Creating a successful remote team goes beyond hiring and on-boarding good candidates who live in other locations. Remote teams miss out on office culture and are at risk of feeling disconnected from both their team members and the projects. As a remote team manager, you have to do more work to create the feeling of a culture within a remote team, similar to non-profit management techniques. Once you do, however, you’ll end up with an enthusiastic team that enjoys working in a cohesive group along with the freedom of living where they choose and telecommuting.
Arrange Weekly Calls
Replace office meetings with weekly calls. Treat these calls like you would hold online meetings. Create a clear agenda, have the calls at the same time each week, and encourage employees to bring questions and comments to the calls. Weekly calls allow team members to communicate with you and with each other while everyone receives status updates on how the business is running.
Invest in One-on-One Time
Image via Flickr by Highways England
The small daily interactions you have with in-person employees don’t exist with your remote team. The telecommuters never pass you in the office lobby or talk about what happened in the city on the weekend while you’re both riding the elevator on Monday morning. Adding to employee engagement, these interactions add a dash of familiarity to the workplace that make most employees more comfortable.
Because your remote employees miss out on daily interaction, make sure to call or video chat with each one separately once every so often. Make sure to have informal chats with the employees; ask them questions about themselves to glean the information you’d naturally pick up working in an office with someone. You can talk about work, too, of course, but keep it informal. This way, both you and your remote employees will have a better idea of the person on the other end of those chats and emails.
Rely on Cloud-Based Software
Cloud-based software is perfect for remote teams for a number of reasons. First, it doesn’t create paperwork and instead gives you a platform for electronically sending and receiving relevant documents. Second, the software isn’t limited to in-office computers and installation CDs. Instead, employees all over the world can use the software as long as they’re authorized with a log-in.
Cloud-based software also allows remote employees to gather relevant information about the business that will help them do their jobs. If your in-house accountant uses Sage 50 accounting software, a remote employee managing inventory at a second site can use the software as well for updated vendor lists and current inventory information.
Use Chat Apps
You don’t want to be the team messenger when you’re managing a remote team. When you first create the team, expect team members to come to you with questions and clarification. As the team continues to work, however, you want them to connect with each other as each person (or group) works on their part of team projects.
To give everyone an easy communication platform, use a chat app like Slack. Chat apps designed for businesses create a single place for conversations, file sharing, and project updates to occur. Your team members can chat one-on-one or in larger groups. You can check in on conversations and reach out to your team when you need to without serving as the central checkpoint for everyone.
Use Video Conferencing
Video chatting or video conferencing is a must when you work remotely. There is something to be said for the ability to chat face-to-face, whether digitally or in-person. Without an office, you will not have the ability to chat with colleagues while waiting for that document that you are online printing. If you want to foster a sense of community in the workplace, make sure that lots of video conferences are taking place among employees and management alike. A weekly video conference can do wonders for team building, productivity and meeting deadlines.
Schedule In-Person Gatherings
Every so often, perhaps once a year, arrange a corporate event for your remote team. Though you’ve all spoken on the phone, emailed back and forth, and worked on countless projects together, nothing replaces face-to-face interaction. Engage in fun team-building exercises, like playing sports, going on nature walks, or baking together. Don’t focus on work during your remote team retreats; let this be everyone’s opportunity to get to know each other on a human level.
Though your interaction with remote teams most often happens through a monitor or display, it’s essential to always remember that people are on the other end of those emails and document shares. That does not mean you have to worry about professional dress while sitting at home doing remote work, however. As long as the human element doesn’t get lost in translation, remote teams can create convenience and flexibility that businesses have never had before.