Remote teams are becoming more common all around the globe, from big companies hiring entire teams to startups and small businesses employing virtual assistants to help with day-to-day activities. In a special analysis by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, remote work increased by 159% between 2005 and 2017.
Business Benefits of Remote Teams
Hiring a remote team provides tremendous advantages to domestic businesses. Some of these benefits include:
1. Increased employee productivity
According to a study presented in the Harvard Business Review, remote employees completed nearly an extra day’s worth of work every week compared to their colleagues who worked in the office.
This increase in productivity can be attributed to the lack of distractions typically found in traditional office environments. This enhances the focus of employees, leading to better problem solving and decision making. In addition, many employees love flexible work hours as they can get their work done at a time when they are at their creative peak.
2. Less time spent on meetings
Many employees, managers, and business owners regard meetings as a necessary evil. Meetings are indeed needed to set business goals, get updates on ongoing tasks, and put everyone on the same page. But sometimes, these meetings can take a huge chunk from everyone’s time. A simple catch-up can balloon into an hour-long conversation.
This does not happen as often with remote employees. Usually, meetings are conducted using conferencing software which you can then set to a time limit so employees can go back quickly to work. In addition, remote employees are less likely to set up meetings for issues that can easily be discussed via email or instant message.
3. A global pool of talent
Traditionally, companies are limited to hiring employees who live within a reasonable distance from their office. If your business is located in a big city, you will be competing with similar businesses for top talent. On the other hand, if your business is located in a small town, then you may not be able to find candidates with the skills and qualifications that you are looking for. You may end up settling for less just so you can fill the position.
By including remote work in your business, however, you will have the huge opportunity of tapping into a global pool of talent. You are not limited by location or even time zones to hire an employee, vastly expanding opportunities for your company.
Don’t forget to read: The Complete Guide to Remote Working
Tips for Managing Remote Teams
Along with the benefits of working with remote teams come new issues that are unique to the virtual environment. Here are some tips on how project managers can overcome these challenges.
1. Choose the right communication platform for your needs
Effective communication is the foundation of any successful team but it is even more crucial for virtual teams. Coordinating with remote team members is a huge challenge, especially if several team members are scattered across multiple sites and time zones. The lack of a set communication system will inevitably cause inefficiencies and disjointed communication as team members scramble to reach out to one another through several different channels.
So before anything else, prioritize establishing the type of communication that works best for your needs. Use email or instant messaging platforms like Skype and Slack for quick interactions, task updates, and issues that do not need in-depth discussions. Video conferencing applications like Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom are best used in presentations, in-depth meetings, and discussions of performance and other issues.
2. Set up a project management platform and stick with it
It can be tempting especially for smaller teams to just handle every task delegation and updates via email or instant message. Unfortunately, this is a dangerous mistake. Searching for task updates within emails and instant messages is tedious and highly inefficient and will only cause work delays.
Technology has made many aspects of remote management easier–no matter the function. From back-office functions like accounting and state law compliance to managing day-to-day operations of a remote team, there are systems that help organizations better facilitate coordination and management.
Using project management systems will make managing your virtual teams easier. These platforms help organize documents and delegate tasks, making it easier to check work progress. Having a centralized platform ensures that every team member is in the loop and that it stays that way.
3. Communicate with your team daily
Another aspect of remote management that project managers need to consider is how frequently to talk with team members. This issue depends on what type of management style you prefer as well as the type of project you are dealing with. However, there is a compelling argument for daily communication, especially within a virtual team.
Checking in with your team members every day lets you know what they are currently doing and check their progress in each task. Beyond this, daily communication also improves your relationship with your team members. Compared to a traditional office environment, there is no water cooler or coffee machine to meet colleagues for a quick chat. A quick and casual conversation with your team members to talk about the game last night or their plans for the weekend builds rapport and improves team dynamics. Project managers need to be proactive in creating opportunities to foster interpersonal connections.
4. Open a free-for-all chat room
Another great way to create connections among your team members is to start a channel specifically for non-work-related messages. Think of this as the remote team equivalent of a pantry where team members can discuss whatever they want. One thing you should note is that you need to strike a balance between building relationships and doing work. While you want to encourage your remote team’s members to participate, it should not be at the expense of their work productivity.
5. Reward hard work with recognition
Did one of your remote team members achieve a new work milestone? Did a new hire exceed your expectations and was able to turn in their work way before the deadline? Hard work and achievements deserve to be recognized and rewarded.
One of the best ways to improve employee engagement even if they are working remotely is to verbally recognize their valuable achievements in the company and provide incentives to motivate them. Words of appreciation both in private and in public can make your employees’ day and increase their enthusiasm. You can even write about their accomplishments in your company’s newsletter or blog to show your appreciation for their work.
6. Practice listening more and talking less
The ability to communicate effectively is a highly sought-after skill in a project manager. However, the ability to listen has an even greater value in a remote work setting.
Unlike the traditional office environment, a remote setting hampers your ability to gauge a person’s feelings because of the lack of visual cues. Remote team members are not as open or enthusiastic to talk about their issues regarding work. For this reason, team leaders need to create an environment where they feel comfortable to talk about work challenges. This can only be done by asking the right questions and listening intently to their responses.
7. Meet your team face to face (when you can)
With everything said, it is still difficult to develop meaningful connections remotely. So why not do it in person? One of the best ways to build true friendships is to meet the people you work with once or twice a year. Going out of your way to meet team members face to face will boost team morale and further improve your rapport.
You can find good opportunities to hold in-person meetings during work-related conferences. Not only will this benefit the business, but it is also the best time to get to know your team’s members and gain insight into what kinds of employees they are. In fact, you can even make this coincide with performance reviews so you can have in-depth discussions with them.
Remote technology has transformed many industries and drastically changed the way we work. The business benefits are undeniable but project managers and team leaders need to be ready to face new challenges that distance working brings.
About the author
Patrick Hogan is the CEO of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.