2020 has become the turning point when companies around the world switched to remote management — letting employees work from home. The definition of remote work includes both full-time and partial telecommuting. If you are wondering whether your company should make this change, there are a couple of key factors to consider.
According to a recent survey by GetApp, the number of remote workers in 2020 has increased by a factor of four over the 2010 numbers. For example, 78% of respondents claim they work from home some of the time on a regular basis. If 36% of people working remotely once a week doesn’t seem like a huge number, compare it with 9.5% in the 2010 survey.
The main reasons so many employers and employees prefer remote working are flexible working conditions and better-recruiting opportunities. Technology plays a part too. New devices and cloud-based services appear every year and make telecommuting more seamless than ever before.
However, not every business is successful in making the change often because they don’t have the resources to be effective in a remote work environment. It seems that the biggest problem entrepreneurs face is a lack of experience in remote management. This article aims to change that by covering all the pros and cons of remote work, as well as best practices to adapt to a new reality.
Companies Supporting Remote Management
These examples show that, no matter how big your team is, it is quite possible for remote management. The important tasks are to develop a robust management system and invest time and money in developing and maintaining the corporate culture. It is also noteworthy that most remote businesses are involved in technology. Digital solutions, software production, financial services – all of these can be easily moved online without inconveniencing the teams.
GitHub is an international company providing hosting services for software development. GitHub has invested a lot in building its remote culture so that every employee is as happy as they can be. It also enables the company to hire people from every corner of the world.
Hubstaff produces time tracking software for teams. Probably using their own product is their key to success in remote work.
Hotjar specializes in analyzing users’ website behavior. The team encourages self-development as well as supports remote work 100%.
Automattic is the software maker behind WordPress, Tumblr, Akismet, Gravatar, and many other web services. The company doesn’t have an office, instead of providing its employees with remote workplaces.
Clevertech provides digital solutions that help businesses with innovative technology. The company switched to remote work exclusively in 2006 and by 2020 has fine-tuned its processes.
Zapier is a world-renowned provider of translators between web APIs. The company is fully remote, hiring people all over the US and in 23 other countries.
InVision is a digital design platform that supports all the best aspects of working remotely. Their goal is to establish trust and psychological safety for all their employees.
Aha! creates roadmap software and has been a distributed company since its establishment in 2013. They advocate for their principles through their company motto and insist that work is not a place.
Tools for Managing Remote Teams
1. Plans and Schedules
Everyone should know what is going on and what their role is. Regular online meetings help teams exchange information, ask questions, and resolve issues. But that’s not all you can do. The most efficient way to monitor project progress is to use one of the tracking apps or services. Tools like Trello, Hubstaff, Asana, or Wrike work great for remote teams, as they give visibility to what everyone is doing. This way, all members of the team can see project status and updates in real-time.
2. Employee Training
When face-to-face coaching isn’t an option, take time to organize a knowledge-base for your employees. It should include corporate culture rules, useful sources of information, a list of tools used for work, and instructions on how to use them. Invest time in writing these guidelines so that newcomers don’t feel overwhelmed when they join your company. Some people find it easier to acquire information through reading manuals, while others prefer watching videos.
If necessary, you can record video tutorials for every program your business uses. Tools like Movavi, OBS Studio, or ActivePresenter let you record your screen and create step-by-step instructions as a result.
Thanks again to cloud services, because they are key to effective online work. Google Apps is a popular platform for sharing and editing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other file types with a group of people. Online collaboration keeps everyone in sync and allows multiple people to work on one document simultaneously.
There are several types of remote teams, but they all share the same basic principles. Whether it’s a temporary situation or you are entirely abandoning your office premises, the most important thing to remember is that interpersonal contact makes teams more productive. When you’re sitting next to each other, it’s much easier to literally turn to your colleague for advice. But in a virtual team, communication may fade into the background.
The first and most important thing to do when you switch to remote work is establishing specific communication channels for your team. Optimally, there should be one messenger and one video conferencing tool (or a program that combines both) for the whole company. You can use different chats and channels for separate teams of developers, designers, content managers, and so on.
Before determining the messenger platform once and for all, test several and get feedback from your staff. There is no point in imposing an app that everyone dislikes, just because it suits you.
2. Video Conferencing
Depending on your team’s size, group calls can vary from a structured conversation to a chaotic chatter. Here are some tips for organizing a successful video conference call:
- Make it a rule to join a conference call a few minutes in advance. This shows respect for your team, and you don’t waste time waiting for everyone. Meetings begin on time, and everything goes according to schedule.
