The thought of managing remote teams or operating in a remote working environment can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. If you arm yourself with the right tools, mindset, and employees, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.
Often, remote teams manage themselves due to the nature of their work. Remote employees are usually good at managing their own time, staying productive and adhering to deadlines. In fact, remote employees are twice as likely to work beyond 40 hours a week. And it doesn’t end there: Remote workers are often 20% more productive when they can tackle creative projects on their own.
In order for that productivity to happen, it’s important to hire the right people for the job. While remote employees can certainly do all those things, they can just as easily fail to do them. In other words, there is potential for both the structure and the productivity of your remote teams to go downhill if you’re not prepared.
You must teach your remote employees best practices so they remain efficient, focused and active. Things can fall apart quickly if just one or two remote workers are flaky, especially if they’re responsible for a majority of the work.
Even after you find the right employees, you need to build a strong culture and a strong relationship with the people who answer to you. There are several ways to do this, which we will explain in full detail in our guide.
In short, we want to help you build a successful and booming remote work environment for everyone!
To get there, you’ll need to understand what tools are necessary for managing remote employees, along with how to use them. You’ll also need to understand how to onboard and engage remote employees, even when they are hundreds — if not thousands — of miles apart. More importantly, you’ll need to be able to identify when someone is ideal for a remote opportunity, and when someone simply won’t cut it. Believe us when we say it will save you headaches if you iron this out beforehand.
Successful remote teams are different because they are more personal, connected and organized. But this isn’t necessarily something that just falls into place. It takes time to get to an efficient and productive level, and there are a lot of tools and practices that can ensure it happens.
In this guide, we’re going to explore everything from the creation of a remote team to the regular maintenance required by this setup. This guide will help you keep your team effective and develop it into a long-term business partnership.
The History of Remote Work
Living in today’s world, it’s easy to forget that once, long ago, nearly everyone was a home worker and had to manage their own productivity.
There were tradesmen — and women, of course — including iron and stone workers, carpenters, bakers, farmers, tailors and more. Many of them lived and worked in a building called a “workhome.” Essentially, it was both a residence and a storefront — or business property — for these tradesmen. There was no such thing as a flexible working trend because it was their way of life.
This setup existed for centuries — until the Industrial Revolution came along and the idea of automation was widely adopted. This is when large businesses and corporations boomed, as they replaced factory workers and manual laborers with machines and hardware that could enhance the manufacturing process.
The people who were employed by these companies were required to work onsite, and generally with proprietary equipment and machinery.
This helped spark the idea that “going to work” was the new norm. That, coupled with the fact that many small business owners couldn’t compete with these large operations, led to the birth of the modern workplace, or “work environment.”
The idea of working from home, or merging a single space into both living quarters and a business hub was largely forgotten.
Of course, that doesn’t mean people didn’t work from home over the years. It just means it was no longer as common as it once was.
What to Expect From a Remote Work Environment
The most important aspect of a remote environment is that communication channels will change. This obviously introduces a new set of challenges that traditional businesses don’t have to contend with.
Face-to-face communication and in-person meetings are largely eliminated unless you come up with a hybrid environment where employees work from home but must commute to a central location for correspondence. We’ll get to that strategy later. Just know that if you don’t adopt a strategy like it — and that’s okay – meetings and collaboration will take place in a digital space. Be prepared!
It is possible to have face-to-face communication via tools like Skype, but that also adds a number of alternate factors. For example, Skype requires a reliable internet connection on both sides of a call. Without it, call quality can suffer and communication can end prematurely.
Interrupted calls hinder productivity, but it’s no different from interruptions that occur during physical, in-office meetings.
These remote communication challenges also contribute to a lack of general team cohesion. Employees working remotely on their own tasks and projects aren’t as aware of the grand picture. That leaves a lot of responsibility and weight on the shoulders of your management team. A remote team doesn’t necessarily call for more micromanagement than a traditional work environment, but it does require someone to be constantly aware of what’s going on across the company’s various projects.
If the management team does not keep up with their end of the bargain, it can seriously hinder collaboration. Overall, this can lead to significant difficulties in keeping up with individual developments across a team.
Ultimately, this also means that individual members of a team may invest time doing work that is later scrapped or changed altogether. Collaborating in person doesn’t eliminate this problem altogether, but it does make the project much easier to monitor. You can check in with team members constantly and be sure they are on track and ready to meet their deadlines.
