Working from home is the fastest-growing segment of the workforce, growing 10 times quicker than any other. The data, gathered by Global Workplace Informatics, shows that not only do most employees want to be able to work from home, at least part of the time, but that companies can save thousands of dollars by letting staff work remotely.
But assembling a remote team isn’t just about letting staff work from home instead of the office. It allows companies to access talent from a global pool. Recruiters are no longer limited by geography, if the best person for the job works on a different continent? That’s not a problem.
Many companies are now facing the unique challenges of having distributed teams. While it’s a truism that a good employee is a good employee, there are some important differences in managing a band of digital nomads. Here’s the benefit of our experience:
It’s well known that team bonding helps team productivity and performance. That’s why an industry has sprung up around helping teams to get to know each other. Whether it’s athletic outward-bound experiences or being pitted against other teams to win challenges, there are plenty of ways to get staff who in the same location to bond.
If your staff are working in different time zones, or come from different cultures, it can take a little more work. Perhaps the most important thing you can do is let the team form a strong identity, based around their shared vision.
Make sure that you include time at the beginning and end of conference calls for social chat, or have some other channel for your staff to get to know each other. One great way to learn more about team members and their culture is to invite them to give a webcam tour, sharing the sights of their office or photos of their local area. Making sure that special days and holidays are celebrated is another way to learn, and to bond.
If there’s one skill that you really need to manage a remote team effectively, it’s communication. In fact, if you’re going to be part of a remote team at all, then having the skill to get the right information across in the right medium is valuable. Your team need to build trust, and they will only do that if they learn more about each other’s skill sets and know who to ask when a problem arises.
Being very clear about your channels of communication is invaluable too. Document what methods you want to team to use to talk to each other, and the rest of the company, and make sure everyone knows where that information is. Time sensitive communication is best sent via Skype chat, for example, not buried in the comments on a Trello card.
There are a whole host of apps and tools that you can use to stay in touch with your distributed team. It’s never been easier to stay connected, but make sure that your communication is meaningful; don’t just talk for the sake of talking because that can damage…
If there’s one personality trait that remote workers tend to have in common, it’s independence. Working from home isn’t for everyone, a good telecommuter is a self-starter who doesn’t get phased when they find themselves with a problem and no one else awake to ask for help. The easiest way to get on the nerves of a staffer who views themselves this way? Micromanaging.
Yes, there are lot of tools on the market that will monitor your remote staff’s online hours, or promise you some sort of activity tracker. But do you use them on staff in the office? Because research tells us that office bound staff goof off all the time. The beauty of working from home is that the work can be done during the workers most productive hours. For some that’s early morning, for others it’s late at night. Don’t obsess over hours logged, trust your hiring decision and measure results on what’s produced.
Trust needs to be fostered between the team, too. We advocate using the Agile Development Methodology with remote teams. We think the daily stand-up can be managed easily online and it gives the team evidence of who is doing what. That fosters trust.
As their office based representative, you also need to show your trust and respect for your team by representing them to management. Make sure that they don’t get skipped off of newsletters, or passed over for end of project bonuses. If ‘out of sight’ starts to become, ‘out of mind’ then represent.
As a fully remote recruitment agency, we’ve learned that you need to interview slightly differently. The standard whiteboard test and skills based interview isn’t really where you want to focus. An impressive CV and references will tell you what you need to know about technical skill. Instead, focus on that person’s work ethic. Ask them questions about how they manage their working day, or challenges that they’ve faced without backup from a colleague. Those sorts of questions are more likely to give you a reliable response.
It’s worth having your remote work policy ironed out before you start interviewing. That way you can set clear expectations, and your recruits will have a better idea if they are a good cultural match for you.