Managing a remote team is the long-distance relationship of the business world. It’s an ideal situation for business owners who need to leverage the collective power of professionals but have a limited local talent pool. It’s also beneficial for employees who can’t stomach the thought of an hour-long commute each day or who work best unsupervised. But it’s not without its hardships, and getting ahead of those challenges before hiring your new remote team members is the best way to ensure things work out between you.
Like any meaningful relationship, developing a virtual team for a non-brick-and-mortar-position requires a little bit of time to get to know the process (and the remote team members). You will need to start by understanding the pros and cons of having a distributed team. On the one hand, your remote team members won’t have to sit in traffic and can be home if their children can’t make it to school. On the other hand, many people find it difficult to only communicate via instant message and video call, as they miss out on that in-person interaction day in and day out.
Finding remote team members can be difficult as well, especially if you aren’t sure what type of employee/employer structure that you need. While you can certainly dive headfirst into having a full-time virtual team, it often makes more sense to start with freelancers. A freelance worker is likely already used to working from home. By using a job board specifically designed to connect you to freelance workers, you can hire someone to fill any position. You’ll come across jobs like virtual assistants, graphic designers, web developers, and even engineering and analytics professionals.
Communication is the key to managing a remote team. When you have remote team members or those who work different hours, the way you communicate information can mean the difference between missed deadlines and excellent project management.
Workforce explains that digital technologies have made communication a much simpler process today than it was even just a few years ago. However, your off-site workers may still struggle to communicate with their coworkers and management team. One way to overcome this is to designate an individual as a facilitator to find openings to include remote team members in things like video calls. Another important step is to schedule regular in-person meetings or provide an opportunity for workers to get together to collaborate either in-person or via online communication such as instant message. Just be mindful of the various time zones.
Managing From Afar
Even if your talent acquisition and communication skills are on point, there are still many challenges that go along with managing remote employees. Cultural differences, lack of oversight, an inability to define and monitor work/life boundaries, and even differing time zones are all issues you must learn to address as they arise. Many problems can be circumvented by setting your expectations early. Make sure your remote team members fully understand their expected duties, timelines, and responsibility to respond to you, their coworkers, or clients.
The decision to forgo a traditional office is becoming increasingly common, and software and hardware manufacturers are responding in full force. From ultra-portable laptops for working on-the-go to shared word processing programs, there are tools available that can help you solve your biggest challenges; all you have to do is look. Other examples that can help you and your staff be just as, if not more, productive than if you were together in an office include business management tools such as cloud storage, workflow management systems, and chat programs. Take advantage of tech tools and systems that handle your typical business operations as well such as end-of-day reporting, payroll, team management, and even marketing. The key is to find a program that not only meets your needs, but makes your job easier too but freeing you and your remote team up to tackle more important tasks.
Your remote team members rely on you to keep them going. Get to know the upside and downside of this professional relationship before you assemble your virtual team. Doing so will put you in the best position to communicate, collaborate, and compensate for any shortcomings. The above tips can help and can take much of the guesswork out of the process.