In recent years, remote work has become more of a norm than an exception. According to a study conducted by Leadership IQ, people who work from home are almost twice as likely to love their jobs than the ones working in a traditional site.
Furthermore, almost 70% of millennials claim an option to work remotely greatly increases their interest in the specific employer. It seems that policies which cultivate a fun, casual, and flexible work environment have a positive impact on young job seekers.
As Green Web Marketing runs remote teams in several major Australian cities, we have learned there are both perks and drawbacks of such a business organization.
On the one hand, with less traditional face-to-face meetings, there’s more time to get down to what’s really important. And with no office distractions, the focus is put on daily, weekly or monthly goals.
Employees are offered to work flexible hours, don’t involve themselves in office politics, and manage their personal and professional lives easier.
Nevertheless, remote work can result in less connectivity between team members. Face time with senior management and other team members can be quite challenging to navigate when you should always be at their disposal for any questions and clarifications.
There are setbacks companies come across when running remote teams.
And to overcome them, we focus on the following:
1. Organized Work Plan
First, it is of utmost importance to compose a daily or a weekly written plan which outlines what is expected of each person on the team.
Around 30% of all projects fail because the senior manager doesn’t define team members’ individual roles, their personal benefits, and how their contributions will be evaluated.
2. Project Management System
At the beginning, working with small teams can tempt you to handle everything via email. However, before you know it, keeping track of client and team communication will become impossible, and important information will be overlooked.
For this reason, a reliable project management system represents an ideal solution. We at Green Web Marketing take advantage of Basecamp since it allows us to keep all conversations and documents organized into projects. Each time a task is updated, everyone working on it is notified, as well as clients.
3. Document Sharing
When it comes to collaborating on the same documents, we found Google Drive and Dropbox highly beneficial, especially when our remote team members are required to work on a single one simultaneously.
4. Flexible But Consistent Work Hours
More than 80% of remote workers reported lower stress levels than those who work in traditional office buildings, highlighting flexible work hours as one of the reasons.
Nevertheless, employees are advised to keep some degree of consistency.
If things are totally erratic, shared collaboration is almost impossible since it is difficult to get a shared collaboration window when all team members are online at the same time.
If team members are working in different time zones, it is essential to have an overlapping period when everyone is working.
According to statistics, a breakdown in communication is one of the main reasons for project failures.
With remote teams, this comes as quite a challenge, as most of it comes down to emails. Aside from obvious miscommunication issues, the lack of face time with colleagues and senior management results in a lack of daily feedback.
Also, when unable to see someone in person, you miss information provided with non-verbal cues, like mimics and body language.
As much as 87% of telecommuters reported feeling more connected to their team members through the use of video conferencing. From our experience, monthly video conferences proved to be somewhat necessary, whether it is via Skype or any other video conferencing software, like Google Hangouts.
Team members should be provided with the opportunity to chat with their peers, both formally and informally.
If the remote team is small, scheduling one-on-one time with everyone each month will provide you with more detailed information about their work and progress, but also collect feedback on what they are satisfied or dissatisfied with, ultimately using it to improve your company culture.
As your team grows, one-on-ones become impossible to achieve, so it is important to establish a clear structure in the company, where each member will have a team leader to report to. Then the lead would pass the information on to a higher positioned person, and so on.
6. Screen Sharing
A virtual office hardly offers opportunities to ask for help or learn from co-workers. In certain cases, you might experience issues with your computer, or you’ll need to have something explained.
It’s easy when you have an IT guy or a senior manager by your side. But when they are miles away, screen sharing tools like TeamViewer and Join.me allow you to connect with others and let them gain access and control your computer remotely.
7. The Water Cooler Effect
As already mentioned, even informal communication between team members should be kept ‘alive’. In traditional workplaces, it is a common practice for workers to stop for a brief one or two minute chat by the water cooler.
However, when you’re all in different locations, there is no such experience. Working at home can make people feel lonely.
It is beneficial to have chat rooms open for casual discussions from time to time, but they should under no circumstances become an 8-hour distraction.
Since a remote worker has no chance of running into their boss at the office, they are provided with (almost) absolute freedom.
For this reason, check in with your team periodically to track their progress.
At our company, we use Hubstaff which integrates well with Basecamp and has benefits for both parties – our employees reported feeling motivated and more concentrated on tasks in hand, rather than getting distracted by random internet browsing.
Working in different settings means having different rhythms. What an employer should focus on is ensuring remote workers feel like a part of the company, regardless of their geographical location. Stay in constant contact with them, be there for their every question, as if they are in the office next to you.
But also, find the balance between a number of flexible and set work hours, since some will have to overlap; take advantage of all the tools that are at your disposal and reap the fruits of your labor.
How Do You Manage Remote Teams?
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