At a time when businesses are looking to reduce overheads whilst staying competitive, remote teams are becoming more and more popular. A recent survey found that that 8 in 10 executives intend to increase their number of remote workers.
The wisdom of their decision is supported by research, which has shown that remote teams can be as effective as on-site teams when handled in the right manner.
Is your business looking to embark on the path? This piece takes a look at everything you need to know about finding, managing and reaping the rewards of running productive remote teams.
Some of the benefits of having remote teams
Let’s start by outlining some of the reasons that businesses like yours are choosing to work this way. If you are on the fence then this will probably have you jumping in with both feet!
- Remote teams ensure a cheaper wage bill. The cost of living varies greatly across cities in the same country, no matter across continents. By setting up a remote team, you can tap into lower market employment rates.
- You will have reduced overheads. Office space rental and management costs add up pretty quickly. With a remote team, you will cut these overheads completely.
- A remote team ensures you aren’t limited to the local talent pool. Why miss out on exceptional talent because they don’t live in the same city as you?
- With remote teams, the competition for employees is not always as fierce as it is on the local front. Employees in smaller cities often jump at the opportunity to work remotely, and prove to be highly motivated.
- Remote teams allow you to operate a 24-hour schedule. When your team transverses different time zones you can accomplish more in less time, and have shorter work flow cycles.
- Communication is often cited as a stumbling block when managing remote teams but this doesn’t have to be the case. By using modern technology, such as videoconferencing solutions, you can communicate face to face, and can work with the best minds in your sector wherever they are.
- Research suggests that with remote teams there is increased emphasis on progress and less on effort. Hours spent in the office don’t matter. What counts is productivity!
- The increased diversity offered by remote teams helps bring in new ideas, solutions and approaches. Your team will be made up of people from different academic and cultural backgrounds, each bringing different perspectives and experience to the table. This diversity can breed a creative environment.
- Remote teams encourage a workforce with a healthy work/life balance. Team members can work more flexible schedules. Don’t be surprised to find your remote employees happier than their on-site counterparts.
How to find the best remote talent
To find the best remote talent you need to decide on these four things:
- The type of workforce you are looking to engage (i.e. permanent or temporary)
- The level of expertise you are looking for
- The degree of collaboration required between your remote and on-site teams
- Your willingness to open the doors of your business to someone in another city, or continent
After you have thought about these points, you can start looking. Below are 4 of the main ways to find staff.
Hiring an agency:
Here, you have limited control over the recruitment process. A specialist recruitment company takes your specifications and provides you with the best possible talent. The downside to this is that it can be costly.
Setup an offshore remote company
By having an office overseas to manage a pool of remote talent you can gain more control over the overseas team every step of the way. From recruitment to management and training, you have significantly more visibility. This option is normally only feasible for larger companies that have what it takes to navigate the maze of bureaucracy that exists in most cheap labour countries, and have the financial backbone to withstand unexpected outcomes (think political uncertainty).
This is one of the most viable options for most small businesses. There are many places to find freelancers, from Fiverr to Upwork and LinkedIn. You could equally recruit off social media.
The quality of hosting services and the internet these days means you can buy or build a management system for your freelancers. Your systems and processes will only be as good as the staff you hire.
Brendan, Virtual Team Manager at https://www.umbrellar.nz/, a leading web hosting tech company in New Zealand that uses remote teams, told us “When recruiting virtually it is easy to hire fast, and hire wrong. Make sure you take the time to assess candidates. A bad hire will probably end up wasting a lot of your time and money.
Freelancers are used to small paid trials and test projects, so make use of this. Invest your time wisely and walk away if someone is not what you need. There is so much talent out there that you don’t need to be teaching remote staff the basics. You should only need to teach people about your company preferences.”
Hire through managed operations
With this recruitment model will decide what location you want to recruit from, then hand over to a locally based recruitment company to hire for you and find the talent that best suit your requirements.
There are also big Business Process Outsourcing organisations with hundreds of trained staff ready to work with you. With these companies you can pay for a specific member of staff on a part time or full time basis. They will have access to collaboration technology, and will be specialists in the tasks that you need completed. In the UK many SMEs use staff from the Philippines in this way.
Tips for managing your remote teams
- Establish working standards and clear expectations. This will ensure that your workers have a definitive path to take in accomplishing tasks, and reduce the amount of questions asked over the course of a work day. Encourage flexibility and creativity.
- Use multiple communication tools. We will have a look at collaboration tools below. Communication tools unify processes and ensure the right person can be reached quickly and communication flow is effective.
- Create a routine around briefings and meetings. This will increase efficiency, management visibility and ensure that everyone is on the same page as projects develop.
- Always have clear and detailed deliverables. Don’t just tell your workers to do something without letting them know exactly what is expected and by when (deadlines etc.). However, be careful to avoid micromanaging and don’t be over-prescriptive about how things should be done unless you are dealing with entry level staff. Simply giving an example of what a task should look like when complete is often sufficient.
- Create an overlap of work hours. This ensures members of a team have opportunity for adhoc communication and updates.
Top collaboration tools for managing your remote teams
With remote teams, effective collaboration is the key. Here are some tools you will need to ensure seamless collaboration between your remote and onsite teams.
- Google docs: Useful when multiple people have to work off the same document. (Excel and Word particularly good)
- Jing: Useful for capturing anything on your desktop and for sharing. It allows annotation and voice too
- Skype: This is the standard for voice calls and video calls with freelancers over the internet. Perfect for voice and video team meetings, and for text chat.
- Dropbox: Useful for quick file sharing and managing content
- Mantis: Useful for remote development teams, as it allows the logging of bugs, improvements and features requests.
- Freshbooks: Useful for managing billable timesheets, creating estimates and invoicing clients
- Basecamp: Useful for managing projects, tasks lists and team communication
- Time doctor: Useful for personal and team time tracking. Allows you to view what an individual is working on and how long is spent on each activity.
Remote teams are only going to become more important in the future. If you haven’t yet embraced new ways of working it is time that you think seriously about doing so. Others in your sector are tapping into the benefits of remote teams, so you can’t afford not to!