In the ‘olden’ days, a working team was a group of people working together in the same building and during the same daily time-frame. As the working world becomes more flexible in order to take into account factors such as parenting, caring for older family members and finding the right talent, wherever they may be, remote working is increasingly becoming the norm for many businesses.
What is it?
Traditionally, remote working referred to one person who, for whatever reason, was not always available to work from the main hub and so, would work from home. These days, the concept of remote work has been expanded to include entire teams of employees, all working collaboratively from their own base. Although this is a relatively new concept for mainstream working, tech and software businesses have been utilising this for some time due to scarcity of affordable talent. Managing a remote team does present challenges and, we take a look at some of these and, how to deal with them:
The human connection
In a regular working environment, employees form relationships and connections with each other due to working in close proximity five days a week – forming these relationships is a little trickier when each member of a team is working alone. When managing remote teams, it’s really important to organise regular ‘real life’ interactions such as monthly meetings and social events so that the team members can get to know one another. Similarly, it’s a really good idea to introduce a video conferencing system such as Zoom as this encourages ‘face to face’ communication between team members – most people form a deeper connection when they’re able to gauge somebody’s body language rather than a voice on the phone or a typed communication.
In the zone – or not
Often, members of a remote team will not only be in different offices but, sometimes, in different countries – which presents the problem of time zones. It can be really frustrating to send an email from London at ten o’clock in the morning and then have to wait eight hours for a response from a colleague in Australia. In these cases, it’s vital that you assign strict ‘communication windows’ which all team members adhere to.
It’s good to talk
These days, there are lots of different ways in which team members can communicate – and you’ll often find that each one has a preference. Frustrations can arise when one member likes to have long telephone conversations but, another prefers a short, snappy email. Introduce a secure instant messaging system such as Slack and insist that all members use it. You can introduce different threads to the system so that those who wish to ‘chat’ can do so and, those who prefer to stick to business can simply communicate through the business threads.
It’s a process
In any business, it’s important to set clear systems and procedures to avoid a chaotic working life and, this is especially so with remote teams. Working remotely can give employees a sense of autonomy which can lead to a casual approach to rules. Clearly communicate the procedures required such as document sharing requirements, communication and responsibility and, make sure that these are followed by providing regular feedback just as you would if the employee was sitting in front of you.
Speaking again to that sense of autonomy, although every member of your team is vital, it’s inevitable that there will be a hierarchy in terms of responsibility, competence and seniority and you need to ensure that this is understood by the team. Each member needs to have a clear sense of what their objectives and responsibilities are and, who they report to during their working day. It can be difficult for a remote worker to have a ‘boss’ who works 500 miles away from them, which makes it all the more important to organise those get-togethers on a regular basis.
Playing with a full stack
When putting together a remote team, many businesses make the mistake of failing to balance the necessary talent. In order to create the remote dream team, you need to make sure that every aspect of the project is covered – from design to development to admin. Many businesses find it useful to hire ready made remote project teams which can be a great solution for a short to mid term project.
When managing a remote team, all of these factors are important but, the number one priority is communication. By ensuring that team members communicate effectively amongst each other – and that there is strong communication between the team and management, you’ll have yourself an effective and efficient team.