Do you work with a remote team to help run your business?
You aren’t alone…
In 2015, 23% of employees did at least some work remotely, up from 19% in 2003.
Hiring a remote team is now easier than ever, and it’s changing the way we do business. According to the World Economic Forum, virtual teams and flexible work are “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace.
I’ve had the privilege of working with a team made up of freelancers, contractors, service providers, and remote staff extensively in recent years, and it can be an extremely rewarding experience. But it can also cause additional stress if you don’t know how to manage a remote team properly. You are dealing with language barriers, time zone differences, physical distance, and a range of skills and personalities.
In this article, I will share a few tricks of the trade so that you can work with a global team that actually improves your efficiency, rather than creating additional resourcing headaches that you didn’t even know existed!
What are the benefits of working with a remote team?
Here are a few of the many benefits of working with a remote team:
- More productivity and efficiency – By working from home, employees can set up a working environment that suits their unique needs. They’re comfortable and have everything they need, which means more time for productive work.
- Reduced stress and better morale – According to scientific research, 82% of telecommuters reported having lower stress levels than in-office workers. Keeping your work environment stress-free makes it easier to show up every day and keeps morale high.
- Less overhead costs – Having an office full of people is expensive! Hire all remote workers, and you don’t have to pay for an office, furnishings, and all those other location-based overhead costs. For anyone that has started a business from scratch, they appreciate how important it is to keep costs down where possible.
- Lower employee turnover – By offering a flexible working environment, you make it easy for employees to stay in the position if their circumstances change (e.g. moving to another state).
Survey results agree that there are many personal and business-related benefits to remote work:
Contrary to popular belief, remote teams can collaborate and get things done as well as any in-office staff. If you manage your team effectively, they might even work better than an in-house team!
How to manage a remote team effectively
If you want to reap the benefits of managing a remote team of workers, you need to set them up for success. Here are 6 tips that you should follow to make sure your remote team works like a well-oiled machine:
1. Hire based on values alignment
Even when you work with a remote team, you want to make sure you hire workers who share the values of your business and fit in with the company culture. By defining your business beliefs and incorporating these themes into the hiring process, you can make sure you work with employees who are motivated to achieve your goals.
Take the time to ask yourself:
- What does my business do and why do I think it’s important?
- What is my vision for the business? What do we want to achieve?
- What values do I want my business to express and represent?
Once you answer these questions yourself, you can incorporate them into your interview process to make sure you hire workers who are willing and able to help you achieve the company’s objectives.
2. Conduct rigorous video interviews
Many businesses turn to freelance sites to find and hire remote workers. On these platforms, it’s possible to meet, communicate, and hire someone without ever speaking to them in real time. In a virtual work environment, you might not talk to your employees every day. But that doesn’t mean you should skip out on the face-to-face interview during the initial hiring process.
After you’ve received a pile of applications for your position, sort through them and find the most likely candidates, based on their credentials and proposal. Then, take the time to set up a Svideo conferencing call with each of them. This will be your opportunity to communicate your business goals and open a discussion to see if they align with your values.
It’s quite possible that several people are perfect for your needs on paper. Conduct more than one round of interviews to find the perfect match. You can even set up a group Skype interview so that they can meet with your current team members.
This extra effort you take during the hiring process will help you make sure you don’t have to repost the job opening again after just a few months.
3. Set clear communication channels, processes, and guidelines
This is probably the most important tip to effectively manage a remote team. When an employee gets hired at a new business, they’re often showered with training manuals, instructions, and documentation to show them how to do their job the right way. Skip this step with your remote workers, and you’ll end up suffering from inefficiency and confusion, at no fault of your employees!
Make sure your remote workers know right off the bat:
- How you will communicate (email, Slack, Skype, another tool?)
- What work you expect them to complete during a given timeframe. This should include qualitative guidelines covering style, common mistakes, etc.
- What format you expect them to deliver work (Upload it to Dropbox, Email a Word doc, etc.)
One easy way to do this is by creating a shareable Google Doc of your guidelines. Then whenever you update it, the new version will automatically appear in your employee’s Google Drive.
Then you can avoid sending out update emails and new guideline materials every time you make a change.
4. Provide in-depth training material
Of course, it takes time, but the more instruction you can provide your remote workers on how to do individual projects, the better off you’ll be. You don’t want workers to plow ahead with a task based on vague instructions, only to find the final result isn’t to your liking.
You can help your employees do everything right the first time by using in-depth training materials and resource libraries. Say you hired a new writer for your blog. Provide details on:
- Article length
- Image type and specifications
- SEO optimization
Then if you’re not satisfied with the final product, you can just ask them to refer back to the guidelines.
Screencasts are another great way to show your remote team exactly what you’d like done. Walk your remote worker through how to do something one time with a screencast, and rest easy knowing they can remember how to do it right every time by referencing the video.
You can use a screencast tool like Snagit to easily record processes to share with your remote team.
5. Leverage tools
Probably the biggest challenge remote teams face is communication. There’s nothing that compares to simply swiveling your chair into your colleague’s cubicle to ask a quick question.
That is unless you use the right tools. There are tons of them out there designed specifically to help remote teams communicate, collaborate, and get things done. For example, you can use:
- Basecamp, Asana or Trello to manage projects, assign tasks and allow your team to update you on their progress.
- Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts for video calls screen sharing.
- Slack for real-time messaging, archives and search for remote teams.
You can also use a tool like FlypChart to plan, approve, and post all of your marketing content.
6. Give them responsibility
I already mentioned how important it is to provide detailed instructions to your remote workers. This is so you can take your hands off their work and let them go through the process on their own.
Micromanaging isn’t effective in any work environment, but especially with remote teams. The time, effort, and tools it takes to monitor every detail of your worker’s progress will greatly outweigh the benefits of hiring a remote worker in the first place.
It’s your job to serve as coach and referee for your remote team. Check-in, make sure they’re on track and correct their work when necessary. Provide them with resources they need to solve problems and improve their performance, instead of taking control and managing the tasks yourself.
If you hire the right workers and set good parameters, your role as manager shouldn’t be all that big.
Remote teams can either be a valuable business tool or a communication disaster. Whether or not you succeed all depends on:
- Hiring the right workers
- Making your performance expectations clear
- Providing detailed resources and training
- Making it easy to communicate and collaborate
- Allowing your team members to do what they do best.
Remember these tips when you start hiring and managing your remote team and you’ll be well on the road to success.