Finally, a remote work environment relies heavily on accountability for all employees. Managers can always follow-up and stay in touch with their team, but individual members need to understand when to reach out. For example, if a particular employee is having trouble with their task, they need to be able to email the correct party for questions, progress reports, and general guidance. To boil it down to the basics, remote work does not scale well for introverted employees. It is very much a social experience for all.
Let’s briefly recap the pros and cons.
Pros of a Remote Work Environment:
- Great flexibility for employees
- Lower operating costs for businesses and lower living costs for employees
- Increased productivity under the right conditions
- Save time from transportation
- Quite work environment that allows people to focus
Cons of a Remote Work Environment:
- Remote communication is more limited
- Team cohesion can, and likely will, suffer
- Managers might have difficulties in maintaining relationships with co-workers
- A shifting of trust and accountability to your team, even for simple tasks like returning emails
- Increased reliance on modern technology and internet connectivity
- Due to the fact that employees are always “on-call,” this can lead to burnout
How to Find and Hire Reliable Remote Employees
Since remote work requires shifting an awful lot of trust and accountability onto your employees, you need to make sure you find reliable people. All it takes is one person not carrying their weight to ruin an entire project and make you miss your general deadline.
To ensure that doesn’t happen to you, we’ve put together some guidelines to help you find the right candidates during your hiring campaign. If you already have your employees and you’re converting to a remote setup, you might want to consider how current employees fit into this change.
What Characteristics Make-Up a Reliable and Efficient Employee?
As with any employment opportunity you offer, you’ll need to target certain characteristics and traits that signify someone is reliable for remote work. Hiring the best remote workers for your company is about identifying the characteristics needed to complete the work well and on-time.
The qualities you want to look for include self-motivation, problem-solving, good communication, trustworthiness and more. To make sure you understand exactly what you need, we’ll break those down and explain each trait individually.
Even though remote workers may have a manager or team member they report to, they are largely unsupervised while they work. This means it’s easy for them to get off track, be lazy or disregard instructions and guidelines.
Taking this into consideration, you want to ensure all of your remote workers are self-motivated and reliable. They need to excel at their job — not because someone told them to, but because they want to.
Motivating remote employees can be difficult, especially when you don’t know that much about someone, but there are some additional traits you can look for.
Work history and promotion history can tell you a thing or two about someone’s motivation. For example, how long did they stay with a particular employer, and did they have the drive to move up or advance?
You can also judge motivation based on a person’s extracurricular interests. If someone is active and motivated, they will have a lot going on in their life, such as sports awards, personal achievements, long-term pursuits and more. Do they regularly train to run marathons? If so, they’re definitely motivated.
Finally, find out how the person reacts to failure. You can easily gauge this by asking questions like, “How did you overcome significant obstacles in your work or home life?” If they indicate that they can remain focused and positive — even in the face of failure — they’re likely motivated.
Remote workers will need to troubleshoot and solve problems on their own without guidance from management or team members. This also means they need to be motivated to seek their own answers and complete their own research — including locating resources for said research.
The best way to gauge problem-solving is to simply ask. Ask candidates how they overcame a difficult situation in the past using creative means. Furthermore, present a question or challenge that they must complete right in front of you, during the interview.
Then, be sure to discern how confident they are about their answers. This will tell you their own confidence in their ability to solve problems and overcome obstacles.
- Good Communication
It’s important to understand that remote workers are just that — remote! If they run into a problem or have questions, for the most part, they’re going to need to seek out the solution on their own. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t know when it’s appropriate to communicate or reach out, which brings us to the trait of good communication and social skills.
Remote employees not only need to be able to fully emphasize their point vocally but also through the written word. They’ll be writing a lot of emails, participating in online chats and even engaging in phone or VOIP conversations. They need to be able to express themselves clearly and efficiently, no matter which form of communication they’re using.
The best way to gauge this is through your correspondence with potential candidates. Pay attention to their resume, cover letter and the emails they send. Do they use proper grammar? Are they fluent in the language they’re using? Do they have a clear understanding of how to communicate their needs?
This is another trait that’s difficult to pinpoint when first meeting a candidate.
Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships — even our work-related ones. Without trust, the glue that holds a relationship together falls away, and so does our effectiveness. You don’t need to get too personal with this one, but try to find out a bit more about a candidate’s personal relationships, both at work and at home.
