Irina Kirnos of RingCentral discusses how to best train advisors who work from home to maximise their effectiveness.
Remote teams are changing the workplace.
Forward-thinking businesses are paying less attention to where their employees are and focusing instead on what they can do. According to the International Data Corporation, deskless employees will make up 72% of the American workforce by 2020. In the UK, half of the workforce will be working remotely by next year.
Telecommuting has become one of the most attractive and essential benefits that any company can offer, and it’s easy to see why. Flexible work options have emerged as a popular way for employers and employees to unlock greater productivity. While companies with mobile workforces save money on office space and overheads, remote workers enjoy the advantages of working from wherever they choose.
As exciting as remote working opportunities can be, it’s important to note that they do come with some challenges – particularly for managers and business leaders. If you’re currently responsible for managing remote teams, it’s essential for you to find a way to nurture, support, and guide your staff members.
Before we dive into concepts like remote team collaboration, let’s start with the basics.
What Is a Remote Team?
A remote team is any group of professionals that don’t necessarily work from a specific location. These individuals may come from different time zones, have unique skills, and represent disparate cultures. However, most of the time, they’ll all rely on the same remote team collaboration tools and services to get work done.
According to a 2017 survey of 24,000 workers, 62% of the working population have a flexible role. 98% of those team members believe that working remotely makes them more productive too.
The growing trend towards new virtual and remote working opportunities will only continue as businesses of all shapes and sizes explore the possibilities of digital transformation. New technologies ranging from video conferencing to file-sharing tools have made it easier to work from anywhere, at any time. If you have an internet connection and the right collaboration tools, you’re ready to go.
Allowing teams to work remotely has many benefits, but only if you know how to manage your workers efficiently.
Remote Work Management: How to Manage Remote Teams
Over the last decade or so, the concept of remote working has become increasingly more commonplace. Business leaders feel more comfortable letting their teams work from home, and managers understand the value that comes with accessing talent that isn’t restricted by geographic location.
Although many businesses have yet to create the perfect remote working experience for their employees, it’s becoming increasingly easy to empower a modern and dispersed workforce. All you need is the right tools, the correct attitude, and commitment to a few fundamental principles. For instance:
1. Encourage Transparency
As a leader and manager in your team, you’ll be the icon that others turn to for guidance. You can’t expect your remote workers to communicate openly and transparently if you don’t do the same thing for them. Make sure that everyone is kept up to date on what’s going on in your business with regular newsletters and alerts. Ensure that your team can always come to you with questions if they’re concerned about anything.
Even something as simple as showing your face through video conferencing can make you seem more transparent. 87% of workers feel more connected to their peers when a video is available. Remember to:
- Set out clear roles and responsibilities
- Discuss concerns, expectations, and targets frequently with employees
- Schedule work hours, holidays, and meetings, and establish calendar ground rules
- Track projects and performance through work management tools
- Encourage honesty and transparency in work.
2. Practise Constant Communication
Without tools like RingCentral Office and Glip to ensure ongoing communication in dispersed teams, remote working would never have become as popular as it is today. Teams need to communicate to thrive, and the only way to do that is to open various avenues of conversation.
It’s up to you to decide how you want your employees to connect. For day-to-day conversations, you can try instant messaging and group conversations in real time. For more in-depth meetings, you might try video conferencing and regular audio calls. Remember, conversations that you have with your remote team don’t have to be exclusively business-related either.
Giving your people time to chat and bond is an excellent way to boost the efficacy of future team collaboration efforts.
3. Use the Right Tools to Keep Teams Organised
Managing remote teams means knowing how to structure your workforce to deliver excellent productivity and effectiveness in every environment. Since you won’t be on hand to watch over their shoulders, you’ll need other tools to empower your groups and keep them organised.
For instance, you can use file-sharing tools like Dropbox to ensure that everyone has access to the same crucial base of information, and Trello to manage projects or set deadlines. There are even tools that your employees can use to log how much time they’ve spent on a project in a day.
While remote employees do need some freedom to operate independently, that doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from tools to keep them on track. Something as simple as a cloud-based calendar where they can arrange meetings with co-workers or a collaboration app like RingCentral Glip can turbo-charge your team’s performance. Remember to consider:
- Collaboration and file-sharing tools
- Video conferencing, audio conferencing, and instant messaging
- Calendar and scheduling tools
- Project management and tracking software
- Storage and automatic backup tools
4. Encourage Better Relationships Between Employees
One of the most common issues that companies face when it comes to managing remote teams is encouraging buy-in from distributed employees. When your people are dispersed all around the world, it’s difficult for them to feel any kind of emotional connection to you or the other workers in your team. However, if you can commit some time to developing relationships between your people, that can all change.
In one study, MIT professors found that the most essential ingredient in a high-performing team was the ability to be mindful of colleagues’ feelings. Look for opportunities to develop the bonds of friendship in your workers. For instance, set up a group chat where people can just talk about the shows they watched the night before, or what they did at the weekend. Schedule regular breakout sessions with video calls where your teams can connect and get to know each other.
