If you started your business back in the 20th century, your staff was almost always in-house, working in cubicles, and available for whatever business needs the company required. Now, with the technological tsunami called global high-speed internet, you've looked around to see your competition has let their employees work from home in an easier, more affordable way.
Remote working has shown healthy growth with an 80 percent increase in telecommuting employees from 2005 to 2012. But what does it take to manage a successful remote team? Freelancers Union and Intuit analysis both show that the percentage of people working remotely in the US is heading to 40 percent by 2020.
So, how do you begin your transition to a remote team? Here are the steps you'll go through before you can bring your startup into the 21st century.
Many modern companies have several distributed teams already. Benefits are numerous, distributed teams can work on projects around the clock, and they are easier to train and retain, mostly because you don’t require them to relocate.
Also, you can find competitive talent in less competitive markets. It's cost-effective and beneficial at the same time. Not to mention it benefits the environment.
Make a Transition
If you have in-house employee and you want to switch them to remote work, trying to convince them that working remotely is good and rewarding is simply not going to work. Sharing the larger goals of the company and providing them with the assistance they need to transition into remote positions will be important.
When hiring additional staff, you should strive to build the team with people who really buy the idea of remote work. If they need guidance, that’s okay. If they need you to persuade them to do it, don’t go that path.
A common question for remote team managers is: Do you have roles in your remote team? Of course you do. This is, perhaps, the most important aspect of managing remote workers. An effective transition requires a commitment to understanding roles and responsibilities.
The best way to achieve this is to delegate different aspects of the transition to different managers. There should be a manager who coordinates the big picture effort, one who handles in-house issues, one who handles the technological end, and one whose sole job is to construct the remote team.
Sure, you might be able to handle it all yourself. Then again, you might be able to walk in front of a moving bus and live. But why would you want to try either?
Change is typically easier if those affected have a clear picture of the objective. Having the entire transition plan written down explaining why the transition is occurring and explain where everyone will stand in the new structure will go a long way in making things run smoothly.
In distributed teams, knowledge transfers have to be consistent. Invest your time in creating guides and build a culture of standard operating procedures for everything that you do.
As with in-house workers, remote employees require the same time investment in getting to know them. Personal connections are extremely important in order to build present coworkers, and it can give you a more realistic image of expectations and missed expectations.
You will never be able to conform the culture and work ethics of every team you build. Instead, strive to allow each team to create their own working culture and share their experiences with one another. You'll quickly see them adopting things that have proven to be beneficial, which is extremely rewarding.
Communication in distributed teams is tough, no matter how good the tools the use. Make sure you explain the plans in details, and never be lazy about it.
Use email for this as rare as you can – a message can easily get lost in the fray. Try to get your employees on the phone and dedicate your time to this effort. It may seem time-consuming but what’s even more time-consuming is repetition when the team isn't on the same page.
The key to getting your new remote team to work together toward the common cultural goal of a better product is the building of trust among teammates. Company culture can take years to coalesce, so expecting a slew of new workers thousands of miles away to suddenly fall on their sword for you is a bold assumption. Nonetheless, you must try to succeed.
While building a trusting environment, keep in mind that all the trust building tricks in the world won’t compensate for people who don’t like each other. The responsibility for the success or failure of this remote cultural outpost will fall in large part on whoever is hiring new team members.
63 percent of remote workers claim that they are more productive outside the office. That said, adapting the tools and managing techniques to your distributed teams can make the distributed team even more productive than in-house employees.
Work Like a Remote Team
Transitioning from an exclusively in-house environment to one where entire teams are remotely located is one that takes a clear understanding of the need, along with careful planning, patience and laser focus.
Even teams sitting together in one office should try to work like distributed teams – with clear goals, organized roles, meticulously chosen tools, boosted creativity and individualism. If done right it could be the best decision you ever made.