7 Tips for Managing a Remote Team
The internet has transformed the way we work.
Increasingly, people are working alongside co-workers from the other side of the world.
Even at home, the way we work is rapidly changing. According to Global Workplace Analytics, over 6 million Americans work mainly from home. On top of that, an estimated 25 million Americans work from home at least one day per month.
How can you make sure you get the best out of your team when they're not working with you in the office?
1. Pick Your People Carefully
Hiring in help without meeting your new employees face-to-face may seem daunting, but there's plenty you can do to get your hires right.
When you're considering a new hire, ask yourself:
- What's their track record? Have they previously worked on projects similar to the one you need help with? Ask to see their portfolio so you can check the quality of their work.
- Have they worked remotely before? If so, it's a good sign that they're a self starter.
- How's their communication? Drop them a line to discuss working with them. If they're slow to respond or fail to communicate clearly, then look elsewhere. Solid communication skills are vital for remote teams.
2. Get to Know One Another
You don't have to be best buddies with your workmates, especially when you work remotely. But it helps to feel some camaraderie.
When someone new joins your team, give them a warm welcome and an opportunity to introduce themselves. Knowing just a little bit about the people at the other end of a fibre optic cable helps you feel a closer connection.
Another way of creating closer team bonds is by having face-to-face time via a video conference.
3. Set Very Clear Goals and Deadlines
When you're not working in the same office, it's vital that every team member understands exactly what you expect from them.
You can do this through a ticket system. This involves a list of tasks, (or "tickets"). Individual team members claim the tasks they want to complete, or the task that's top priority when they start work.
Alternatively, you can distribute tasks by skill set. This works well when you're collaborating with a broad range of people, such as a designer, a coder and a marketing consultant.
Make sure you set deadlines when you hand out tasks. Being clear on deadlines means you can keep track of what will be completed when. It also allows you to plan for the future, and chase things up if tasks aren't being completed to schedule.
4. Don't Expect 24/7 Availability
One of the main reasons people enjoy remote working is because of the flexibility it provides. They like being able to work when it suits them.
You'll get the best out of your team if you let them manage their own schedules. That means asking for input when you're setting deadlines for tasks.
It's a good idea to let your team know you're not expecting them to be available around the clock. We all need time away from the computer screen and email inbox to rest and recharge our batteries.
5. Lead by Example
Your team will learn more about how to behave from how you act than from what you say. Tell your team that you expect them to be on time to conference calls, then turn up late yourself, and you're contradicting your own message.
In other words, follow the golden rule: do unto you team as you'd have them do unto you.
Whatever you expect from your team, you should also expect from yourself. That means you must:
- Reply to emails promptly
- Share your ideas generously
- Be on time to team meetings
- Meet any deadlines you set for yourself
- Give compliments for good work
- Make sure conference calls run to schedule
6. Use the Right Tools for the Job
When you're working as part of a remote team, your office is "in the cloud". Your team will share their ideas, the tasks they've completed and the hours they've worked online.
For that to happen, you need the right tools. Most teams will need the following:
- A project management tool, such as Basecamp
- A file sharing tool such as Dropbox
- A conferencing tool, such as Skype, Google Hangouts or GoToMeeting
- A time tracking tool such, like Cashboard
Teams can only work together if they talk to one another.
Let your team know how often you expect them to check-in with you. And give every team member your email address, phone number and instant messaging ID, and let them know how and when they can contact you.
When you follow all of the above steps, communication should be the natural result. But that doesn't mean things will always run smoothly.
If you've not heard from someone for a while, don't be afraid to drop them an email (or even call them) to see how their work is going.
Most of all, remember to have fun. If your team enjoys working with you, then you'll get far better results.
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