Tips for running an effective remote team
So you read our post Five reasons for building a remote team and you’re sold. You’re never setting foot in a cubicle-filled office again. We feel you.
But hold your horses for a second. Deciding to go remote is the easy part — now you need to ensure your team is working effectively. We’re here to show you how.
1. Make smart hires
Hiring the right person is difficult at the best of times, let alone when you’re making the decision based on a few Skype conversations, with timezones and travel costs preventing an in-person meeting. It’s especially important to make the right decision when that person is going to be operating independently, without the support that face-to-face working provides. With that in mind, look for candidates with a proven track record of working independently, and ensure they fully understand the potential pitfalls of remote working, and how some people find it isolating.
Help Scout recommend testing candidates’ writing skills, as much of the communication for remote teams happens in text form. And be sure to test out potential hires with a short-term project to see if they gel with your way of working, before bringing them on as a full-time member of the team. Finally, ensure that employees understand, and subscribe to, the company culture. A culture deck is a great way to quickly convey what you stand for.
2. Communication is everything
With your team distributed all around the world, communication has never been more important. Building rapport comes easily when you see the same people in person every day, but it takes a little extra work with remote teams.
When you’re on a call with a colleague, allow space to “chew the fat” before diving into business, in the same way that you might chat while walking to a meeting room in a real-life office. Make time to find out what’s happening outside of their work life. It might seem frivolous, but these interactions are what brings a team closer and ensures that everyone feels valued.
Aside from one-to-one bonding, book an all-company meeting once a week where everyone can share what they’ve been working on and spend time hearing from other members of the team who they might otherwise not interact with.
3. Meet face to face
While it’s crucial to get your day-to-day online communication right, nothing beats meeting your team IRL. Making trips to see your team members in their everyday environments will give you a feel for what it’s like to be in their shoes, and show you where you might be able to make improvements so that their work life is a little easier.
A company retreat is a great way to bring the whole team together and spend time getting to know each other in person, allowing everyone to meet the person behind the avatar. Buffer have written extensively about their retreats, where employees and their families gather from around the world to spend time together.
4. Cultivate a positive team dynamic
You can’t be with your team in person all the time, but there are plenty of ways to keep building that all-important team dynamic during your time apart. Creating virtual clubs (think: virtual running / reading / film / yoga / knitting / cooking club) is just one way to unite team members over common interests. It could be as simple as creating Slack channels for different interests, or scheduling a regular Google Hangout for people to discuss the books they’re reading.
Marking birthdays and other special occasions by sending a gift, or finding a way for the whole team to celebrate together, is another way to step outside of the computer screen and let employees know you care.
5. Keep checking in
Like with any other workplace, setting clear expectations ensures you and your employee are on the same page with what’s required of them. But once those expectations are set, it’s easy for employees to feel abandoned. To avoid that, be sure to have regular check-ins to gauge how the work is going.
Regular feedback from your team makes it quick and easy for both parties to express how they’re feeling. We are actually developing a weekly feedback survey for our teams at UpWave which we’ll be rolling out over the summer of 2016, although there are standalone tools you can check out like TinyPulse. And while many people recoil at the idea of time tracking software and its ‘big brother’ connotations, Hubstaff have found that their remote workers find the idea of employee monitoring software motivating.