Proven tips for managing remote teams

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In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses across the world started going from physical to remote setups. Offices are vacant, and employees are working from home. 

As a result, people who aren’t used to managing remote teams are suddenly being thrown in the deep end. So, let’s discuss some proven management tips for managing a remote team.

Avoid communication overload

My first tip today is to avoid communication overload. That means you have to be really wary of email and chat overload, particularly in remote businesses. This can obviously be an issue in office or physical workplaces, however it’s even worse inside of remote businesses because you tend to get a lot more email and chat messages. 

You should communicate to, and encourage your employees to literally turn off their chat and turn off their email when they are finished for their workday. This creates a far better lifestyle for them, than being on call 24/7. 

You don’t want them answering emails at 3 o’clock in the morning, because whilst it sounds like a bonus getting extra work from them, it actually just burns them out and they will not be at peak productivity.

Have regular meetings

So you really want to create a regular meeting rhythm. That is, what you need to do is set up a meeting rhythm, because what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get managed. If you’re not meeting with people on a set time to a set rhythm, then these people can become very distracted and not focus on executing their work on time and within budget.

What I suggest is that you either set up a daily meeting with people as a quick stand up style meeting, or that you arrange a weekly or bi-weekly meeting with your team that is a little more formal. I find that if you end up meeting with people only monthly, then you won’t get anything done and they may go in a completely separate direction from what you hope.

Always make sure that these meetings have an agenda, and that you have very clear identifiable goals for everyone to meet, called KPIs. You can then structure the meeting as a status report on where everybody’s tasks are at. 

Basically like a stand up meeting; what they did last week, what they’re planning on doing next week and any issues that they need to report back to you on. 

Flexible work hours

It’s really important to deploy flexible work hours as long as there is consistency. You want to empower workers to work wherever they want whenever they don’t so we don’t really care where you worked or how long you worked as long as you got the job done. You should focus on efficiency, not necessarily how long somebody worked. I mean that’s not a very great measure of productivity.

You need to be able to make sure that there is some consistency, and I usually suggest that employers put this around team meetings. This way, you make it that your team must show up for meetings at a particular time and if you’re not showing up for those meetings it’s a big issue.

Besides that, you do what you want. If you want to work from 3.00-7.00 in the morning every day, then sure, go ahead and do it. As long as you’re productive and you’re putting out great results, who cares? 

Quarterly reviews

I always strongly recommend a quarterly review of how your remote working team are doing. A lot of people call these 360 reviews. The review is going to give you a lot of great information like what your co-workers think of this particular worker, what your manager thinks of that particular worker, what that worker thinks of their manager.

It’s critically important we do them quarterly and it’s a really great way for us to figure out what are you great at, what are you not great at, how can you improve and then measure that for over to make sure that those employees are going to be a lot more productive in the long term.

Have a virtual water cooler

You ought to have a chat room open constantly. I call it the water cooler inside of our chat. We have one in Skype and we have one inside of Slack and that basically is a room where you can talk about anything that you want to talk about. If you want to talk about your kids’ graduation, if you want to talk about a different coding system, if you want to talk about the latest episode of Game of Thrones you can do that in that water-cooler chat room.

It really creates that sort of naturalized bumping that you would have had inside of a local organisation; it just gives you that little small talk that people need to get that bump. 

More importantly to be able to give them deeper insights into people that you wouldn’t have otherwise had if you were if you just didn’t have access to that type of chat in the first place.

Prioritise communication methods

I talked about the levels of importance as it applies to communication. Video is the most important level of communication then it is audio then it is chat then it is email in that order. If you can always have video chats with people you can tell them to have an audio call with somebody you can’t have an audio call have a live chat with them and if you can’t do that then go to email. 

That’s the way you should be basically orienting yourself inside of the organisation. It’s really important to make sure that you have those levels because email is very slow and video is very fast so if you need something done quickly and efficiently video is probably the best way to do it.

Thoroughly test candidates for work

Make sure that you always test employees with short term work before hiring them full time so my perspective is I got to work with you before I can work with you so we’ll usually hire people on very short projects we’re going to hire somebody brand-new we’ll usually hire two people for that position. 

Track work hours

We allow people to work wherever they want whenever they want and it’s really important that they’re measuring how much time they’re putting inside of the business and what the results are. 

If you have a customer support agent, that’s much more productive than another support agent and they’re doing exactly the same amount of work.They need to figure out why that support agent is more productive than that other support agent. 

The only way that you can do that is by tracking the amount of time that you worked. When you attended work and other basic measures of productivity.

Collaborate on documents

You need effective collaboration on documents and spreadsheets and I would suggest that you use Google Apps or a web hosting provider. It’s really easy there are remote documents, however whatever documents you’re trying to use make sure that they are in the cloud so that you can edit them live. 

All of these different employees can go into a single document and then you can add and delete information. You can edit information, you can see the different versions, you can see what people have added and what people have taken away. 

Meet in person

It’s really important to meet in person. We have team retreats for our entire organisation at least once per year and then we have smaller meetings that we do throughout the year. It’s so important for a remote team to meet in person at least once; it’s a great employee perk to have everybody fly into Thailand. 

They all love it secondarily the context that you’ll get from those two to three days of everyone being in the same place is huge. 

Use project management software

Choose and set up a project management system and actually use it. For us it’s so important in a remote organisation to make sure that everything is documented because when stuff is in your head it unfortunately can’t be communicated to the rest of the organisation.

You need a project management system, and you need to use it religiously and everything needs to go into that project management system. I would suggest something that’s really great for development and there’s a ton of other project management tools on the market. 

You just have to choose one and actually execute on putting stuff into it and making sure that your team is answerable to putting stuff inside of that project management tool. If they’re not doing it you’re losing millions of dollars not by doing it.

Hire remote ready employees

It’s really important that you hire people that are the right fit for remote work. A couple things that you can kind of just pull off the top usually remote workers are on the introverted side of the spectrum. They’re okay with working alone. If they constantly have to be working with other people, remote work environments are probably not the best environment for them. 

They need to be people that are very detail-oriented and also people that need to take independent action on particular tasks without really feeling intimidated that they’re making the wrong decision.

Pay your team well

If you’re hiring in developing countries you can usually get absolutely fantastic labour at very cost-effective prices and it’s a huge advantage to you to be able to just pay that person 10-20% higher than the market rate in their particular country. You’re still getting a fantastic deal and they are getting a much higher salary. 

They’re going to be more loyal and they’re going to be a lot more relaxed about what they’re doing with their work and the organisation’s work. I’m blown away by people that are just going to penny pinch someone who’s making a thousand dollars a month as an example. 

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