As a small business, it could make a lot of sense to grow your team with a fully remote workforce. You’d save money on overhead, such as office space, and have access to a huge talent pool that could stretch across the globe. But to make that jump, it’ll require a mindset change. Your work habits have been impacted by your past work experience. If you haven’t managed a remote team before, you’ll have to make a few adjustments. These tips will help.
Team culture starts the first day
If you’re transitioning from an in-office team to a remote one, or trying to start a business with an all-remote team, you have to remember that culture starts with day one. You are setting expectations right away. Leadership must recognise the right of remote peers to have their voices heard and their concerns heard—even if they are miles away. Taking a few extra minutes and calling, videoconferencing or reaching out before decisions can show how much you value your team.
You’re also adding in a lot of flexibility. If you one of your team members is in three or four hours apart, you’ll have to remember that their schedule will look different than yours. Your communication habits and your expectations will have to reflect that.
Find the right tools, then use them
These days, any task that you can imagine has a tool for it—to track hours, video conferencing, budget allocation and accounting. The key is finding and deciding on the right tools for your team that empower your team members and give them the space to do their jobs.
Because Workzone is a project management software company, we use our tool to create tasks, set up dependencies and store documents. This keeps everything on track. We’re able to stay accountable and helps us avoid too many meetings.
Be open to feedback, especially when there’s no one else to talk to
It’s the end of a meeting and everyone goes back to their desk. But then a few start chatting or brainstorming about what was said. If you’ve ever worked in an office, then you know that’s a common occurrence. But with remote teams—that doesn’t really happen. After the call, it’s just the person back in the workspace, heads down into the next task. Sure, communication tools can help—but there still might be questions.
That means you have to be even more proactive in encouraging feedback from your team. And yes, criticism will come, even when everyone is together. In order to get the most out of feedback, it is important that it be clear to all parties involved. To be effective, feedback needs to be clear and detailed.
Be clear about tasks so everyone’s knows their responsibility
If your team is scattered across different cities and time zones, then it will be essential to have project management software to help them stay on track. You can create projects and list out tasks and next steps. This way your team will know what to work on next even when you’re sleeping.
But before that, make sure that the entire team knows the scope of the project and that each team member is clear about exactly what is expected of them.
You’ll have to think of ways to get the team together virtually to check on progress and address any issues that they may have. You’ll have to coordinate across time zones for at least one common time.
Encourage outside perks
This tip could go for any office workers as well, but may be even more important with remote teams. Because your team won’t get some of the small office perks that everyone takes for granted, like spontaneous team dinners or a surprise ice cream party, it’s vital that you give your team a little bit of freedom. At Workzone, we bring the whole team together for events about once a quarter. It helps solidify our bonds as a team and gives everyone an event (with plenty of advance notice) to look forward to.
If that’s impossible for you financially, you may want to think of smaller ways to encourage your team. You could encourage their personal hobbies or gift your remote employees with exciting adventures or gift cards for dining out. Encouraging your team in their family and personal relationships will help their morale in the long-run—and help them turn in a better performance for you.
Remember, heart of having a remote team is communication. It looks way different than it does in the past. By having the right tools in place, you can create a culture that really thrives with remote and work from home opportunities. But it takes some time and breaking some of the old, unintentional work habits that have developed in the past.
Mostafa El-Bermawy is startup growth and marketing strategist for Workzone