Since the advent of high-speed internet access, remote work has become infinitely more prevalent. A recent Gallup poll found that 37% of US workers have telecommunicated, compared to only 9% in 1995! Companies can save money on overheads associated with physical workspaces while enlisting the services of specialist workers from diverse geographic regions.
Contrary to popular wisdom, a TINYpulse survey found that 91% of workers were more productive as a result of their remote working arrangements. Your employees don’t need to be in the same office in order to get their work done! However, if you aren’t seeing your employees every day, conventional management techniques need to evolve in order to get the most out of your remote workforce.
We asked a number of entrepreneurs and decision makers the following question:
“What is your number one tip for managing remote teams?”
Here are their responses:
Zach Bulygo - Blog Manager at Kissmetrics
"We trust people to get their work done (if they don't, we have a problem), we have meetings on Google Hangouts, we collaborate on Slack, etc. Nothing really revolutionary. I think what it really comes down to is trusting that people will do their jobs, which really means treating them like adults and not like acting like babysitters, constantly making sure they're working."
Alistair Milne - Director of Support Services at Dillistone Systems
“In my experience, communication and engagement are key. It is very easy for remote teams to feel disengaged from the headquarters and its core objectives. We ensure all departments have regular verbal communication with their counterparts in other offices. As a result of the good relationships this process maintains, we always receive feedback quickly through these open channels. This helps us to identify regional trends and react quickly to meet our client’s needs. Our teams remain engaged and feel valued - which they are.
The flow of information must be two-way and it’s vital to keep remote offices up to date with relevant changes from other parts of the world. Dillistone’s directors regularly fly to our remote offices to meet staff and make them aware of their importance to the business.”
Stoney deGeyter - CEO at Pole Position Marketing
"My number one tip for managing remote teams is to have regular face-to-face time. If all of your team is remote, have one day a month (or even a quarter) where you all gather for an in-person team meeting. This could be at a restaurant or more traditional conference room, whatever works for you.
It's probably a good idea to Skype as frequently as possible rather than just relying on email, instant messenger, or phone. There is just something about seeing each other face to face that changes the dynamic of working together."
Jess Ostroff - Managing Editor at Convince and Convert
“My number one tip when it comes to managing remote teams is to always, always, ALWAYS over-communicate. Even when you think you’re being ridiculously clear, the opportunity for misunderstanding is exponentially increased when you’re remote. Your team can’t see your face, your body language, or feel any urgency in your voice. Always be insanely specific about what you want, when you want it, and in what format. Because remote teams often work with technology, receiving something in the wrong platform, tool, or software could require that team member to redo the entire project. Not helpful!
I’m all about efficiency, and that starts with the initial ask from YOU. Take your time. Set clear guidelines and expectations. While you may have something clear as day sitting beautifully inside your brain, all of your genius can get lost in translation through the wide, tangled web of internet communications. Don’t take for granted that you have a unique opportunity to help your team do their job really, really well by following your clear, concise, and specific directions. And don’t assume anything. (You know what they say about assume…)
When you over-communicate, your team will feel amazing knowing they succeeded at doing what you asked for and you’ll feel productive knowing you’re a badass manager who can get your team to do whatever you need. Eventually, you won’t even have to over-communicate anything because your team will just be able to read your mind! Right? Well, maybe not, but a girl can dream.”
Dr. Blake Brandes - Co-Founder of Motivational Millennial LLC
"Establishing a regular time to talk at predetermined intervals is critical to managing successful remote teams. Each team member might not think there's anything "new" to report, but they are often surprised about the amount of information they assumed other people knew. Standing meetings with individual team members are also good for maintaining a sense of camaraderie, which I find keeps organizations running much more smoothly than when people feel disconnected.
Members of the Millennial generation especially crave feedback and communication, and they can feel unheard or undervalued if there's not a regular check-in. It doesn't have to be a full performance review, but taking the time to talk about their work and lives helps to create a stronger sense of connection to the team."
Ann Hawkins - Founder of Drive The Network
"When communicating with our group leaders in Drive, a business partnership network, we face similar challenges to working with remote employees. I have been inspired by Scott Berkun’s The Year Without Pants, in which he describes his secondment to Automattic Inc - the tiny company behind the massive WordPress remote workforce.
We’re avoiding third party tools like Slack (although privately I love it) and have favoured a forum on our website where we can build a searchable library of resources. This means we don't have to repeat the same conversation multiple times as new people join the team!"
Rob Rawson - CEO at Time Doctor
“It's important to have structured communication to compensate for the fact that you're not in the same office. What does this mean? When you are in an office there are many opportunities to bump into each other and communicate naturally with your teammates. When you're working remotely this might not happen so you need to make sure there is enough communication in the team. We do this with: Daily stand up video meetings for all teams, weekly discussion meetings to go into more depth, keeping communication channels open on Slack or other communication tools and we also have a coffee meeting where you chat one on one and get to know another team member on a more personal basis.
It's also important that you are online at the same time so that you are available to collaborate. In my experience if you do it right, remote communication is very effective and actually can save a lot of time compared with an office where you are constantly distracted at the wrong time by your teammates.”
Sterling Williams - Lead Conceptual Designer at Mammoth Infographics
“In order to maximize the productive output of your business, it’s important to make your workers feel as comfortable as humanly possible. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to managing remote workers, so it’s worth getting to know what motivates each person specifically.
Some workers thrive on face-to-face communication and wish to feel a part of something greater than themselves, while others find intimate forms of communication stressful rather than enjoyable. If a person has a great skillset and performs reliably, it’s always worth tailoring your style of communication to fit their needs. Instant messaging is a great tool for communicating with workers who require higher levels of privacy.”
Gordon Tees - Founder of Mailzinger
“Where possible, use graphics and images to document your requirements. A wall of text can be off-putting and, worse, our words are often ambiguous or unintentionally misleading – no matter how carefully we craft the text! Follow up with verbal communication (telephone, Skype, whatever) and centre your discussions around your images. Managing by long wordy documentation is not management and it does not produce the best results.”
Myles Vives - CEO at eREACH
"We've been fortunate to find and hire very skilled remote employees who do excellent work. However, the challenge we've faced is ensuring they are productive. By using time tracking software that measures their activity and periodically takes screenshots of what they're working on, we've been able to keep them honest. In other words, they work efficiently and effectively, getting much more work completed. We have never had any team member complain or disagree with our use of time tracking software."