How to Manage a Remote Team
Many companies are starting to open up to the idea of distributed teams, and for good reason. Between lower costs, access to a wider talent pool, and happier employees, there can be significant benefits to adding or expanding a remote team. But venturing into the world of remote teams requires thoughtful implementation. Launching and running a remote team presents unique challenges, so it’s important to be prepared with the right tools and systems in place from the get-go. Although based in Sofia, Cowork 7/24 team members live and travel all over the world.
Challenges are endless. We struggle with video conferencing, we struggle with working styles, cultures differences. We struggle with tools managing remote teams. We struggle with time tracking and time-zone differences. We struggle with building a unified company culture. But, above all, we enjoy this diversity and believe we can only be successful by embracing all these unique diversities. So, as experts-to-be in remote and shared workspaces, we have plenty of experience when it comes to making remote arrangements work. Here’s out top three tips on how to run a remote team.
Lead with Culture
Despite all the benefits of having a remote workforce, it can be tough to build a sense of team amongst the group and make everyone feel engaged. There aren’t opportunities for happy hours, group lunches, or serendipitous interactions between employees as they go about their day. Because of that, it’s important to create a strong culture right from the start. Whether it’s using tools like Sqwiggle to provide more team visibility throughout the day, or a Slack channel dedicated to idle chatter and cat memes, foster opportunities for the team to interact in casual, personal ways. It will help build trust and rapport, both of which go a long way toward improving a team dynamic.
Having the opportunity to interact with the rest of your team face to face can have a significant impact on engagement, investment, and comradery as well. Cowork 7×24 Community Manager Thalassa says:
“Our CEO Serkan Kurtulus puts a high value on keeping the team engaged despite the fact that we’re all working remotely. We have a weekly virtual team meeting in which we all update each other on our main activities, and we have a lot of one-on-one calls within the team throughout the week. Of course, we use Slack as well, but probably the things that literally bring us together are our quarterly team meetings – face to face! Every three or four months the entire team comes together for a few days in one of our target cities. We connect with each other and the local coworking and startup scene and set the goals for the next 3 months. This could be done remotely, but if you have the chance to meet up with your team in person a few times per year, it does give an extra boost.”
Group meetings over video chat and in-person get-togethers can be complicated to coordinate, but are well worth the effort when it comes to improving the group dynamic.
Have a Strong Communication Plan
Since in-person meetings and day to day interactions are out, keeping everyone up to date and on track can be one of the more frustrating adjustments for new remote teams. And as time goes on and the backlog of information grows, keeping everything organized and accessible becomes even more of a challenge.
That’s why the cardinal rule of remote teams is document everything. Your teammates and employees will span time zones, life schedules, and personal rhythms of productivity, so everything that happens not only needs to be documented, it also needs to be easily accessible to everyone. Whether you decide to use Google Drive or HackPad to share information, having a consistent location for logging meeting notes and summarizing email communications and chat threads is vital to your team’s success.
In addition to a central repository of team info, chat services like Slack and HipChat can also go a long way toward keeping everyone in a constant flow of communication. If you’re new to Slack, make sure to set up different channels for specific topics of conversation to maximize efficiency (examples: marketing, watercooler, events, etc). This allows you to use channels like mini-conference rooms where the team can have running conversations on relevant subjects. It’s also important to treat chats as transient. They should be used for real-time chatter and not as a replacement for email. Group conversations should always be archived and documented elsewhere so that folks who work on alternate schedules can still stay up-to-date.
Be Prepared to Adapt
As your team grows, you’re bound to come across new challenges and opportunities to improve the systems you have in place. What may have once worked for a small team based in the United States might not work once the team starts to expand into new countries and time zones. Stick to your well-defined communication plan religiously right from the start, and be prepared to adapt your systems along the way. The goal is to make it easy for everyone to participate in and stay on top of team communications, even if some of the team is working with a 12 hour time difference.
Don’t be afraid to get creative! There are many standard practices for distributed teams, but it’s all about figuring out what works best for your people. Try implementing a buddy system for new employees, or weekly video messages from each member of the team, or developing your own secret emoji codes for shorthand. Whatever it is, rely on the team you’ve built to help guide continued growth in the right direction.
If you’re serious about starting or scaling a remote team in the near future, check out this year’s Running Remote Conference in Bali, Indonesia. With great speakers from companies like Buffer and Atlassian and curated content, Running Remote will help you define actionable next-steps and tactics for getting your distribute team off the ground. Spend two full glorious days in paradise getting next level advice on running your remote team – It’s the conference you’ve been looking for but haven’t been able to find! You can learn more info and snag tickets here.