Establishing remote teams within your business can help you find top-tier talent from anywhere in the world, potentially cut costs, and offer an additional benefit to recruits who are considering joining your company. However, there is an art to successful remote work, so you’ll need to create the right conditions and implement best practices to ensure that your remote team is productive, efficient, and successful.
To build the best remote team, you should start by following these 7 steps:
Step 1: Decide on a Remote Team Structure
Each company has their own way of implementing remote teams. For example, your business can be fully remote, have specific teams that work remotely, or have certain individuals who work off-site. Whether you’re a new business beginning the hiring process for the first time, or you’ve made the decision to start allowing employees to work off-site, you need to figure out which approach you’re going to take.
Usually, this decision will be left up to your preferences or specific needs of your business. However, in other instances it will be out of your control—as it has been with the COVID-19 pandemic. Either way, the following steps are essential to building the most effective remote team for your business.
Step 2: Recruit Thoughtfully
As you know, hiring is an important process that must be handled with care. But when it comes to building a remote team, the need for disciplined, reliable, and skilled employees may be even greater. This is because off-site employees need to be much more autonomous since they are not under direct supervision and may not have quite the same level of support system that they would if they were in an office environment.
When hiring remote employees, there are a few specific things you want to look for in your candidates:
- Expertise in their field
- Exceptional communication skills
- Quick response times
There’s always room for improvement in your hiring process, so make sure to review your current approach to ensure that it’s effective in helping you find outstanding talent that will strengthen your remote team—start with these 11 tips to improve your recruiting process.
Step 3: Establish Clear Guidelines & Expectations
Setting performance and establishing guidelines for workflow is essential to optimizing the productivity of your team and holding them accountable. Some examples of how you can set expectations and guidelines for your off-site employees include:
- Work hours or specific times they should be online
- How often they should check in
- Process documentation for tasks
- Whether they should be tracking time
- Goals for teams and individual employees
- Who should be the point of contact for certain projects/issues
- Which means of communication should be used under what circumstances
Depending on the nature of your work, there may be more ways you can help employees ensure they understand and meet expectations, just ensure that they are clearly communicated and fairly implemented.
Step 4: Maintain Engagement with Your Team
It can be easy for remote workers to feel disconnected from the rest of the team. This problem can be much more impactful on your business if the entire workforce is off-site. Feelings of disconnectedness can affect work quality, morale, and your bottom line. According to Gallup, highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable, which it’s important to make an active effort to maintain engagement with your team. So, how do you do that?
- Hold department meetings monthly or weekly
- Have manager check-ins with individual employees
- Start having monthly company-wide meetings
If only part of your team is remote, it’s essential that you make sure they’re included and acknowledged during these meetings. In addition to work-related meetings, you can also provide opportunities for socializing which can help foster kinsmanship between team members. This can include virtual happy hours, games, or anything else that will spark some team bonding.
Step 5: Set up Reliable Communication Channels
Communication is key in any business setting, but especially when remote work is involved. However, it’s also one of the biggest challenges. In a survey by Buffer, 17% of remote workers said collaboration and communication was one of the biggest struggles of working off-site.
Fortunately in the digital age, staying connected is easier than ever, wherever your employees are in the world.
- For direct communication, employees should use an internal direct messenger
- For official or client communication, employees should use email
- For project-related comments or questions, employees should use your project management system (unless it’s urgent then direct messenger should be used to prevent delays)
Establishing communication processes will ensure that everyone is on the same page, knows how to reach one another, and can promptly respond to each other.
Step 6: Provide the Tools Teams Need to Be Successful
The right tools can drastically improve your team’s performance. While some tools like a project management software and direct messenger might be useful for your entire remote workforce, others may be needed on a department or individual basis. For example, your graphic designers may need access to a stock photography site, a collective editing platform, and an illustrator.
It’s important to ensure that every member of the team has access to these tools (that needs to), whether that’s providing them company-wide credentials or setting them up with their own individual accounts.
Step 7: Implement Time Tracking
As mentioned earlier, time tracking is one way to hold employees accountable for meeting work expectations. In addition to holding employees accountable for fulfilling their time requirements, time-tracking data can also be useful in pricing products, identifying inefficiencies in project workflows, determining which employees are on-task and which need more structure, as well as paying employees based on hours spent on a project.
There are plenty of free apps that make this easy for your employees to do with no additional cost to the company. Plus, these apps can often be integrated with other tools like your project management software.
When you onboard new remote employees, or if you’re switching your team over to remote for the first time, you want to make sure all of the expectations, processes, and resources are clearly communicated to your team. Of course, there are other things you can do to increase the productivity of your remote team, but these seven steps are a good starting point for getting on the right track.
Alexis Maness has a Bachelor of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications and is a contributing editor for 365businesstips.com. As a professional content writer, she has over five years of experience and is a contributing writer for several San Diego magazines.