- Make sure everyone has a headset and a webcam. Headphones reduce background noises that can interfere with the conversation, while a web camera adds visual expression.
- Write a concise agenda for each meeting. Include all the essential documents, links, and a plan, so that everyone knows whether the issue involves them or not.
3. Group Chats
A non-work chat is an excellent alternative to a break room, where everyone can share their news, discuss recent events, or smile at a cat video. Place a virtual wall between work talk and fun chats. Discuss work issues only in dedicated chat rooms. This way, no one misses anything just because they’ve muted the non-work chat, and you talked about the whole company strategy there.
4. Offline Meet-Ups
Communication in real life is vital. That’s why it is essential to have corporate events once or twice a year, to which every member of the team is invited. Team-building sessions, parties, even work meetings boost morale, motivate people, and make them feel included and united.
Challenges and Solutions
While everything may look good on paper, in reality, managing remote employees is one of the hardest things to do. The challenges remote companies face every day involve personnel issues, onboarding problems, training difficulties, and other critical issues. Addressing them is what a good manager must learn to do.
Choose a system to organize your work process and actually stick to it. If you set up rules and don’t pay attention when someone breaks them, it can disrupt the whole structure. Even though remote work implies more freedom of time management, you and your team should not forget about self-discipline. Make sure everyone meets their deadlines, and don’t leave critical errors unresolved.
2. Working Hours
One of the reasons a team may work remotely is distance. The opportunity to work remotely doesn’t force a worker to move to another city or country. That’s why everyone on your team can keep to different time zones and different schedules. Keep that in mind, when you organize a meeting, you need to find a time that works for every participant.
Another problem related to time revolves around personal habits. One of your team members may get up at 8 a.m. and finish their business day at 5 p.m, whereas another employee woke up two hours ago and has just started working. This can be resolved by establishing ground rules to choose certain hours when everyone is required to be active and present.
3. Security Issues
Your company doubtless has a store of sensitive information. In order to protect that information, require your employees to use VPN services or remote desktop software. The purpose of a VPN is not only to mask your location but to provide a secure channel for data exchange. This means you can be sure that your corporate resources are safe for your remote team to use.
4. Setting up a Workplace
As a boss, it is your responsibility to ensure that every employee has all the resources they need for the remote work if you initiate it. If possible, provide your team with the laptops, PCs, or other devices they may need. Make sure everyone is comfortable with their workspace and can complete their tasks efficiently and on time.
5. Lack of Communication
If you feel your team suffers from the absence of informal conversations, those can move online too. You can talk about the latest news or TV shows and drink coffee, just as you did every morning in the office; you can play games or even set up a book club. This really helps during self-isolation and makes you feel less alone.
Due to the globalization of technology, hiring remote employees doesn’t require as much organization, and it may be even easier to manage than a face-to-face interview. The candidate will feel more comfortable because they’re in familiar surroundings, and the conversation can go more smoothly. Whether it’s a phone call or a video conference (which is taking over the world of job interviews), it can be as efficient as if you invited a potential employee to your office.
Pros and Cons
Organizing a productive remote work environment may take a lot of work, so consider all the pros and cons before embarking on this journey. Some things may be crucial when it comes to making a final decision, while other situations maybe just a slight inconvenience. Weigh every argument and think about how you can overcome possible obstacles.
- You don’t need to set up and maintain an office, so it saves you money.
- Your potential workforce is not limited to people from your city.
- Members of your team can manage their work hours more freely.
- Your employees don’t waste time and money commuting.
- Everyone can adjust their workspace according to their preferences.
- The company can work 24/7 if there are workers from different parts of the world.
- You will have to learn how to conduct effective remote management.
- Some people may have trouble adjusting to working from home.
- Not every business can entirely rely on remote work.
- Time zone differences can affect your team’s efficiency.
- It takes longer to build an influential corporate culture.
- Fewer opportunities for informal communication may affect your more introverted colleagues.
Many of these ideas may seem obvious, but they all play an important role in remote work. Your employees will have to learn how to work remotely, while you, their boss and role model, will acquire the skills for productive management via a computer screen.
It is advisable to implement new processes like this gradually. You should probably start with a few employees working from home, and if this experience is successful, then try to expand the remote work setup to your other team members.
Learn from the best, but don’t forget that your company is like a unique ecosystem that needs individual adjustments in order to make it the best place for employment. Listen to your employees too, then your company will surely live long and prosper.