By Scott Vollero
Bob Dylan probably said it best in his iconic song “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Over the last decade, how we work and where we work has been a-changin’. Since 2005, the geography of the workplace has dramatically changed. People are working remotely—what we used to call “working from home”—more and more. In fact, the workforce of remote workers has increased by an incredible 80 percent. It has been estimated that approximately 43 percent of the entire U.S. workforce will be operating outside of the traditional office setting by the end of this year.
There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to using remote teams in your business. Remote teams give businesses a way to reduce costs and recruit top-level talent into vital positions. Working remotely can increase worker productivity and engagement. Too many companies, however, struggle to create a workflow model that fully captures the benefits of working with remote teams.
Building a productive, successful remote team isn’t as difficult as you may think. We’ve identified some of the best steps you can take to build your own productive and successful remote team.
Identify your business goals
Having clearly delineated goals drives accountability in your business, and unites and inspires your workers. As the old-timers are fond of saying, you cannot manage something when you cannot measure it. Despite knowing that delineated, measurable goals are imperative to a successful business, far too many continue to labor under business goals that are unclear.
Make clear, precisely stated goals the rallying cry of your remote teams. There should be no place in your stated goals for fancy business jargon or popular acronyms. Your stated goals need to be specific and measurable, with stated deadlines.
Know what every person should be doing
Once you have a clear goal in place, you can break it down into actionable assignments for your workers. Members need to know exactly what their tasks are and how they will contribute to the overall goal of the team. There should be guidelines in place that employees can reference on how to accomplish their assigned tasks.
Whatever management tool you utilize to measure your workflow, be sure it includes certain non-negotiable elements, such as time tracking, due dates for tasks and the project as a whole, allocation of staff and resources, and expectations for completion rates. Workers should have access to a comparative tool that allows them to view milestones for project tasks and the impact of each on project goals.
Utilize the right tools for your team
Technology can be a blessing or a curse when working with a remote team. The availability of productivity platforms and business-related apps is overwhelming. Unfortunately, they are not all created equal, nor are they all as helpful as they claim. By utilizing carefully selected and vetted tools, you can simplify your remote team’s workflow as well as reduce confusion and increase your team’s productivity.
Where possible, try to integrate your collaborative tasks and your team’s methods of communication into a common digital hub. Using fewer, more powerful tools can enrich your teamwork and provide an efficient way to allocate and save resources.
Get to know your remote workers
One of the downsides of working with remote teams is the lack of one-on-one interactions that are found in a traditional workplace. Remote teams give your workers freedom and flexibility but also put them at risk of isolation and a splintering of the team dynamic.
Workers may span the country or even the globe. They don’t get to huddle together around the coffee machine or brainstorm together over lunch. But there are ways to build and maintain a cohesive team without a face-to-face brunch once a month.
The team’s leader should touch base with members on a regular basis and make it clear that they can call on him or her at any time. Bring your employees into your inner circle, utilizing technology to get “face time” with each other on a regular basis. Make it clear that the team needs all its members functioning at peak levels in order to be successful.
Facilitate friendly relationships
A lack of personal relationships among team members can sometimes foster dissatisfaction. One of the pivotal goals of your project plan should be to provide a way for your team members to get to know each other on a more personal level. If possible, encourage collaboration outside of work hours, even meeting up offline when possible. Online, you can engage your team members in virtual board games or host digital happy hours.