Whether you work with a few remote developers or have an entirely remote team, you usually come across challenges related to project and team management or communication with your team members. We’ve prepared a guide to help you start working with remote teams, make your collaboration easier and stop being afraid of remote working as it is very convenient and the future of many working relations.
In recent years, we’ve witnessed significant changes in the way how and where people work. With the emergence of various remote work tools like Slack, Skype, Trello more workers became connected and engaged with colleagues and supervisors using these tools. Remote teams are becoming more popular in many industries and soon may become a common thing for global companies.
Primarily, the value of the remote team to a company lies in the opportunity in hiring people based on their expertise and skills rather than location, as well as in decreasing the overhead costs. As the world’s economy becomes more technology-driven, companies should embrace working with a remote team, especially in tech.
However, let’s define what does a remote team mean?
A remote team consists of employees or independent contractors who work full time for an employer. The physical location of employees is less important than their skills and ability to maintain communication and productivity throughout the day. There is a clear distinction between two concepts: remote work and remote team. Employees can perform remote work as part of their position (for example, an employee is allowed to work from home for a few days). In contrast, a remote team is explicitly gathered to work on a particular project. The purpose of creating a remote team is due to cost savings, access to talent pools and an opportunity to have team members located in different places to expand the business into new markets.
The process of hiring remote workers is not very different from hiring an in-house team. However, a few aspects are worth considering.
You don’t want to look through dozens of resumes, choose candidates and only during the call tell the candidate that the job is remote. Not everyone is eager to work remotely, so save yourself time, indicate in the job description that you are looking for a remote candidate.
First, make sure that the person fits your company’s core values. Then make sure that a candidate is ready for remote working. In this case, check for such skills as flexibility, proactive communication, initiative. Remote working is not only about creating a perfect lifestyle for an employee, but also the candidate’s interest in helping you to build better products and services.
It is better to conduct a video interview instead of a phone call. By holding a video interview, you can see the candidate’s expression while asking questions and body language, which is also as important as what an applicant says. Follow a traditional interview structure and ask about the candidate’s experience, personal background, and motivation. Hiring remote employees isn’t dramatically different to hiring in-house staff, but there are a few peculiarities that only come with experience. You can also ask your team’s feedback to come up with a better and more weighed decision.
Ask whether the candidates have previous experience of remote working, how they schedule their working day, what tools do they use for remote working, why they prefer remote working to the office, how do they stay motivated, why do they want to work for your company. These are the fundamental questions that might give you a general picture of how the candidates handle the remote work and whether you are comfortable to collaborate with them.
A new person usually has many questions about your workflow, team structure, the tools you use and many other questions related to the project and your company. By creating an internal repository of all the documents, manuals, and all information with a detailed explanation on how certain things look like in your company, you can save time for the candidate and yourself. Just send all the information to the new worker for review.
It is essential to understand why people prefer to work remotely, what are their plans for the future. A behavioral approach is a set of interview questions asked by employers of HR managers to get a full picture of the skills sets of a candidate needed for a specific position. Asking such questions helps you to get an idea of the candidate’s remote working habits and level of experience. An experienced remote worker answers questions with some life examples on how to manage and do remote work effectively. At the same time, someone who is a newcomer and is only captured by the perspective of working from home won’t show the same level of competencies.
A qualified candidate demonstrates you examples of past projects and can tell you about them more detailed. You may ask when the candidate joined the project, what exactly they did and what tasks or problems they managed to solve during their collaboration with the client.
You need people who can compose and stick to a detailed plan of action for a project they are going to work on. In this way, it is clear to everyone what should be done and track the work in progress on a daily basis. You also need people who value results over process as you won’t be able to manage the people directly and see how they work.
When working remotely, your team won’t have a boss monitoring their productivity. For this reason, it is worth finding people with the ability to be self-starters. It means that they must be able to work according to the specific schedule, always be in touch, be productive, and accomplish all planned tasks. Sometimes, potential hires might think that they are comfortable working remotely and won’t realize that it is not the appropriate working environment for them. This way, it is better to look for those candidates who have previous experience working remotely and know what to expect and how to manage their time and motivation.
With rapid technological progress, growing access to talents from across the globe, the popularity of working with remote teams is increasing. However, it also means that new challenges are possible in working and managing remote teams. The most common are less control on an hour to hour basis, delays in calls, and managing projects.
However, it always worth remembering that to every problem there is a solution. Moreover, with a growing number of new tools for communicating with remote teams, it is possible to work alongside and keep in touch at any time. Let’s consider several tools that are free and easy to use. You can test the tools that are described below or find an alternative that is best for your remote team.
Slack is the champion among communication tools within remote and in-house teams. Coworkers can communicate publicly by creating channels or privately through instant messages. It is also possible to share files, create reminders, and above all it has a straightforward and user-friendly interface.