Challenges in Managing Remote Teams
Today’s employees demand greater satisfaction, improved support, and a wider range of opportunities from their workplace. Remote employment opens the door to greater work–life balance and reduced stress for many individuals. 82% of telecommuters said that they experience less stress now that they’re working from home.
While finding people who want to work remotely for your team may be easy, figuring out how to manage those staff members is a lot tougher. After all, it’s harder to motivate, guide, and encourage a team of people who aren’t in the same office space as you.
Some of the most common issues that companies face with managing remote teams include:
1. Aligning Schedules Through Different Time Zones
For teams to work effectively together, they need to be able to communicate and collaborate freely. Real-time messaging applications and similar tools open the conversation between employees wherever they are. However, these programs are only useful when the people using them are aligned on the same schedule.
With a remote team, you can hire talented employees from all over the world, but that also means that you have different time zones to consider when you’re bringing people together for group work or meetings. One option is to ask your team members to work at certain periods in the day that will keep them connected with the rest of your team. For instance, all employees may need to be online for 3 hours between 11 am and 2 pm GMT. However, you may let them do the rest of the work at any time that suits them outside of that period.
During those 3 hours, you can ensure that teams collaborate, complete meetings and outline group briefs.
2. Ensuring Collaboration and Communication
While some work completed by remote employees will happen independently, other projects will need the input of an entire group. Since your teams won’t be able to meet in person to collaborate, they’ll need applications that allow them to connect and work cohesively instead.
Tools like RingCentral Glip for team collaboration eliminate the time-consuming and frustrating process of sorting through emails, by replacing the inbox with file sharing, scheduling, team messaging and more. Collaborative tools are one of the most important assets that a business leader can have when it comes to managing remote teams.
Lack of coordination in any workforce often leads to confusion and lost productivity. However, with the right software, remote team collaboration can continue to thrive, regardless of where your people are located.
3. Addressing Poor Company Culture
Another significant challenge when managing remote teams is ensuring a robust company culture. Mobile workers often appreciate the flexibility and convenience of their jobs. However, they miss out on the water-cooler support that comes in office culture.
Building an appropriate culture for your remote team means making sure that everyone knows how to coordinate appropriately for regular meetings and conversations. Sometimes, all you need is a regular one-on-one meeting with your people to let them know that they’re part of the community.
There’s even the option to add gamification elements into remote teams with project management and tracking software. As well as scheduling regular meetings, you can integrate tools into your network that allow people to track their performance and win awards for excellent work.
The Best Practices for Remote Team Management
Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for managing a remote team.
As new technology appears in the marketplace, and new generations make the workforce more diverse than ever, it’s difficult to know what your people will need to thrive.
Some remote groups will only feel comfortable interacting via video, whereas others will prefer quick voice calls and instant messages. The more you track your team and learn about their activities, the easier it will be to implement the right tools. In the meantime, make sure that don’t underestimate the importance of team collaboration. Keep your people engaged and connected by:
1. Setting Boundaries and Expectations
Remote workers often need boundaries to help them split their work life from their personal life. Let your people know when you need them to be online for group work and when they can arrange their own schedules. Ensure that your collaboration tools include a presence feature too so that your staff members can set their status as “away” when they don’t want to be disturbed.
Setting boundaries and expectations early on will help to keep everyone on the same track. Some points to cover include:
- When everyone needs to be available,
- What communication strategies you use
- Whether meetings are mandatory or voluntary
- How project deadlines are laid out
2. Embracing and Encouraging Diversity
You might find yourself facing a few cultural obstacles when you begin managing remote teams. However, with the help of some sturdy guidelines and remote team collaboration tools, it will be easier to overcome these issues faster than you’d think.
Although diversity can seem problematic at first, it’s a useful thing for most companies to make remote workers engaged. The more diverse your team is, the easier it is for you to access a range of insights and inputs from different people. This will help you to think outside of the box on your projects and come up with unique solutions to problems.
3. Working on Your Communication Skills
Finally, make sure that everyone in your team knows how to communicate effectively. To begin with, ensure that each member of your group knows who they can turn to for help and when. This will reduce your risk of lost productivity when individuals aren’t sure which member of staff they should ask when they need approval on a project or help with a customer case.
Some businesses benefit from writing communication guidelines too, which address words that can and cannot be used in conversations, as well tools and apps that staff members can use, and so on. The key to success in most remote teams is making sure that strong communication is always a priority.
Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind
Remote teams are everywhere in the modern landscape, and their popularity will only continue to grow. While dealing with a dispersed team of employees might seem complicated at first, team collaboration software like RingCentral Glip, tools like video conferencing and more, all help towards better process management.
Remember, just because your people are out of sight, it doesn’t mean that they should be out of mind. Give them the tools and structure they need to thrive, and your entire organisation will benefit.