In the modern ever-changing and rapidly developing world, it is almost impossible to imagine anything stable and stationary. The perceptions of communication, teamwork and a company changed dramatically. Nowadays, more and more outsourcing companies and freelancers offer their services globally, turning a virtual workplace from an exception to a norm. This tendency gives a countless number of opportunities to professionals with outstanding talents from every corner of the world and to those who are looking for them. Managing a remote team effectively is the future challenge for managers.
First of all, you need to realize that the forms of control are different with local and remote teams. In fact, it is easier to pretend to be a professional on the Internet than in real life. Therefore, before hiring anyone, you should make sure of their competence, rich experience, proficient background knowledge and excellent communication skills. Ask the team to present their portfolio with case studies most relevant to yours. The more you learn about their traits, the easier it will be to get an overall idea about them and make a decision to unite or go separate ways.
Sufficient communication is the key to success of any team work. With remote teams, continuous and smooth interaction is the lifeblood. Nowadays there is an abundance of free and paid services that facilitate virtual team management. Depending on the purpose of communication and its urgency, you can choose the tools that will help you get closer to your teammates.
You’ve probably heard about this revolutionary messaging app for the 21st-century teams. Slack does what it claims it can do, and there is probably no better tool to keep all communication in one place, everywhere you go. Slack is efficient for company discussions, both formal and informal. In a virtual workplace you don’t bump into each other, don’t have a chance for a small talk or a lunch spent together. Though it saves time for actual work and everyone gets less distracted, there is the flip side of the coin: it’s easy to isolate yourself, forget about the others and the team at all. And when the total picture is lost, that’s where problems usually start.
There should be various tools for different kinds of remote team communication, we believe. Some things should only be written in an email, others can be typed in Slack, while there are issues that one should handle only face to face. Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting or other video conferencing software is a must for successful remote collaboration. Sometimes, you have to see emotions of a person and talk to them personally to understand how things are going and what is really happening on the other side. We recommend scheduling meeting hours daily, weekly or monthly, depending on how often you need to communicate with your team. This way, you will always catch the spirit of people you work with and stay on the same page with them. You can synchronize with colleagues from all over the world and find a time slot that works for everyone using the World Time Buddy service.
The tools you use for communication, control and reporting within your team are important, but they do not determine the success of the project you are working on. It is always about the people you hire and the way you build the overall working process. Team up with those who have an active life position, can make complicated decisions on their own, can organize their working time effectively and know exactly when they are most productive and how to make the most of it.
When managing a remote team, you cannot come up to a person at any given moment to ask about their progress and get an immediate answer. Sometimes you’ll have to wait for numerous hours before you get a reply due to a possible time difference. That’s why you should implement a transparent and easy-to-use progress tracking and reporting system. Every professional should have a clear understanding of the step they are taking now and of what comes next.
Remote team tools like Google Drive, Dropbox, Jira, Trello and Asana help all of the team members to be on the same page and get the assistance of the right person without disturbing that one engineer who is overwhelmed with work and has a tight deadline. They help people to stay organized, plan their work effectively and get more productive. When there are comprehensive and realistic monthly, quarterly and yearly goals, a person realizes where they are moving with their work and what they should aim for. Well-defined roles, objectives and expectations help every team member to accomplish tasks more productively and independently. Managing a remote team, don’t keep anything a secret from your people unless you absolutely have to.
Every healthy relationship is based on trust and communication, and remote team management is not an exception. You should be aware of your team’s expectations, and they should know exactly what you expect of them too. Regular quality time one-on-one video call meetings will give you much good in the long run. It is easy for anyone to get demotivated and lose the lead when working far away from the rest of the team and when all the communication you have comes in tasks.
A good remote team manager should be not only concerned about tasks completion, but also show genuine interest in the overall well-being of team members, their satisfaction with the work and further expectations. Self-motivation of an employee is a must for remote jobs, but it won’t last forever without proper communication, feedback and interaction. Acknowledge a great accomplishment of an individual employee and let the whole team learn about it.
Also, ask your team for feedback and learn from it. You’ve hired great people, right? So why not ask them how satisfied they are with the way things are going and what ideas they have about facilitating company processes? A fresh perspective can improve remote employee management a lot.
The world of technology is great and can make almost anything possible. It can even relieve you from the necessity of meeting the people you work with in real life. This way, you and every other team member will save lots of time on water-cooler talk and get more productive, right? Well, it doesn’t work that way. There should be a water-cooler even in a virtual office, because it will help everyone maintain their communication skills and keep the friendly spirit alive. Team building activities for remote teams matter as much as they do for those people working in one location. We are not machines, after all! Having an off-work chat in Slack wouldn’t harm the working process. On the contrary, it will help people bond closer together as one team and help them feel valuable and interesting for other co-workers.
If your company can afford it, get together in reality, at least very seldom. Even once is better than never. It’s pure magic how one hiking tour can unite people and help them find common ground better than a dozen of remote team building activities and games. The connectedness that you can get in real life is hardly possible to reproduce digitally. So, if you have the slightest chance to meet your distributed team members and get them together for a day – don’t miss the opportunity! Meeting colleagues from different cultures personally will help you understand them better and facilitate your managing skills. You may also get unexpectedly good and fresh ideas!
This story was submitted by Liudmyla Kharchenko and does not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork.