Working with a geographically distributed team can be exciting. The debate on remote working is still ongoing. On one side you have advocates who would go as far as saying offices will be a thing of the past, while the other that thinks traditional offices are more conducive to productive work environment. As for me, whenever possible, especially when I need to get things done, you will find me working remotely.
Whatever the arguments are, remote teams can still function as well as, or even better than, the conventional workplace setting. From the most fluid organisations such as Mozilla to mega corporations such as oil and gas companies , more and more examples are popping up to prove the merits of telecommuting. And even though I work in one of the Top 10 best offices in the country (at Leaderonomics), I still find myself working remotely more often than not. (especially since at Leaderonomics, we have been allowing folks to work remotely since its inception in 2007, when our first employee, Yang Jerng, worked remotely and set the trend for all of us coming in later)
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As I have been working remotely (and being managed by my boss remotely) and later being a manager that manages a remote team in Leaderonomics, here are some good tips when it comes to managing remote teams successfully.
Hire the right people
A lot of time and effort is spent on ensuring the hiring process is spot on. These are the companies that make sure the talent they bring in has the capability and accountability to be fully entrusted to get the job done regardless of their location. With the right people, there is a higher level of trust, making it easier for flexible working arrangements.
It’s not about the hours
While some surveys have suggested that remote workers clock in longer hours, the primary focus of telecommuting is still results. A burnt and stressed-out employee is not a productive employee. So why the need to measure the number of hours worked? If more can be achieved with less time, i.e. being results oriented, that would mean an enhanced productivity.
Be a good writer
Since working remotely involves a lot of written communication, it’s crucial that the team members get this right. Without visual cues or tone, workers might be more open to miscommunication. Therefore, clear and fast communication is important to avoid confusion among team members.
Not only that, if the discussion gets too long, a quick video chat is a more appropriate solution to the matter.
Utilise collaborative technologies
Where do we even begin? There is a wide range of enabling tools to choose from. From project management (Trello, Asana, Basecamp, AirTable etc), to communication and mentorship (MentorCloud, Google Hangout, Skype), engaging with employees and connecting with them (Budaya, Happily), documentation (Google Docs, Evernote), time-tracking tool/software (Hubstaff), collective learning & community knowledge management (Necole) and a list of others, there is not one task that cannot be done remotely and collaboratively. More importantly, most of the applications are cost effective and simple to use. If you want to run your operations lean and remotely, these tools are very useful.
Not the rigid type, but more towards creating a consistency and a sense of “how we work”. Provide a structure and guidance for getting things done, efficiently and effectively. The objective is to provide a feedback loop so that progress can be measured, both on people and on the organisation. A good method would be a simple weekly update to touch base with everyone.
Processes are usually boring and rigid, but the point is to make it empowering so that if everything else fails, the processes lets you get the work done. As we are getting more advanced in this connected economy, we are no longer limited by geographical location.
Hope this helps you in building and managing remote teams. Remote teams have so much benefits and if ever there were any natural disasters or pandemics, and your employees are forced to work from home, having the rights tools in place for your entire workforce to work remotely, will be a great advantage and benefit. I am super glad and thankful that Leaderonomics practices remote working and has taught me the power of working remotely.
Watch this short video with more tips on remote working