There are also activities you can engage in to find a person’s trustworthiness, like the Prisoner’s Dilemma challenge.
Some additional traits include:
- Organizational skills
- Positivity and Optimism
- Marketability (as a person)
How to Entice Potential Remote Employees
Before you can weed through any candidates — or even look at their dominant traits — you need to find some. The only way to do that is to make sure as many people know about your employment opportunity as possible.
This means coming up with an attractive job offer and advertising it appropriately. That doesn’t mean you have to follow in the footsteps of every company that came before you. There are the tried-and-true ways of finding employees — such as posting on job boards like Indeed or Monster — but it’s okay to think outside the box, too. Try using social media to hunt down potential candidates, or post something on your company blog about open positions.
Spend some time reaching out to contacts you’ve worked within the past and enjoyed collaborating with. They may make a great candidate for remote employment or recommend another colleague who is. You can also host a local meetup, where you can greet and engage in an open discussion with potential candidates who are interested in coming to work for your company.
In almost every situation described above, however, you’ll need to be able to define every open position in detail.
Tips for Finding the Best Remote Employees
Once you understand what you’re asking of potential candidates — and what kind of job you will be offering — it’s time to reach out and find some! But where do you go?
You can always post a listing on a classifieds site like Craigslist. Or, you can turn to freelance markets like Freelancer, Upwork, Elance, and SimplyHired.
If you’re going that route, you might as well listen to an expert. According to Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics, the best places to find remote workers are:
He also recommends, companies that hire remote employees can use their product or company blog to advertise job offers. This is because — believe it or not — sometimes your readers and fans make great candidates. Generally, they already understand what you do and what your company’s mission is.
Some other ways to find candidates include attending events, like career fairs, or even hosting contests.
Hiring a Remote Employee
Now that you’ve learned a bit about the benefits of hiring remote teams, it’s time to put one together.
Hiring employees and vetting potential candidates for remote work is remarkably different than doing so for a traditional, co-local team. You need to find someone who is both motivated and responsible, but that can hold their own, as well.
Hiring remote employees is not so easy. One of the best ways to weed out potential applicants, especially if you have a long list of candidates, is to assign a trial project. They may look great on paper, but can they actually handle the work?
Have them complete something for you, or offer a one-time contract for a project or task. When it’s complete, you can pay them for their work and either offer them consistent work or let them know you’re pursuing other candidates who more closely match your needs — depending on how well-received their finished product was.
Obviously, you might not have enough work for all of your contract candidates, so you can structure it like a contest. Have everyone complete the same project and choose the best. You could even have candidates create different content. For instance, allow a potential candidate to write a guest post for your blog or manage your social media account for a day — or something comparable.
Boost Team Productivity With the Right Project Management System
Simply put, you cannot have an efficient and productive team without a project management system.
Why You Need a Project Management System
A project management system, or platform, offers a comprehensive toolset to help manage your team, whether they’re located remotely or locally. The beauty of these systems for remote teams is that they allow for much stronger communication and time management between members.
A project management system is a remote or virtual office for your team. It’s the glue that holds the entire team together. It tells everyone what their projects and tasks are. It clearly outlines deadlines and due dates. It allows for communication between team members and cross-talk between individual groups. More importantly, it allows you, or your managers, to oversee the entire operation from something of a bird’s-eye view.
How Do They Boost Productivity?
There are many ways in which project management systems — like Kanbanize — can boost productivity. Actual support will depend on the platform you choose and the features it offers, but, for the most part, they are relatively similar:
- They help you understand your resource capability through planning and visualization tools.
- They assist you with prioritizing projects and tasks, as well as assigning them to individual team members.
- Project planning, brainstorming, and collaboration are more organized and consistent.
- They help you minimize the risk associated with virtual teams.
- They allow you to see in real-time the current progress of a project or task.
- You can measure a variety of stats like productivity, progress, utilization (of tools and members) and much more.
- They help you improve customer and problem response times.
Project management systems simplify the micromanagement process and consolidate everything you need into one convenient toolset. Instead of trying to organize and establish all the necessary tools and platforms necessary to keep a remote team operational on your own, you can turn to an existing portal.
If you want your remote team to have a chance at success, you’ll need to utilize a project management system. Doing it on your own is possible, yes, but it’s not recommended.
