One of the workforce trends that most probably will affect you and your team in 2020 is working remotely. In a short period of time, the proportion of people working from out of office has already grown by 80%. According to the statistics, in the U.S. alone 34 million people work in distributed teams, this number is expected to grow to 63 million people.
New generations entering the workforce need more flexibility and autonomy. Working remotely might just be the answer. What's more, surveys on distributed teams show that remote workers tend to work longer and be more engaged.
“In thirty years’ time, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed.” – Richard Branson
But how can you get the most out of working remotely and what are the best practices for success? Here are our top 10 best practices to make working remotely work for you.
Top 10 Tips for Working Remotely
Decide if Working Remotely Right for You
Not everyone is cut out for remote employment, although many think they are. When people start working from home, they expect flexible hours and a manageable workload. The reality check can hit them quite hard. So choose your team members carefully.
Above all else, you should be an excellent team player. This includes communication skills and willingness to write and distribute status reports. This puts extra tension to the team leaders as well. Here’s our take on the qualities that make effective team leaders. Self-motivation is a plus, although this doesn’t mean that you can do without encouragement on your part.
Communication is King
This one should go without saying. Communication is the cornerstone of your teamwork when working remotely. Thankfully, telecommuting technologies are developing by leaps and bounds, and distance is no longer that big of an issue. If members of your team work in different time zones, find a suitable overlapping time and stick to it.
- Find a good balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication. Make sure the team member is available at a specific time. It is best to schedule these conversations in advance.
- Be mindful of when to speak to your team as a whole and when to do it one on one. Also, think about the type of communication to use. Visual communication can work wonders but never at the expense of quick chat conversations.
As far as old-school communication tools go – email should be banned. People already spend 30% of their time in the mailbox. It’s a lot of time wasted to such a poor anti-social tool. Remote teams require more social technology.
Technology is Queen
Communicating can be difficult when you lack the benefit of having face-to-face interactions. To make up for it, you should start using free chat applications, such as Skype and Google Hangouts. Even email, the option we never tire of putting down, has its uses.
Different companies prefer different communication tools. Zapier built Async when working remotely to share goals and reports within teams. AgoraPulse, which developed a social media management tool, uses Weekdone for connecting team members from Paris, San Francisco, and Mexico City. Weekdone has a flexible notification system, and it takes into account the time-zones of its users.
Learn from the Best
Whenever I talk about remote teams I like to refer to Buffer. It's a great example of a happy global distributed team that goes above and beyond to truly stay connected with each other. It seems as if the more miles are between these folks, the more personal they get.
On day-to-day communication, they use Hipchat. It’s a place to discuss serious business matters, but also a place to post new band suggestions, celebrate special occasions, share great client feedback. Next, to more traditional apps, they also use Jawbone UP. This tool helps track and share each team-members nightly sleep time and daily steps. It's a great way to stay connected and boost team spirit when working remotely.
Foursquare, on the other hand, has taken a rather expensive step towards increasing face-time among their remote teams. They created a virtual office that connects teams from opposite coasts. Basically, they took a simple video conferencing idea and turned it into an ongoing live video stream.
The portal, as they call it, is a video system that is always turned on and running in the most crowded work area. This opportunity gives each of the teams the chance to just walk up to the screen and see what people on the other side of the coast are doing.
A remote team manager is, in essence, a juggler. The bigger the team, the harder it is to keep everything in check. The main paradox of remote team management is that you have to allow flexible hours yet maintain consistency. This is where you need a concrete plan.
Together with your teammates, develop timelines and milestones of your work. Define its scope and your expectations. Remote workers should be metrics-driven, as numbers give a much clearer assessment of how far in progress you are.
Weekdone offers some nice options to review and analyze what has already been done and what needs further notice. Built-in tool for back-and-forth communication makes distributing your performance plan quick and easy.
Set Company-wide Objectives for Working Remotely
It is vital to avoid any misunderstanding when you set objectives for your team. Everybody should know exactly what are they doing and to what end. Define these goals both on the micro and macro level. If your team needs to increase output, assign personal objectives and explain how these will contribute to reaching that goal.
As an example of a well-built hierarchy of objectives, Weekdone uses a three-level OKR system. It takes into account company objectives, team objectives, and personal objectives. This allows for a much deeper planning and understanding.
Make Productivity a Priority
To get the hang of things, remote team managers should always be aware of such things as attendance, work output and hours worked by every employee. The process of working remotely can quickly get stale if you don’t encourage it through personal example and different incentives.
Weekdone allows assessing the level of the team’s overall happiness and personal satisfaction of every individual team member. Moreover, you receive the means to reward consistency and reliability.
Give Constant Feedback
Team performance hinges on feedback, and you can greatly boost it with a strategically placed comment. When you work in a shared office, you can simply stop by a desk and offer your input. When working remotely, however, this can be challenging.
First of all, remote employment already lacks personal attachment, so try not to make it even more impersonal. Schedule a call to offer feedback or arrange a video chat to be able to read the reactions of your team members and act accordingly.
Weekdone offers a hassle-free option to leave weekly performance reviews that are immediately visible to a specific employee. The set of templates includes questions, concerns, and praise. One click, and you can choose from the list what kind of feedback you want to make.
Build a Collaborative Environment
Building team spirit is difficult as it is. Working remotely for a long time, you can lose the feeling that you are a part of something greater. Discuss with your team members the reason why the team exists. Spend some time to define the company’s mission and clarify everyone’s responsibilities. Here are 9 best team collaboration tools for your team.
Always remember that there is a breathing human being on the other side of the virtual conversation. Do not exclude anyone from important information. Share details about what is happening in the company, keep others informed and engaged.
The best way to create a true sense of team spirit is to schedule regular get-togethers in person. Enjoy some bonding time and talk about something other than work for once. It also feels very good to finally put a face to the name.
Almost every member of our team in Weekdone acts autonomously and is comfortable with working from home. Some of us live more than a hundred miles away, some are travelling abroad. However, we still have the neat workspace that we share a few days every week. Not to mention, free snacks and Xbox.
Working from home gives you a certain degree of freedom but it can often feel dispiriting. Times and times again we underscored the importance of positive reinforcement.
Never miss an important day of your team members. Send gifts on birthdays or just call them personally – or better yet, together with the rest of your team. Offer small rewards when your team reaches a milestone.
The simplest way you can make your appreciation felt in our Weekdone app is through enabling customizable rewards and leaving comments under weekly status reports.
By no means are these rules a holy scripture. If you want to be a good Samaritan and spread the word, however, you have our blessing.