manage your distributed workforce effectively.
Simulate casual office interactions
The typical office allows for casual face-to-face interactions between teams whether about work or just simple small talks. This helps employees become more comfortable with each other. In turn, this improves the quality of their work-life and increases their productivity.
If you want the same opportunity for your remote employees, you can simulate these interactions digitally. Invite everyone to a chat group where they can like casually talk like they would in a break room. Encourage your team to say hi when they sign in, and goodbye as they finish for the day.
Keep your work-related conversation on a separate channel so it won’t get lost in a sea of soft banters and friendly jokes.
Find the right productivity tools
There is a wide variety of software, app and browser services online that will let you digitize your management operations. Besides email and chat, here are three of the most crucial office tools you will need:
Project management software – an invaluable tool in work collaboration for both remote and office-based workforce. Send updates, assign tasks, deadlines, and other directives in real-time to maximize productivity. Share documents through simple upload/download. Messaging tools are also embedded so you can keep your workflow and communications within the same central channel.
Video conferencing service – primarily used for meetings, presentations, and other business functions. Wherever your team members are in the world, they can be present, listen in and share their thoughts during discussions.
Forms and signature filler – since documents will be transmitted online, it’s ideal to have a software that lets you fill the document and signatures needed without the need for printing. This saves you time, printing resources and courier fees.
Set an annual schedule for a grand meet-up
People who see each other every day at the office create a bond that goes beyond work. This builds trust and confidence among the team. It’s a challenge to create the same relationship with casual internet chat, especially if your team has not had the chance to meet each other in person.
To break through this barrier by coming together for a team-building activity. Plan for a whole week of work mixed in pleasure where everyone can interact, exchange ideas, share best practices, and most importantly have fun. Take it to different locations each year to make it something to look forward to.
At the end of your time together, make sure everyone is aligned and understands your expectations. You can expect a huge morale boost and an excited chat group over the next few weeks, and better cooperation throughout the year as they work together.
Keep a good balance of autonomy
Higher autonomy at work tends to result in higher job satisfaction. It is believed that the feeling of greater responsibility raises the quality of work, along with motivation and loyalty to the company.
Much like you would with an office team, allow your people to find solutions to problems creatively on their own. Avoid micromanaging, but make sure help is readily accessible should they need it. You can adopt a buddy system so you can delegate the task of looking out for each other to each partner, and keep your focus on the management of the whole project.
Agree to common working hours
Since you can work with people from everywhere in the world, the different time zones can cause a delay in communications. Even the simplest questions won’t be answered until half a day later because the people you asked were sleeping.
This happens fairly often. One way to address this is by scheduling a common time for most or all people to be online. Make your team vote for the time. One or two hours a day when you know that if you call anyone, they are ready to answer. You can schedule all your collaborative work around this time and the rest they can spend on their solitude.
Today, there are several notable businesses whose workforce is completely distributed such as Automattic, the company behind Wordpress. CEO Matt Mullenweg projects that over the next couple of decades, most businesses will be forced to embrace the revolution or be replaced by new ones that do. Currently, 56% of startups worldwide employing remote workers as part of their core team.
So if you have a business and are looking perhaps to cut costs or encourage an increase in productivity, consider the viability of remote work for some of your people. If you are starting a new business, think about this option to open your doors to a wider talent pool. At this point, with our technology and the right tools, there is more advantage to this model than the traditional. Try and see what works for you.