Why Remote Employees Need Structure, and How to Give It?
Just like co-located teams, remote teams need structure. They need to understand what hours you work or expect them to work. They need to know what core responsibilities and duties they have. Perhaps most importantly, they need a clear and visible deadline for all tasks and projects.
These are all things that you can work to establish together as a team. Factor in what your clients want out of your services, obviously, but ultimately, the structure doesn’t have to come from just you. That said, it’s important you have structure — period.
A lot of this structure and organization will come from the tools and equipment you use to get the work done. A project management system, for instance, will help you manage a great deal of structure that’s necessary for a team to operate.
What to Look for in a Project Management System?
There are several questions you must ask before you can make any decisions. Answering these questions will not only tell you what kind of software is good for you (SaaS or self-hosted) but also the method you should be using.
- What size projects will your team be working on? Are these grand-scale projects or smaller efforts?
- How many people will be necessary to complete a project? How big is your team?
- Do you need the system to be mobile-friendly for those on-the-go?
- What is your budget?
- Do you want a SaaS (web-based) solution or custom self-hosted one? The latter will require its own development team.
- What do you need the software to do, and what data must be tracked? Do you need email and IM support? Will you be sending files and attachments? Do you need integrated meeting and communication tools? Do you need to track productivity and invested time through this system?
How to Use Kanban for Project Management
The issue with remote work — and the responsibilities that come along with it — is that you cannot apply 100% of your energy and attention to a single task at a time. If you could, things would be a whole lot easier.
Alas, you need to divide your attention and the attention of your team appropriately. This is where Kanban comes into play. Kanban is one of the most flexible and simplest project management tools available.
Why? Because one solution fits nearly every type of situation and can be scaled accordingly. That solution is Kanban.
Kanban is a relatively new technique that can be used to manage projects and tasks in a more efficient manner. The best way to put it is that both efficiency and productivity take center stage. This is because Kanban is designed to eliminate bottlenecks and push work through a production line without hindrance.
With traditional production and development methods, you have what’s called the pipeline. With a pipeline, tasks and feature requests are essentially funneled through this pipe to create software or products, which emerge from the other end. It boils everything down to a simple, three-step process: (1) Analyze requirements and come up with a plan, (2) develop the product or service and (3) test it and release.
The problem with this more traditional method — or pipeline, if you will — is that, as bottlenecks appear, they just stack upon one another and cause more problems. All this does is delay your end production goals indefinitely until those bottlenecks can be resolved.
In addition, this process encourages overproduction, which creates a natural bottleneck and balloon costs. Kanban tools may help you take your entire project and adapt it visually so that you can see everything happening in real-time.
It involves taking a big planning board — or a small one — and separating it into columns. Each of the columns represents a stage in your development process. Then, you use sticky notes or index cards to represent individual tasks that need to be completed. These smaller tasks are part of the bigger picture. Nothing is considered finished until all of these tasks have progressed accordingly.
At its core, Kanban limits the amount of work-in-progress (WIP) to help reveal bottlenecks much sooner and alleviate the issues that are causing them. Here is why you can easily use Kanban for project management and it will make your work processes much efficient.
Which Method Is the Best for Most Teams?
Kanban vs Scrum
The first thing to note about Kanban is that it can scale with your organization or team. This also makes it ideal for companies that are constantly growing and evolving over time — which is likely what your team will end up doing.
Both Scrum and Kanban are structured to emphasize efficiency and productivity, but Scrum lends itself better to new organizations, or those that need a serious fundamental shift. Kanban, on the other hand, can be easily implemented anywhere — even in situations where a company already has a working process. Of course, this also means Kanban is much more flexible and can be tailored to meet the needs of a company or team.
A remote team is constantly evolving, and the success of either the Scrum or Kanban method depends on the project. If you use a physical Kanban board, you might need to consider how to translate it into a digital environment for your remote team. The consideration must be taken with Scrum.
Scrum Board vs Kanban Board
When it comes to matching up Scrum boards vs. Kanban boards, you’ll soon learn they are two separate strategies, even if they are derived from similar methodologies.
Scrum boards are designed to allow teams to plan out projects and tasks in finer detail, whereas Kanban allows team members to work without a core, structured plan. In fact, Kanban doesn’t have a distinct planning stage — though this doesn’t mean planning is forgotten completely.
