Imagine how to manage a team at this office: everyone arrives to the building, has their own parking spot physically sectioned off from everyone else; a walled-off path that leads to their own desk, in a closed-off room, equipped with a kitchen and a bathroom; and their own walled-off path leading outside of the office to cafes and bars where they can take their laptop if they want to work outside.
There are neither internal phone lines in the office nor are cell phones permitted, only wireless internet via laptop. Whether there are 100 people in the building or only one, there’s absolutely no way of running into another human being on your team.
This sounds bizarre, but it’s basically how a remote team would be expressed in terms of a physical layout. Remote teams are great for lean startups, for businesses seeking to reduce costs, and even for attracting top talent – but project managers and company owners can’t expect the same results from using their in-person office management skills with their remote teams.
When you’re not physically working in the same space as your team, it’s vital that you use these six types of tools to get your work done:
In the imaginary office earlier, it’s impossible to physically encounter another person on the team, so no updates can occur without using online communication tools. It’s the same for your remote team, so unless their volume of work is very simple and very small, it’s vital to invest in several systems of communication.
What you choose will depend on your style – some prefer webconferencing services to complement email, other teams use Skype for chat and video calls, some prefer to use video rooms like Sqwiggle.
Whatever tool or combination of tools you go with, just make sure they’re reliable. It’s incredibly frustrating for a remote worker when communications tools frequently fail – their work depends on having clear, recurrent communication.
This is similar to communication, but focused on sharing work products. For successful remote team work that actually generates results, you have to have a system of file sharing that avoids duplicate work or multiple versions of work product in different stages of editing.
Some people are fine with Google Drive or Dropbox. Other teams prefer to use Evernote or collaborate on files directly within their project management system.
No matter how small the project or the team, don’t give in to the temptation to wing it by email. A good project management system avoids inbox clutter, organizes important documents, and tracks progress on key deliverables, while also communicating that progress to collaborators on the same task.
Asana, Basecamp, and Trello are versatile favorites that can work with a variety of different kinds of projects, while options like GitHub tend to be more popular with software developers.
Remote workers don’t have the equivalent of face time, so it’s vital to implement a tool that gives them a comparable amount of accountability and credibility. Especially if there’s a delay on deliverables, being able to track time gives remote workers something to show for their efforts in the meantime.
It’ll also make progress reviews easier by giving managers another variable to compare with KPI’s during performance reviews. Hubstaff or Harvest are examples of easy to use tools that also integrate with project management and payment systems, and provides greater accountability than self-reporting.
Nobody likes working hard and then not getting paid on time – especially not employees who’ve never physically seen you and who are located thousands of miles away. Delays can happen even despite your best, good faith efforts to pay your remote team on time – but repeated occurrences can seriously damage morale.
That’s why it’s essential to have systems and procedures set up for accounting and payment. Whether it’s a tool that integrates with your time tracking system to automatically pay your workers, or hiring a virtual accounting team, get automated payment tools set up to make sure that your team members are promptly paid for the work they do.
Everyone likes to feel appreciated – and remember, in the remote office, you can’t just walk down the hall and congratulate a team member on an awesome job.
Something as simple as a thank you via email, a gift certificate, or even a small bonus will go a long way. Even better, share the appreciation – create a wiki or newsletter thanking that week’s or month’s star player for their work, and you’ll increase morale on the entire team.
Remote teams can form the base of highly successful businesses and create rewarding work for both entrepreneurs and their remote employees – as long as managers use these 6 types of tools to facilitate their working relationships.
Image source: Pixabay