Remote work has taken over today’s modern companies – thanks, mostly, to the advancement of the Internet and the influx of jobs that no longer require the traditional, 9-to-5 grind. This kind of flexibility has given many businesses definite advantages: they attract better talent from the global pool (remote working is considered a motivating perk – 74% of North Americans reported they are willing to switch jobs based on a work-from-home policy), they are able to save an average of $11,000 USD for each employee who works remotely 50% of the time, and they get better results as studies show that remote workers are 35-40% more productive. These reasons, among many others, are why remote working is dubbed as the “future of work.”
But managing a remote team is very different from managing in-house employees. Many still consider virtual communication less productive and nearly half of managers surveyed admit to feeling confused and overwhelmed by collaboration technology. Virtual teams are definitely hard to get right, but here are some key elements to keep in mind to ensure successful virtual teamwork:
1. Hiring Process
Your team’s composition is your starting point. Like in any recruitment process for any organization, choosing the “right fit” will help everything fall into place much easier. While skills and practices can be taught, it is difficult to teach integrity, the aptitude to work independently, good communication, resourcefulness, and intrinsic drive. Each type of business may have their own technical requirements, but selecting a candidate who fits well with your existing team or who displays characteristics that you value will help managing the whole team a breeze.
One of the most prevalent concerns that come up in relation to working remotely is that it can foster an environment that lacks a sense of community. Working in front of screens, even with solutions like video conferencing, just cannot replace face-to-face interaction. With that being said, it is important to come up with and establish effective ways to work together at the onset of bringing someone into the team. Some of the ways to build better bonds are: having chit-chat sessions (about non-business matters) regularly, setting guidelines for team interfaces, using different digital platforms for better visibility of tasks, and organizing in-person meetings or retreats.
When your team doesn’t share the same physical space, there’s a greater need to be better at communicating effectively. The best virtual teams overcome the challenges of being in different parts of the world through consistent contact and open communication. You have to be mindful of the cultural differences that your team may have and take this into consideration when speaking to them. You also have to be available to respond promptly to your employees – research shows that engagement is highest for employees who have daily contact with their managers. To help with this, there are a variety of tools that can be used like Zoom or Skype. For quick exchanges, chat applications can be a more practical (and more “warm”) solution than email.
4. Autonomy and Workflow
A work culture that encourages autonomy – trusting that your employees can get things done, allowing them to assume responsibility and be accountable, and giving them opportunity to get better – is a must for remote teams. Because you don’t see each other frequently and you’re not entirely sure what each team member is up to all the time, it can be difficult not have doubts and not to micro-manage. The answer to this is having systems, processes, and standards in place. Also, project management tools like Slack and Asana are useful for improved task delegation and integration, better project tracking, and an over-all more seamless workflow.
5. The Big Picture
Team members who share the same vision and similar values are more likely to succeed together. This is why it’s important that managers are able to relay the big picture to everyone in a way that each member knows his individual goals and how they contribute to the company’s, as a whole. Letting them be part and parcel to the direction of the business will not only align their work product and laser focus their objectives, but it will also make them feel truly part of the team.
For some, especially those with no prior experience or have been accustomed to the office set-up for so long, the contrast in management can be daunting. But as virtual teams become increasingly commonplace, managers and business owners can rely on these key elements for their remote teams to flourish.
At FGC+, we don’t stop at just finding the right staff with the right fit for your organization – we make sure we’re with you every step of the way. We provide regular monitoring and management support to help you in running your remote team. Contact us to learn more.