On a Scrum board, you create an initial list of items to complete, which essentially becomes the backlog. Then, as you do the work, you create separate sprints and move each issue from the backlog to the sprints section. In layman’s terms, the backlog is the planning stage and the sprint is the operational (or “working”) stage.
Kanban uses the same column-based board structure, but instead of organizing a small portion of the projects and moving them from planning to sprint, you push them through each stage in the production process individually. In Kanban, this is called mapping your workflow. Within the columns, you can also create swim lanes — this allows other teams to share columns, or parallel processes while keeping their specific team processes intact.
Kanban lends itself to increased speed, productivity, and ease-of-use. Scrum is much more complex to set up, but it presents great organizational and viewing support.
Myths About Kanban
As outlined by Kanbanize on our company blog, there are a few myths floating around about Kanban.
The first myth we’ll address is that there’s no planning or estimation stage in Kanban. This is simply not true, but it’s at least partially understandable.
Kanban assumes that the planning and estimate stages are a waste in the process because they don’t bring direct value to the project or production line. However, Kanban does still leave room for some necessary waste, which can be used to plan. Planning is necessary, even for teams that rely on the Kanban method — it’s just important to understand that you can’t be excessive about it.
The next myth is that Kanban is structured so that it only benefits support teams. This is not true because Kanban doesn’t rely on a specific order when it comes to workflow. You can adapt and scale the system to meet your needs, no matter what they are.
A final myth claims that you should start with Scrum and then move to Kanban later. They are two extremely different methods — even if they are both agile — and they each have their own structure.
Don’t make this mistake. Instead, choose one of the methods and then do your best to bring your team on board with the principles incorporated in its practice.
Kanban vs Lean
Since Kanban is an agile process, the correct matchup here is Agile vs. Lean, as opposed to Kanban vs. Lean. Just keep in mind both Agile and Lean are essentially the same approach with only slight variances.
The Lean method is born from a system called “lean manufacturing,” which calls for an emphasis on quality, speed and, most importantly, customer alignment. To break it down to the absolute basics, Lean is so named because it asks you to eliminate any and all processes or elements that are not adding direct value at that particular moment in time.
In a way, Lean is the foundation upon which Agile was built, so you’ll see a lot of overlapping principles and ideas between the two.
However, Agile is more about the interactions, tools, and reactions a team has, as opposed to the trimming of actual processes. It values individuals and interactions over tools, working software over documentation, collaboration over negotiations and a strategy for responding to changes and issues.
For all intents and purposes, Lean is the foundation and Agile is the structure on top of that foundation. Because of that, there’s no way to really pit the two against each other.
For remote teams, Agile is the better focus because it employs principles of Lean in its execution.
Kanban vs GTD
GTD, or “getting things done,” is a methodology that breaks production up into five stages. Similar to Kanban, it uses a space called the workflow to guide processes. Though it’s possible to match up Kanban vs. GTD, again, there’s really no need. They are similar enough in many ways, and you can mix and match the two to meet your company’s needs.
Rather than covering the definition of GTD, which you can get elsewhere, we’re just going to outline what makes the methodology stand out from Kanban as a method and the Lean and Agile methodologies.
For starters, GTD does not impose caps or restrictions on backlog size. Because of this, you can spend a much longer time planning — and organizing — before kick-starting a new project or task. This does not mean that a GTD workflow is always going to have more actions and planning for those actions — it just means that, unlike Kanban, you are free to do as you wish at this point in the game.
GTD is also about having a defined default process that you can build on. And it rewards the prioritization of time, energy and context.
How Remote Company Culture Differs From Co-Located Company Culture and What to Expect
Remote company culture, even if you have occasional meetups in person, is completely different from that of a company with co-located employees. First of all, the employees have the opportunity to build better relationships with one another because they see each other every day. Then, there’s the point that company activities and recreational events are much different.
Most of these things are self-explanatory, though, because remote work is, well, remote. One thing they both have in common is a need for culture. Make no mistake about it: Remote company culture is different, but it’s still necessary. Unfortunately, it’s also more difficult to build.
What Is a Remote Team and How Does It Look Like?
For starters, the working space for a remote team is incredibly diverse. This is because no one is working from a central location — for the most part — and everyone is free to choose the space where they will do the bulk of their tasks.
