Over the last 20 years, the nature of business relations between managers and employees has changed significantly. Earlier, people worked together in a single office with all the required features: coffee cups, regular meetings, common dining rooms, and so on. Today, more and more workers tend to switch to remote models of cooperation.
To understand the current state of the remote work approach, look at a few interesting insights delivered by Owl Labs in 2018 (3,028 respondents from 23 countries):
- 56% of companies have remote staff members while 16% are fully remote.
- 52% of workers stay at home at least once a week to complete their tasks.
- 18% of respondents work remotely always while 32% never do it.
- The #1 reason to work from home is higher productivity and better focus.
This data illustrates the main trend: we’re moving towards full decentralization and globalization when companies will base their business processes on remote interactions with workers from all over the world. There are several reasons, including a strong millennials’ desire to be more flexible and have more innovative ways to communicate.
In this case, we want to share some useful tips on setting and maintaining successful remote teams. These insights will be helpful for managers and employees regardless of the industry. Say, companies that look for offshore software outsourcing can benefit from this info as well as brands that hire remote HRs or delegate marketing tasks.
Without further ado, let’s move to tips and tricks!
1. Acquire Right Workers
Let’s be honest: not everybody who works remotely can do it successfully. As well, not everybody can properly manage offshore teams so you should hire reliable and skilled employees in both cases. When it comes to developers and other non-management staff members, the following skills are highly desired:
- Commitment. You want to hire experts, of course. But they also should realize the importance of your project and be ready to dedicate enough time to it.
- Good communication. Normally, interactions between remote members are rare. Thus, people should be professional enough to discuss tasks without misconceptions.
- Self-organization. Because it’s barely possible to deliver full control over outsourced employees, they have to be independent enough to manage themselves.
- Trustworthiness. Again, a lower level of control and monitoring means that you should trust your team to allow it working without observation.
Talking about managers that will control your remote team, they should know all the nuances of outsourcing, be able to handle cultural and language issues, set proper communication strategies, etc. Further, we will focus on these points more.
2. Communicate Efficiently
Continuing the previous point, let’s talk about the most essential part of any work – communication. In remote-based models, this thing becomes even more important. Basically, a manager should create a clear and universal scheme of interaction with all the team members regardless of their location, time zone, and personal preferences. Ideally, this communication should be convenient for all the employees.
For this, feel free to use the following tips:
- The balance between voice and texts. Sometimes, emails are indispensable but in other cases, phone/Skype calls are required to deliver things more clearly.
- Plan regular meetings, including offline ones. Make sure that all the workers understand what’s going on and don’t feel isolated.
- Select appropriate software for interactions (Skype, Slack, Telegram) and monitoring (GitHub, Google Docs and Sheets, Trello). Ideally, use one or two tools.
- Start communicating from the first minutes of cooperation. Establish a proper onboarding, familiarize new members with the team and tasks, etc.
- Use neutral and simple words to be sure that everybody understands you. Cultural/language differences can be pretty significant, you know.
3. Deliver Clear Instructions
This tip is about communication, as well. Regardless of the geographic location of your staff members, they are still your subordinates and require appropriate attitude. They can’t know your thoughts. They often don’t understand what you want from them. They lack the global vision and rarely deliver comprehensive feedback. Finally, they may face problems with language and various cultural stuff.
To avoid these issues, a good manager should be as clear as possible. Deliver detailed instructions using the simplest language you can. Repeat obvious things several times. Ensure that everybody clearly understands the task. You can’t be too obvious but you definitely can be not clear enough to face misconceptions and inefficient work later. It’s better to deliver instructions and guidelines both in written and spoken forms. Ideally, use images and videos.
4. Don’t Micromanage
Trust is the key. And micromanagement destroys it completely, trust the formal freelance remote writer. 🙂
Overall, managers often want to control everything when they work with remote teams. Bosses want to know that a given employee dedicates all his/her resources to the target project. Thus, companies deliver all-around monitoring by tracking time spent on each task, setting limits, calling/texting freelancers all the time, and so on. That’s disruptive. Just let your workers do what they have to in a way they consider the most suitable one. Focus on results.
Surely, it doesn’t mean that remote teams can do whatever they want. Hold regular meetings, provide feedback, and reviews to get the best response.
5. Involve and Engage
Now, we move to more complicated things. The idea of socializing provides for creating a real team with interconnected processes. As a result, you can get way better results because workers will cooperate and act as one big organism instead of separated bodies. It’s not a big deal to engage people when they sit near each other. But what to do with remote folks?
Generally, ideas are the same as for local groups. Hold regular teambuilding events with more attention to online stuff: virtual presents, informal voice calls, joint Fortnite games, and so on. Don’t forget to mention successful workers, create a weekly digest, celebrate important non-working things like marriages or births of kids.
The key idea of this point is that each and every staff member should feel like a part of the team even if he/she is located thousands of kilometers away from the headquarters.
6. Provide Professional Training
Yeah, it’s a traditional practice to help employees in their professional and personal development. Probably, you heard about different packages for office workers: discounts at gyms and swimming pools, free language courses, webinars with industry experts, and so on. But wait. Why only office teams?
Consider creating similar offers for remote members, as well. They deserve equal conditions and the same discounts as office teams. Particularly, free English lessons are highly useful for overseas employees as better language knowledge leads to fewer communication problems. Similarly, professional courses also boost workers’ results.
7. Remember About Differences
We mentioned time, language, and cultural inequality several times before. Now, let’s look at these three points in details:
- Time. Plan working schedules and holidays keeping in mind different time zones. It’s better to provide full flexibility to outsource workers so they can do tasks when they have higher productivity. However, regular consultations and reports should be delivered at a specified day and time so you can keep the set working pace.
- Language. English is international but different people feature different language skills. On the one hand, you can help remote employees to learn it via online courses. On the other hand, if it’s possible and suitable for teams, you can talk in other languages, too. French, Spanish, Russian, and so on.
- Culture. This is the trickiest part. A good manager has to be a sensitive psychologist that knows how to balance between different cultures and/or religions. It relates to both workspaces and informal communication. Neutrality and personalized approach are required when you manage a big team of different persons.
8. Set a Plan B
This point covers both internal and external partnerships. In both cases, a company may face a worker’s sickness or retirement related to various reasons. Even if everything is wonderful, your team isn’t protected from accidental leaves or staff problems so you want to prepare for these problems by thinking about how to react to them.
Just remember: there are no irreplaceable employees. Thus, we suggest creating a list of potential candidates for each role in your team. In the case of problems with any existing worker, you will be able to quickly contact a candidate from this list and continue working on the project without painful delays.
Bonus: Benefits of Outsourcing
Summarizing everything, it’s time to talk about essential things. At all, why you ever should think about outsourced teams? What are their advantages when compared to in-house employees? Well, at the end of the day, it can be concluded to two points:
- Larger talent pool. It’s easier to find a professional you require for a given project when you explore the global market. Local offerings are pretty limited, especially, when it comes to highly specialized tasks so the expanded search is vital.
- Lower expenses. Usually, remote workers ask for lower rates related to the level of life in distant countries. Additionally, you don’t have to spend on offices, transport, and social security. Just be sure to sign legal contracts.
Nowadays, the remote-based model is becoming more popular. People like it because of several advantages for all the involved parties. Hope, this list of simple tips will be useful for you as a manager of remote teams. Good luck!