If you’ve been following my previous posts, you know that I run a remote team. My team at Pixc are all distributed around the world.
While the team and I like the way we do things, it took me lots of trial and error to get to where we are now. I’ve hired hundreds of freelancers to find people I can rely on and trust.
To some people, running a distributed team still sounds like a way of the future. It can even be scary. It can be difficult, but not impossible.
I share the top 10 questions I get asked about running a remote team. Hopefully, this will help you get started as you start building your own distributed team.
1. How do you communicate with a remote team?
Communication is critical when building a remote team.
You nearly have to over communicate to make sure nothing is missed or assumed.
I believe regular team meetings are one of the best ways to foster excellent communication with your remote team.
At Pixc, we have set meetings each week. Usually, for 30 minutes.
We use our meetings to discuss goals and plan for the week. This regular communication helps ensure our goals are clear, no matter how small the task is.
As a business owner, you need to know things are on track, and by taking the time to talk to your team also helps you to get to know them better.
We also have a GChat ‘room’ (a bit like a Slack channel), called the Better You Room, where we talk about personal development.
In this room, encourage the team to share things other than work. This helps the team to bond no matter where we are located.
Top Tip: If you haven’t already, start with a quick 30-minute meeting every week to make sure you and your team are on the same track.
Top Tip #2: Create a chat room or set a weekly space where you and your workers can talk about themselves and their lives.
2. How do you deal with cultural differences?
Simple: I hire for attitude.
That means I hire team members that share Pixc’s vision and values.
I think that if you hire people who share your vision, culture fit isn’t a problem.
Treat your collaborators like they are part of your family — everyone understands family. But have clear boundaries, so there are no misunderstandings.
That way, you’re all on the same page and create a better work environment.
On the other hand, when it comes to cultural differences, it always comes back to communication and how you deliver your message. Take different country cultures into consideration.
Top Tip: If you’re unsure about your workers’ culture, ask away. They’d probably love to talk about their heritage and the things they like and dislike.
3. How do you manage time zones?
It’s best if you can hire team members in a similar time zone.
For example, have all your tech team in Europe and your customer support in Asia, and all your marketing and sales in America. We do this at Pixc.
However, it doesn’t matter too much if you hire for attitude and flexibility.
Sometimes, you will find team members who are happy to work outside the usual 9–5 hours and that can meet at odd hours.
That’s especially important to me because I’m based in Australia and some of the members of my team are in America, which means we have to find times that suit us both.
But it comes back to communication and goals. If your team knows their deadlines and goals, different time zones aren’t a problem.
Top Tip: Pick a time to meet each week and stick to it. Set a Google Calendar recurring meeting and make sure you always meet.
4. How do you onboard remote team members?
I’ve found that the best way to onboard remote team members is to set expectations first and foremost.
I believe that when you onboard remote team members you need to have a clear idea of their tasks and what you expect them to achieve.
Also, both you and the person you’re onboarding should be clear on your company values and team goals.
Top Tip: We have perfected a 4-step process to onboard our workers that I think helps us manage expectations from day one.
- Talk about your company culture
This includes showing them your employee handbook and your style guide if necessary.
- Show them how to use your team communication tools
Here, we discuss how we communicate and welcome them to our Gchat, where they can talk to the rest of the team to get acquainted with the company.
- Set specific goals and expectations
We have a spreadsheet/Trello board of all the tasks that need to be completed, by what date and a measurable goal tied to it. We both agree on the tasks, goals, and deadlines before moving forward.
- Establish regular meetings
Regular meetings ensure that the team stay accountable and improve communication. If you can set up a time to meet each week, there will be less chance of miscommunication.
5. How do you manage payments?
More often than not, I use Upwork. It helps me to centralize everything and saves me from having to sift through invoices to stay on top of the payments.
Most of my team prefer Upwork because they have plenty of payment options, from Paypal to Payoneer to direct deposit, which makes it pretty handy for most freelancers because it reduces the fees they would have to pay if I sent them a wire transfer.
