While not all jobs can be done remotely, advancements in technology have led to an increase in remote workers around the world. Remote work has been shown to increase productivity, drive employee efficiency, decrease overhead and reduce employee turnover.
In 2016, 43% of employed Americans spent at least one day a week working remotely and, according to a forecast by the World Economic Forum, work flexibility is driving the transformation of the workplace.
For the past five years I’ve traveled frequently for work, managed remote teams and worked with clients in different countries. I’ve become a huge proponent of remote work and the possibility of building strong teams online by placing importance of a few strategic areas.
Cultivating relationships in-person and not purely through a computer screen is incredibly important when managing remotely. If possible, it’s best to meet a new hire in person as early as possible to build an offline relationship prior to working together remotely. Finding time (and budget) for face-to-face meetings is incredibly valuable in the long-term success of a dispersed team.
Relationships among employees also need to be nurtured and can be done by providing employees the opportunity to share team updates across markets. Gathering all employees once a year for a team retreat is also recommended and allows for company bonding and ultimately stronger relationships throughout the rest of the year.
Clear and consistent communication
When it comes to managing a remote team, over-communication is recommended. It’s easy to feel isolated as a remote worker and building open lines of communication will ensure employees feel in the loop and tone is accurately understood.
For teams that have a physical headquarters and scattered remote employees, ensuring your remote team knows you’re supporting them and that their voice is being heard at headquarters is important. Open communication is crucial to your remote team’s success, as it’s easy to feel left out from decision making when you’re not physically located at headquarters.
Slack is one of my preferred tools for remote teams as it can often take the place of water cooler conversation that employees would typically experience in an office setting. Video conferencing should be encouraged and preferred over regular phone calls and Zoom is one of the best platforms I’ve used.
Whatever platform you choose, use communication strategically — email for quick interactions that cannot be handled over an instant message platform, Slack for quick instant messages and for creating a team environment online, and video calls for important meetings and communication.
The power of predictability
Keep communication regular. If you have a weekly meeting scheduled every Tuesday night, be sure you make it a priority to attend that meeting every Tuesday night. This could be the only “face time” you get for the week, it’s crucial you keep these standing appointments and give your remote employees the respect they deserve.
When working with teams across the West Coast, East Coast, Europe, and Australia it can be difficult to find a time that works well with everyone’s schedule. To offset the challenge of working across multiple time zones, set meetings on a rotating schedule to ensure everyone is able to attend and that one office isn’t burdened with always waking up early or staying late.
Building a successful remote team starts as early as the hiring process. Be sure to properly vet individuals you hire as not everyone has the discipline to work remotely. Set clear expectations from the first day of working together — what are they supposed to accomplish this week? This month? This quarter? How will you track and measure success? Hold them accountable even though you won’t be seeing them everyday.
By building processes that support remote work, your company will open itself up to the increasingly competitive search for global talent. Being able to recruit and retain talent from around the world can create a strategic advantage for your business as organizations seek to grow their international footprint and stay one step ahead of the competition.