Some team members may choose to spend their time in a home office. Others may choose to spend their time in a coffee shop or a library. Surprisingly, some may even choose to rent office space just for themselves — away from home — to help them remain focused and productive.
Remote teams must also provide their own equipment. There are ways for business owners and managers to provide stipends or expense accounts for remote workers, but this is not common. This usually means that remote workers naturally have more accountability and responsibility. They must provide not only their own tools for the trade, but also maintain them. This is also one of the reasons why company operating costs tend to be lower with remote teams.
Furthermore, because remote workers must supply themselves, this also means they are familiar with the equipment, software, and tools (such as free PM tools, for example) they will be using. There are instances in which you still may need to train your workers, especially if their duties involve working with a proprietary, developed in-house platform. But, for the most part, remote employees will be solely responsible for the training and research that goes into a project.
Pros of a Remote Team Over a Traditional, Co-Located Team
To a great extent, this can be described as virtual teams vs traditional teams. Let’s take a look at some of the pros of a remote team, as opposed to a co-located one:
- You have access to more potential candidates and can hire them faster. This is because you are not confined to a local area search, but can instead seek help nationally and even internationally. Your team has the freedom to work and complete projects on their own time. This means they can push work hours later or earlier as they need.
- If you are located in different time zones with a structure of who is on-call, you can respond to problems in a timely manner. You don’t have to worry about issues cropping up late at night when the office is closed.
- Operating costs and overhead are both much lower because the cost of running a remote or virtual team is minimal. You don’t need to pay for office space, electricity, food and supplies, business-level internet access, furniture or other various amenities.
Cons of a Remote Team Over a Traditional, Co-Located Team
Remote teams face challenges co-located ones may not:
- Remote work is arguably more difficult to manage, as most team members must be completely self-managed. Employees and workers are on their own, and they must research and put in time on their own. They must manage their own hours and efforts, and they must reach out for help on their own. This setup is not ideal for everyone.
- Company culture takes a huge hit because employees are not all in one location and they can’t easily spend time with one another in person.
- Communication is difficult, and the urgency of a problem matters little. In other words, just because you need to fix something NOW doesn’t mean it’s possible. You need to get in touch with the right parties first, which can take time.
- If at some point, you decide you want to transition to a co-local team, it’s not going to be possible. This would mean forcing everyone to move to a central location, or getting rid of everyone and starting over from scratch.
Strategies for Keeping a Remote Team Functioning
As you learned from the examples above, remote teams function differently than co-local ones. Here are some important strategies you can use to keep your remote team operating efficiently and to foster company culture.
- Communication channels must always remain open in one form or another. It doesn’t matter if it’s email, a chat tool or a video conferencing tool like Skype.
- You must identify the appropriate communication channels for specific discussions. Email isn’t always ideal.
- Make sure everyone has access to a video communication tool or program and the hardware to use it (like a webcam).
- Screen sharing tools can help tremendously in a pinch.
- Collaborative platforms are necessary, especially for documents and spreadsheets.
- A project management system is necessary — so make sure you use it!
- Allow for flexibility when it comes to hours, but also try to push for a consistent schedule.
- Track everything, including work output, hours worked, attendance and productivity rates.
- Pay team members well, and don’t be afraid to offer further benefits when applicable.
- Set up an onboarding and training process for new hires.
- Host and organize in-person meet-ups to get your team acquainted with one another.
- Understand and respect your employees’ time. Don’t ask them to put in extra time for work that you’re not willing to do yourself.
- Come up with a clear plan of attack and hierarchy for who should respond to emergencies, and decide how the process should work.
- Host regular meetings/discussions where you talk about what’s working for your team and allow members to speak up — and provide ideas.
How You Can Build a Remote Work Culture
We touched on company culture in a previous section, but we didn’t explore it thoroughly enough. Let’s take a closer look at how to build a culture in a remote team.
Why Do You Need Culture?
In order for employees to remain productive, happy and loyal, you need to ensure that the place where they work — or the process their job calls for — encourages these things. You don’t want your team members to dread “clocking in” for the day.
In reality, employees should look forward to work. They should enjoy the company of their co-workers and colleagues, the atmosphere work provides and the relationships and experiences it has to offer. After all, we spend a large majority of our lives at work — even if that work is done remotely.