Negotiate the payment beforehand and if you’re going on hourly contracts, have them track their time to make sure you’re paying them for the time they worked.
If you can, offer your freelancers different payment methods. PayPal takes a 5.6% commission, whereas Payoneer transactions are free of charge if you have a Payoneer account.
Each platform has its pros and cons for both you and your freelancers, but, in the end, try to pick the one that charges less fee for you and your freelancers.
Top Tip: You can use a service like TransferWise to send them their payment for a significantly lower fee than what most banks or even PayPal would charge you.
6. How do you ensure accountability with remote team members?
First of all, make sure everyone has set measurable goals.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
Keep the team accountable and tell them to come to you when they don’t think they can reach their deadline.
As a founder or a team leader, you shouldn’t have to chase everyone, which means you have to foster a culture of transparency where people feel confident to say that they can’t finish something.
But beware, people from some cultures have this habit of saying “YES” to every single task to try and please their manager.
Top Tip: To prevent accountability issues, emphasize that they should only do the things they’re confident in completing instead of saying ‘yes’ to all of your requests.
7. How do you keep information centralized and available?
This one is easy to answer: Document, document, document.
We have a centralized Google Drive with folders for each team, and part of the culture we instill is to have every remote team member document what they do, so it’s easier to onboard the next person.
For example, If you create content, ask your writers to save the files under specific names and in certain folders just so everyone involved can access information freely.
The same goes for meetings. It’s always important to have your meetings documented. This is especially true for teams whose duties and responsibilities intertwined.
This helps you keep your distributed team in the loop and avoids having to retrace emails.
Top Tip: Create a shared Google Drive folder where every remote team member has access to the information that’s relevant to them only and assign granular permissions.
Top Tip #2: It’s always easy to forget that you have documents already for certain things. Whenever I get asked about a particular topic, I always tell my team members to look for documents related to their questions.
8. Do you get lonely working by yourself?
I find that people who work remotely tend to be introverted, and it works well for us.
I can be an introvert too. I find I am more productive working from home. Sometimes when I want to be surrounded by others, I will go to a coworking space or cafe.
Sometimes I do miss being surrounded by inspiring people, but I go to networking events often, and I have a ‘founder friends’ group that I call and catch up with.
That’s one of the reasons I started the ‘Better You’ room with my team, so I can find what they like and what inspires them, so we all feel like we are sitting side-by-side.
The team can feel lonely too. So it’s essential that you make time to talk to your remote team about their life other than work.
Top Tip: If you have the budget, try and meet up with them in person wherever they may be.
9. How do you keep data safe?
You have two choices: openly speak about this during the onboarding or use your good judgment to see what kind of person you’re hiring.
Even if you don’t have a specific protocol on how to handle data, if your remote workers have access to sensitive information, like your bank accounts or your social profiles, you have to be careful and monitor their activity.
Whether you have an office or remote team, you have to keep an eye on who is accessing your information and restrict the access to specific tools to prevent any issues.
Top Tip: Have your remote team members sign an NDA, which is one of the reasons I hire via Upwork because they help protect business owners against these kinds of issues.
10. How do you manage trust between team members?
This is probably the hardest thing to manage in a remote team, and I don’t have a direct answer.
Putting your trust in someone can always be a risk, but, once again, if you hire for attitude and your team members share your vision, chances are they are a good fit.
However, keep in mind that trust is a two-way street.
If your remote team feel they’re trusted, they’ll likely respond with trust.
Top Tip: Hire remote workers on a 2-week contract at first. That way, you get to know who you’re hiring; this also helps you test the waters before fully committing to hiring someone full time.
I believe it all comes down to two things: communication and attitude.
If you hire people with the right attitude and that share your company vision, you probably won’t have issues running a distributed team.
A misalignment with cultural fit is one of the things that can ruin a working relationship. This is something you can train yourself to see right off the bat when you interview someone.
But never forget that trust is a two-way street and your remote team members need to trust you as much as you need to trust them.
Do you run a remote team? 💻🌍 I would love to hear what questions you would like me to cover next.