At the end of 2012, one young entrepreneur faced a difficult choice. He had two options. One: move his two-years-old startup to a regular office. Two: keep it in a bedroom of his UK-based apartment and build a remote team. This entrepreneur was Joel Gascoigne. His company, Buffer, is now one of the prime examples of a globally distributed team that rocks at what they do. So what’s the key to their success? And more importantly, what could YOU do to make your remote team better?
Currently, the Buffer team consists of over 80 people living on six different continents. Their CEO and founder admits that basing his company on a distributed team model was one of the best decisions he’s made. According to Gascoigne, there are six reasons why remote teams are awesome and his whole company lives up to them.
So yes, it’s true. Remote working is becoming more and more popular. People begin to understand that cubicles aren’t necessary for all types of work. They search for freedom, flexibility, improved life-work balance. Remote work offers it all, upping the employee happiness, satisfaction and loyalty. And where’s a happy employee, there are incredible results.
But remote work isn’t all about positives, especially not for the team managers. The list of difficulties and challenges only opens with different time zones, language barriers and lack of face-to-face communication. Being a part of a remote team, let alone leading it, is a no mean feat and it bases on trust and communication.
But that you already know. What else is there that you could do to improve the way your team works? Here are some tips that we came up with when creating software for remote teams.
Invest in trust and connections
It’s tempting to jump on a quick call and discuss only what’s got to be done this week. Or to drop off a to-do list in a team chatroom and then tend to your own tasks. On one hand, focusing only on what needs doing can increase your productivity. Then again, remote teams should catch up with what they lose in the first place: a chance for an office chit-chat.
Encourage your team to get to know each other. Find a place where you don’t have to be all professional. Place where there’s room for joking and sharing personal passions and hobbies. Whether you create a Facebook group for your team or a separate, hang-out Slack channel, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you don’t end up as a bunch of strangers, knowing little more about yourselves than your names and profession.
Building meaningful connections contributes to what is the basic foundation of all remote teams: trust. Wade Foster from Zapier, which is another fully-remote company, underlines the meaning of trust between distributed colleagues. “In a remote team there aren’t any silly rules about having your butts in a seat during certain hours of the day”, he says in his article about remote work culture. “This means at the end of the week you either have something to show for your week or not. This means you trust that your teammates are getting something done. But also your teammates trust you. To earn that trust you want to make sure you have something to show for your work each week.”
Make up for the distance
All remote teams use some sort of project management software. It could be Taskeo but it also could be any other platform. The goal is to create a common working space that you guys naturally don’t have (for obvious reasons). To make up for lack of commonly shared office is more important than you think.
We’re building a tool that helps you organize your project as well as your work. We’ve introduced a Team Page devoted to teams like yours – where you can preview where your people are located, what the time is at their location or whether they’re available for work. The right software is out there and it makes it so much better to manage your remote team. So why not to give it a try?
Enhance written communication
You may not be a fan of memes or emojis, but it’s time to face one thing – they were created for a reason. The Internet is, for the most part, based on written communication. We all know how crippled it can be when it comes to conveying emotions and attitudes.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Don’t be afraid of dropping the formal writing style. Throw in in something that shows your emotions, brightens the mood up. Something that brings up a smile on your co-worker’s face.
How you communicate with your team members defines who you are and what your company will look like. Distributed teams should use all means available to make up for the drawbacks of their nature. Improving their written communication style is one place for you to start. Consider what else could you do to make your chat rooms and emails more lively.
Remote culture does exist
But let’s get back to the company culture for a moment.
Creating one is never easy. Even more so it’s extra hard when all your team members are scattered across the globe. And yet, it is not less important – or it even becomes twice as important.
The distributed nature of a team can lay foundations for the company’s culture. Such is the case when of both Buffer and Zapier. These companies exist to be remote and to prove that distributed teams can be just as successful.
Don’t forget about this. Company culture unifies your employees around a mutual goal. It sets goals and visions, helps you steer your ideas the right way. Always know what your company has to represent. Distributed employees more than others need one banner to unite under. Whether it’s promoting the lifestyle of a digital nomad or finding your industry’s blue ocean, it’s up to you.
Value your time & evaluate your actions
Something that remote employees value is that they work for real results. Nobody in this niche has time for sitting just to tick off the hours. Most freelancers or digital nomads want to deliver high-quality results. They want to get paid for them rather than for how much time they spent before their devices.
Time is one of the most valuable things for remote employees and employers alike. Team leaders should ensure it’s not wasted. Using time tracking tools is a great idea if your team members understand it’s not about spying on their working routine, but about improving it.
Invest in a time tracking app with an inbuilt report system to assists your team in analyzing how you work. Best company growth techniques base on data. It’s this data that tells you what’s easy for you to accomplish and where your people struggle. Use the right tools for the distributed teams to gather the important information.
Our handpick: 14 Must-Have Tool For Remote Teams
This, paired with regular check-ups and group calls is your way to evaluate what you do. Always have your goal in mind as you look back at what you’ve done this week or month. Do you spend too much time on things that don’t align with your company vision or culture? Do you struggle with things that should come naturally? Where could you improve? These are things you should all reflect on. Make sure all the team members are vocal: from the team leader to the newest employee. And make sure you don’t focus on the negatives. According to Rebecca Knight and her HBR article on remote teams, you must not “forget to acknowledge the work of remote workers so their efforts don’t go unnoticed”.
Remote teams have it all: from pluses to minuses, from threats to opportunities. They’re a wild mix of chances and challenges that only works with the right mindset. It takes time and effort to succeed in a remote team, both as its manager and as a member. So what’s your idea on it and how do you make it work for your people?