9 Steps to Build and Manage a Remote Team

It wouldn’t be premature to state that the term “The Future of Work” should now be rebranded to “The Present of Work”. Whether working remotely is going to become even more common or whether employers are going to try and find a more natural balance between home office work and office presence remains to be seen. One thing is certain – remote work is here to stay. And many are now facing a new challenge – building and managing a remote team.

It was, of course, the coronavirus pandemic that triggered this mass overnight transition. However, here at Motion Software this concept was already well-established. In fact, that’s been the company’s policy since the very beginning. We were already familiar with all the advantages of this concept and the way it positively affects the company’s team. This inevitably leads to a happier and therefore, more productive team.

Going Remote – Why?

Going remote is as beneficial for the employer as it is for the employee. Fortunately, even the more conservative among employers now need less persuasion that they have to at least give it a try. The work environment is changing not only because of the way people work and where they work from. It is also increasingly important to take care of your employees’ well-being in all aspects of their lives. We are witnessing a change.

For a long time it was all about what the candidate for a particular position can bring to the table. And now it’s equally important to talk about what’s the employer’s mindset and mentality and how they view the working process. And that might just be the key to attracting the best and brightest to your team and most certainly, keeping them. Building a remote team would most likely lead to cutting costs, opening your doors to top talent from all around the world and having a healthier, happier and more productive team.

From an employee’s standpoint, remote work isn’t just about skipping the commute, feeling less stressed, saving time and money or working while vacationing. It’s about family. Recent surveys have shown that having the ability to spend more quality time with your loved ones is the number one reason why so many are adopting this lifestyle. This inevitably leads to what’s been desired by so many – a real work-life balance.

Of course, all of that is to be achieved if done the right way. And trust us, building and managing a remote team is an art. Here are our top 9 steps to build an effective, high-performing remote team: 

1.Communication

That’s always been the key to any successful team. However, when you are not sharing the same working space it might be harder to achieve that. Quality remote communication can be carried through a variety of tools such as video conferencing through Zoom, Slack, Google Meet, etc. Plan communication and remember that in a remote environment asynchronous communication is preferred. Or simply put, don’t expect an immediate response when you try to communicate. Make sure to schedule regular weekly or monthly meetings in each department and to always check up on your employees. Company-wide meetings are also important. Engaging your team is essential as remote employees can sometimes feel disconnected.

Overcommunicate with them through an always open communication channel and be as approachable as possible. Provide clear guidance on how that should be handled by introducing an easy-to-understand remote company culture. Lack of communication can break a remote team quickly as it can lead to a sea of misunderstandings and assumptions. Keep in mind that you can’t always be 100% on top of your communication game and there will be times when it will get challenging. If you keep that your top priority those occasions will be rare. 

2.Hiring

It all starts with the job posting. Make sure it’s as effective and detailed as possible. Know your audience and carefully assess the channels you’ll be using to promote your job offer. Whether using your own website, partnership agencies, LinkedIn, or any other platform, analyze carefully where your desired audience lies. 

Screen applicants properly and spare your time on low-quality candidates. Always prepare in advance for the remote interview. Dig deep into the candidate’s past references and test them out with a real case scenario during your call. Don’t forget to look out for the most desired skills when working remotely: strong collaboration and communication skills and self-initiative. 

Before hiring, always remember that apart from having the desired competences and soft skills, the right candidate must fit your company culture. 

3.Create a unique and memorable onboarding experience

As with anything in life, first impressions are often key to building meaningful and long-lasting relationships. When expanding your remote team, it is possible you might never meet them in person. Especially, if they live in a different country. To be able to really get them excited about their new job and create a sense of belonging to a community you will need to invest in a quality onboarding process. 

Digitizing the process is just one aspect of it. Sure, the signing of all documents can be done electronically and the rest of the information needed can be sent via email. Try not to make this feel dull. Apart from making your company’s structure, communication channels, and culture clear, make sure to get your company’s values and mission across right at the beginning of the onboarding process. However, don’t give it all away at the same time as it can be overwhelming for a newcomer. Structure an onboarding experience that is spread around one or even two weeks. Video tutorials, video calls, an employee handbook can all be part of the process. The inclusion of all these different instruments makes the employee’s first days more exciting and colorful and the information easily digestible. 

4.Have the right software

Make sure to provide your team with all that’s necessary for an automated, hassle-free, and overall simple and easy remote process. Include clear guidance on why a particular software is needed, how to use it, and what is expected. Having the right tools is a deal-breaker. Be careful not to forget that there isn’t one universal software. Always consider managing your remote team on a department or individual basis. 

Technology also helps with the hiring process. You no longer need to filter candidates based on their location. It’s now possible to hire whoever best fits your criteria. You can also consider trying software that helps companies best filter applications. That can save you a lot of time and money if there is a high volume of candidates. 

5.Meet in person if possible

Sometimes that’s not possible if your team is in different corners of the globe. However, if you happen to all be situated in relatively close proximity or if you have the ability to organize a meet-up at least once or twice a year, go for it. Meeting in person remains as valuable as ever. It’s what creates a real human connection and builds trust. And the best way to have a successful remote team is to give employees as much freedom as possible. To be able to do that you’ll have to be able to trust them. Teambuildings or even work-related conferences and seminars that include some downtime are a great idea if you want your employees to relax and to get to know each other in an informal environment. This would surely benefit future communication.

6.Celebrate

Acknowledging your team’s achievements publicly is vital for the company’s morale. Whether through social media posts when a big milestone is achieved, a celebratory company newsletter, or in a company-wide meeting, it is always inspiring to know that you are a valued member of a community and that your efforts are noticed and appreciated. That’s even more important when working remotely.

7.Flexible Hours

That’s a tough one. Ideally, you would want to provide your team with all the benefits of remote work. And that’s most often the ability to work whenever and wherever you want. Having a time tracking system is what a lot of companies introduce to keep their team accountable. However, that might not always be the best way to go about it as sometimes it irks people and makes them feel tense. Focusing on the actual results is a smarter approach. At Motion Software we stick to the “work smart, not hard” philosophy. 

People are different and their productivity can vary based on a wide range of factors like location, mental health, physical health, family circumstances and so much more. Just because it takes you 2 hours to get a particular job done today doesn’t mean that you won’t need 8 hours for a similar task another day. Some people are more efficient in the mornings, others in the evenings, etc. And we need to remember that if we want to achieve quality. And that’s what should matter. The desirable outcome, not the time spent to achieve it.   

build a remote team

8.Encourage Time Away

We’ve already touched on how important one’s well-being is for their work productivity. Make sure your team is not overworked. Encourage them to have enough time for themselves, their hobbies, their families, to watch a movie, go to the gym, go for a walk, travel, etc. We are not just talking about days off work. For example, going for a random walk or doing an exercise routine or a mid-day gym session is what we sometimes need to continue further and be efficient.

9.Continuous engagement and support

For us at Motion Software, it’s all about community. A community built through a culture of learning, mutual progress and emotional and professional support. Provide a wide availability of high-quality digital learning resources, community groups, conferences and events. Invest in fun. Organizing out-of-office activities such as gaming tournaments, support groups and activities can create a strong emotional connection beyond one’s work environment.

Technology has changed the world we live in, especially over the past months. Consider your company’s needs when applying the advice above. Always make sure to adapt it in a way that’s suitable for your team and business. Experiment, take chances and always remember that your team needs nurturing, whether remote or not. 

Photos by: Jason Strull, Avi Richards, Quino Al,  Motion Software

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