In February of 2017, the New York Times reported a Gallup finding that 43% of workers telecommuted some of the time in 2016.
There are some industries, like hospital care, where telecommuting simply isn’t possible on a large scale. However, for new startups or businesses that operate primarily through the web, remote teams are a fast, affordable means of getting work done while avoiding the hassle of a full daily commute.
If you’re considering creating a team, the first part below will be of interest to you. However, if you’re already committed and are searching for advice, you might want to just head to the section on the 5 management tips.
Why a Remote Team?
The popularity of remote teams didn’t happen by accident. Without rehashing the literature that’s already out on the topic, there are at least 3 reasons why businesses and startups in particular have been increasingly utilizing remote teams.
1. It’s faster to find talent
According to the NFIB Research Foundation, 52% of small businesses that were hiring or trying to hire new workers found that there weren’t enough qualified applicants available for their open positions.
It could be argued that the obstacles faced by small businesses are unique and that qualified applicants simply preferred larger corporations.
Interestingly enough, however, Jobvite corroborated NFIB’s findings when its study revealed that 65% of recruiters believed that shortages in talent were the biggest problem faced when filling positions.
A remote team allows you to hire the best person for the job much faster.
2. Lower overhead costs
Office space, electricity bills, and Internet bills aren’t cheap. Leases and basic essenitials aside, making employees happier and more productive is becoming an increasingly expensive endeavour.
In comparison, remote teams may not be free but they are dramatically less expensive for businesses that don’t yet have the capital to provide all the perks and then some.
3. More agility
Buzzwords come and go, but the push for agility has stuck. At its core, business agility is about being able to respond to and fix situations quickly.
In traditional workplaces bogged down with corporate structure, protocols, and bureaucracy, businesses can’t always adjust to new information right away. One of the largest benefits of remote teams is that between the defined roles and the generally smaller size, it’s easier to be more responsive.
5 Tips For Running a Remote Team Successfully
So with the advantages of a remote team explained and understood, it’s time to discuss logistics. Although you’d think that managing a remote team would be easier than managing an office-full of people every day, there are some things to keep in mind.
Here are 5 tips that will allow you and your newly-created remote team to hit the ground running.
1. Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more
Members of a remote team can’t knock on your office door, or walk over to a co-worker in another cubicle for a little consultation. But there are strong points to how team members can communicate. Two examples are that messages can be sent and marked as either urgent or not, and the sender can attend to other things while waiting for a reply. Also, messages with links embedded can be sent for others on the team to consider before replying.
Establishing and maintaining a culture of open and honest (yet polite), communication among team members is the best way to ensure the work flows smoothly.
Find one communication channel that works well for everyone, whether it’s social media or email.
2. Really get to know your members
I am not what you see.
I am what time and effort and interaction slowly unveil.
– Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons
What separates good managers from mediocre to bad managers is the ability to assess and manage different personalities.
Do you have a programmer who’s a whiz with code but prone to cracking under pressure? Is your back-end developer lightning fast at certain phases of projects but a bit slower at others?
Imagine having members of your team with quirks and foibles like this for a second.
How does this information affect the way you structure internal and external deadlines? Would the strengths and weaknesses of your developers and programmers complement each other if you ever broke the team up into pairs for a task?
With a remote team, you don’t have the luxury of being able to organically observe people in the office.
Taking time out of your week to have regular catch-up sessions may seem counterproductive at first glance, but it’s actually a fantastic means of gathering the type of data about your team that will allow you to make informed management decisions.
3. Focus on results rather than timekeeping
There are many talented workers who have stories of accomplishing a lot one day only to be written up for coming in late the next day.
Timekeeping is important for deadlines, but an output-driven mentality focuses primarily on two questions.
Is the work being done on time?
Are we staying under budget?
For remote teams, micromanaging hours can quickly become a full-time job on its own. An output-driven approach assesses the team’s effectiveness and makes it easier for you to focus on what matters. The results.
4. Accountability is a must
If your remote team isn’t agile, is consistently slow to respond to situations as they come up, isn’t meeting deadlines, and is failing to complete projects under budget, then your company isn’t benefiting from the remote team setup.
A lot of people mistake a laid back and friendly corporate culture with a permissive corporate culture. Depending on where your team members are from, there could very well be cultural reasons attached to their work attitudes.
Make it clear from the beginning that you expect professionalism and adherence to deadlines. You’ll be glad you did later on.
5. Promote team chemistry
In a 2014 article, Forbes reported on a survey that asked what motivated workers to go above and beyond. Interestingly enough, workplace camaraderie was the highest motivating factor. Harmony with peers ranked above meeting client needs, personal and professional interests, and even money, in these results.
This matters because, as Fast Company noted, engaged workers are said to produce 44% more than satisfied workers while inspired workers produce 125% more than their engaged counterparts.
Luckily for remote team managers, chemistry is enhanced with the help of regular informal discussions and team bonding exercises.
Running and managing a successful remote team comes with its own unique set of challenges. People skills, internal focus on the part of team members, and even regular communication are crucial when interactions are primarily done online.
Fortunately, the skills required to manage a remote team successfully as a startup can be learned. If you take the time to communicate thoroughly, get to know each other, make results of paramount important while keeping accountability also important, and promote the team’s chemistry, you’ll be well on your way to making it work. Just remember that as with most business skills, practice definitely makes perfect.
Do you have experience in building and managing a remote team and do you have some valuable insights? Please share ’em in the comments!