To accomplish all this, you must build a positive culture. It matters, and it helps sustain employee happiness and loyalty. Why should you care about happy workers? Because happiness means increased productivity and higher quality work.
Positive Relationships Are Crucial for Culture
As you can see from some of the examples listed above, encouraging positive relationships between team members is absolutely crucial for culture.
Even at a distance of hundreds of miles away, if team members can’t stay positive with one another, it’s going to put a damper on your production line. It will contribute to strained relations and slower work habits, and may even lead to drama branching out to other employees.
It’s difficult to imagine something like that happening, but if you’ve ever had experience with a co-local team, then you understand it’s possible. Once your team becomes demotivated — even if it’s with one another — things get extremely stressful and difficult for everybody.
When teams understand their part in the larger equation, they know the value they bring to each project and when working with others on their team.
Be open with your team. Set clear goals and avoid ambiguity. Share knowledge with them and have them share knowledge with each other. Look for chances to educate or learn.
If your team feels they truly have a shared understanding of the collective goal, positive relationships form and collaboration grows.
How to Strengthen the Culture of Your Remote Team
Some popular ways to strengthen the culture of your remote team are:
- In-person meetups.
- Team challenges and activities.
- Attend local events and outings (maybe have everyone meet for a music festival).
- Discussion boards, like forums and chat tools.
- Encourage social interaction, even via social media.
- Encourage positive and fun interactions between everyone (post memes in group chats to show emotions).
- Create a buddy system that allows team members to collaborate more openly, and hold each other accountable.
- Sponsor community campaigns or allow team members to do so where they live, to represent your company.
- Attend related job fairs, conferences, and fun events together as a team.
- Offer perks that you wouldn’t see elsewhere, like premium access to a music service.
Remember — don’t be afraid to think outside the box and do something that’s relatively unheard of!
How to Communicate Effectively With Your Remote Employees
As we’ve made clear in previous sections, remote work requires communication to get anywhere. Without it, your team — and your company — will simply fall apart.
Learning How to Communicate Effectively Is Necessary for Success
According to research done by Capterra, project management software can improve communication in the workplace by 52%. In fact, aside from the organization and scheduling support, communication tools are the most important part of any project management system.
There are two things to take away from this. First: That’s exactly why you need a project management system. Second: Just because the tools exist, doesn’t mean you will use them efficiently.
Tips for Managing Remote Employees’ Effective Communication
The communication between remote workers is different than that of co-local ones. Remote employees have a greater opportunity to feel disconnected because they are so distanced. In addition, it’s easier to become robotic, discussing only work-related topics.
This can be an issue, since it may harm the culture you’ve built for your team, and it strengthens the idea that each worker is completely alone. Yes, you want individuals on your team to be autonomous, self-managing and accountable, but you will also need them to work collaboratively at times with other members.
A communication failure can cause a breakdown — not only in your production line but also in the relationships your employees have built.
Here are some quick tips to keep that from happening:
- Be wary of sending messages with an abrasive or emotionally charged tone. If something can be taken the wrong way, you might consider a re-write.
- Use the tools at your disposal to reach out and communicate effectively through any means necessary, including personal chats, video calls, email and more.
- Stay in touch and have an interest in your employees’ lives outside of work.
- Be transparent by sharing company happenings with your crew. You can do this via newsletters, internal forums, blogs and more.
- Always make it absolutely clear what is expected of your team. Don’t leave it up to interpretation.
- Be available whenever you can, even if you travel a lot.
- Give feedback and try to stay positive and encouraging.
- Never be opposed to answering questions or listening to concerns, no matter how trivial they may seem.
- Keep an eye on your team’s schedule, and try to reach out to members who may be working less or running into scheduling conflicts.
The takeaway here is that remote teams can absolutely be more efficient and productive than co-located teams when things are done right. They also have the potential to go horribly wrong.
As a company owner or manager, it’s your job to ensure the team you put together communicates effectively and builds a strong relationship, even across continents. Without these things, and without the proper tools like a project management system and the correct people for the job, nothing will get completed.
You need a project management system. You need employees that exhibit the right traits and characteristics. You need communication tools. And last, but certainly not least, you need to build a distinct culture, because it’s what keeps everyone in line while you’re away and helps them stay happy and focused.
Simply put, these elements are the glue that holds remote teams together, and you want to be sure that adhesive doesn’t fade away.