If you want to make sure that your team is focused on the actual work and track their activity level, get Hubstaff. It takes periodic screenshots and manages employees’ activity level, so that you are aware of what your team is doing for you so you pay only for what you get. There are also apps like Harvest, Paymo that automatically track your team’s progress and daily activity.
There are dozens of apps that support you daily at work and give you a chance to meet with your virtual team face-to-face and instantly contact members of your team with a click.
Skype, Google Hangouts, Join.me are the most common in use. These apps have become indispensable not only in the work of remote teams but also for in-house teams. The apps are free to use locally and globally and give access to video conferencing, audio calls, and screen sharing.
With the advent of Dropbox and Google Drive, it is possible to keep and share documents, presentations, and spreadsheets among team members. These helpers are free and easy to use and accessible from any device.
Companies that work with remote teams can reduce their fixed costs as there is no need to rent large workspaces, pay bills for electricity, internet connection, office supplies, and maintenance. It is possible to manage a remote team from one central office, even when all remote workers are in different cities and countries. Hiring a remote team can result in tremendous business savings. For example, recent research shows that “ The average employee could be wasting more than eight hours per work week on activities unrelated to the job.” Whereas with remote workers you pay only for hours working on the project.
Hiring remote workers gives an opportunity to work with qualified employees from anywhere in the world in a given industry. Very often recruiters struggle with finding the right specialist locally and the right candidate that fits the job may live in another physical location. Using the right job platforms, recruiters can easily access the right skill set anywhere in the world. Consider the “millennial effect” – 82 percent of millennials claim that they would be more loyal to their employer if they have flexible working hours. This generation is shaping remote work. Industry giants like Dell, Deloitte have already formalized remote work programs to create and support a better work environment for their employees.
It might sound controversial, but remote workers are more productive than the ones that work in the office. According to the Harvard Business Review, working remotely boosts productivity among workers. Why? The reasons are the following:
Alari Aho, CEO of Toggl, a free time tracking software company, says:
“At Toggl, we have a result-oriented culture and everyone’s productivity is measured by their results. We have small teams working together: back end team, front end team, mobile team, marketing team, etc. Every team sets their own goals and works towards achieving them. We also track time with Toggl but the productivity is measured based on the results and not on how many hours you have been working. It works perfectly as we put a lot of trust into our Co-workers.”
For companies that work with remote teams, a question of effectively measuring the productivity of their workers is crucial.
Here are a few tips on how you can manage a remote team and measure their results:
You can make use of time management tools for remote workers. One of them is Pivotal Tracker, a project management software which allows tracking all the team’s tasks easily. It is fully customizable, so you can arrange the layout to the one that meets your employees’ needs.
An alternative tool is TimeCamp, a time tracking software that allows a remote team to self-screen their performance. This tool also helps to increase productivity, arrange detailed daily reports, and gain visibility of what workers are doing.
Logging minutes is becoming less common, while tracking accomplishments is becoming a new norm. Many companies realize that how, where, and when tasks are completed doesn’t matter. What matters is the result. Encourage your workers to work smarter, and not longer. Don’t count hours, but cherish the quality of the work you receive.
Vision is not just a company’s statement but a goal to work towards. It helps individual team members who even might be separated by different time zones, to understand how their decisions and daily work can positively impact the company. Your vision should include a clear mission statement showing the company’s principal goals and a set of expectations that all employees should follow. It demostrates how short-term actions can help to achieve long-term goals like what your company wants to accomplish or be in five years.
To get remote team care about your company and make them contribute is to talk to them. Ask people about their day-to-day tasks, how they collaborate with other team members, whether they have any challenges, and whether they are satisfied with what they do. In this way, you will get your team members engaged. Emphasize that their today’s actions influence the vision of the company tomorrow. In other words, the work your team performs today will bring you closer to the results you want to see in the future.
Before hiring a remote worker, decide the type and scope of his/her role and the payment method, as many workers get paid on a project basis rather than a monthly salary. In case the employer starts to pay the worker monthly and offer other benefits, then it starts to look like regular employment.
Any non-disclosure agreements and terms should be clarified before cooperation starts. Non-disclosure policies should be part of the employment or cooperation contract.
Information management should be a part of the organization’s culture, so that employees (wherever they are), treat data with care. Have a structured information management strategy, which includes:
Prepare a work agreement outlining clear work expectations, deadlines, and performance levels. Emphasize that your remote team members are capable of setting their schedules but regularly communicate, provide feedback and report to the employer.
Remote work is becoming more popular. According to the Upwork’s Future Workforce Report, among surveyed 1,000 HR managers, it is expected that in upcoming years 38% of their full-time employees will be working remotely.
Faster internet connection, access to cloud systems, team collaboration tools help to create “the office” anywhere. By optimizing your work processes in this way, your remote team can be efficient and productive in the long run.