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remote work bunch consulting

Hiring and managing a remote team - top things to know

Necessary evil or an opportunity? Learn about the modern approach to remote work and check our tips

Written by Jarek Górny

Like it or not, but you probably won’t be able to keep all of your team members under one roof. We like to imagine that growing a company means more people on the open space or literally expanding the office with more space and desks. However, research on today’s job market shows that we have to change our attitude to remote work.

Facts and trends

Hiring a remote team may seem like a “necessary evil” or an “unavoidable future”, but it actually may be the best choice for your business. A team scattered around the world doesn’t make a company less valuable or successful – quite the opposite. 

Here are some interesting statistics (research conducted in 2019 by the International Workplace Group in the USA):

• 85% of companies claimed that their overall productivity increased because of a more flexible attitude,
• 77% of them stated that hiring remote specialists leads to lower operating costs,
• 90% of employees said that a more flexible work schedule increased their morale.

According to another study conducted in 2019, the Global Workplace Survey, employers have seen a 159% increase in the number of remote staff since 2005.

From the employee’s perspective, the same paper shows that:

• 80% of them would reject a job that didn’t offer a flexible schedule,
• 85% claimed that their productivity had increased due to greater flexibility,
• 75% believe flexible working is the new normal.

Tips on managing remote teams

The above numbers are clear about it: working remotely is the new normal. But how to manage people that we can’t casually meet during a workday or whom we have never even met in person?

Trust means productivity

One of the keys to managing a remote team successfully (and to management in general) is trust. Micromanaging is harmful to motivation and usually counter-productive. If you choose the right professionals, they most probably know best how to do their job. A change from the “command and control” to a “relationship and responsibility” paradigm is crucial.

A study by Paul Zak from the University of Claremont showed that organizations are more productive if they consist of people with greater empathy, sensitivity, focus on cooperation, and deeper mutual understanding. 

Personal approach

The (in)famous “9 to 5” shouldn’t be the default. In a remote work environment, it is worth allowing employees the opportunity to choose their own working hours, depending on their personal preferences. Realistic deadlines and effective meetings create time frames that are solid enough to keep the team organized.

SMART goals

While it’s hard to use the modern project management methodologies if you’re not a project management professional, this one classic method is important to keep in mind for all the team leaders out there. SMART is an abbreviation that stands for:

Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
Achievable (agreed, attainable)
Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)

This may seem like management 101, but in the heat of a tight deadline and multitasking, even the best managers forget about these essential components of realistic goals.

Build a relationship

Building relationships is the biggest challenge for remote employees. According to the Virtual Team Trend Report 2019, the lack of direct contact with other team members has an impact on understanding the context in communication (51%), conflict management (48%) and – effective dialogue (39%). Relationships in the virtual world are much weaker due to the limited possibilities of building efficient interpersonal communication. 

The undervalued small talk can make a huge difference for a person, who spends most of the day working from home – ask about the weather, plans for the weekend or the dog that’s barking in the background. Empathize – for you, it might be the 10th meeting in a row, but for the other person, it’s one of the few times to talk to a fellow team member.

The most helpful tools

The theory is nothing without practice and using the right tools is just as important as the mindset and attitude. Emails and Skype meetings are not enough. Modern challenges require modern solutions, so we summarised some of the most important tips on organizing remote work in 2020.

Communication

One of the most popular tools to facilitate communication with many people at the same time is Slack (really, forget about CCing 12 people in an email thread – they won’t keep up). If you’re working in IT, it’s extremely important that it can be integrated with GitHub and BitBucket. Skype is still a solid tool for video meetings, but if you have more participants, try using GoToMeeting or Zoom as alternatives. Their features allow you to manage invites, present slides, conducting polls, taking minutes, and much more.

Project management

Trello is a tool that perfectly helps to design and manage projects. Users can create boards that allow other team members to keep track of many tasks at the same time – changes made on public boards are visible to everyone who has access to them. Timestamps and reminders can truly save a project. Asana is a similar tool that’s also useful for organizing daily to-do lists and tracking work progress.

Time management

Calculating the time spent on different tasks is crucial for both employers and employees. The first group needs to make sure that no one is overwhelmed and work is being delivered on time. The second group needs to maintain self-discipline, motivation and the right work-life balance. Toggl is a popular time tracking tool that allows users to calculate how much they should charge for each gig (especially useful for freelancers).

Collaboration

“Final_2”, “Final_final_4” – we’ve all seen such file names in the endless email threads and the confusion it can create. Throw in the good old G Suite Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365 to the above mix and you’re almost ready to go. With these tools, you can work on the same files (texts, presentations, sheets, etc.) with many people and keep track of all the changes easily. If you’re working with designers, try using Filestage – it makes the review/approval process much easier. For collaborating with developers, GitHub is still the most trusted platform.

Hiring the right talents requires being open to work remotely and in 2020 it’s not really up for discussion. As there is no “if” here, we need to focus on “how”. If you feel like you need help with putting together and organizing your remote team, we’re here to help! Reach out to us at hello@bunch.consulting and let us make your project happen.

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