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Building A Productive Remote Team

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by Startacus Admin

productive remote team

By Lucy Elkin, founder of myworkhive.com, a social venture bringing great remote jobs to a wider audience

There are many reasons why working remotely can be a great solution for startups. Our previous article looked at some of the advantages, from reducing office costs, to making it easier to find the perfect team member. But if you want the best chance of building a remote team that’s happy, productive and thriving, there are definitely a few things to consider.

We’d like to share some of myworkhive’s top tips:

1. Hire for remote

When you are recruiting, look for people who will thrive working remotely. Traits to look out for include people who are self-motivated and happy to work independently. It’s also key that they communicate well in writing, as a lot of communication within remote teams is text-based.

Building A Productive Remote Team

2. Extend remote-working throughout the team

The more of your team is remote, the easier it will be to think like a remote team. When only one or two team members are remote, and everyone else is in the same office space (also called ‘co-located’), it’s easy for the needs of remote colleagues to be forgotten.

3. Choose your tools wisely

There are now a wide range of fantastic tools that let remote teams communicate, share their work and keep track of projects, online. Most remote teams quickly find that email isn’t a great way to keep in touch, and move to social tools such as Slack or Yammer. Face-to-face time is still really important for remote teams, and there are plenty of free and low-cost video chat options, including Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom and Appear.in. Creative types may want to explore shared whiteboard tools, such as Ziteboard, that let you collaborate on designs in real time. For anyone working across multiple time zones, tools such as Time Zone Buddy can help you keep track and schedule meetings.  

Building A Productive Remote Team

4. Communication, communication, communication

Finding great tools is just the start; your remote teams also needs to spend some time deciding how you are actually going to work together. Will you be synchronous (online and working at the same time) or asynchronous (which works well for teams in different time zones)? Will you set core office hours when everyone is online, or be totally flexible about hours? Are you all located relatively close together –  making it easy to meet together in person if you want to – or are you spread all over the globe in a truly distributed team? These choices will have a big impact on how and when you are in contact with each other. However you do it, remote teams all stress the need for clear, regular communication.

5. Set really clear goals, and trust people to deliver

You team will need clear goals, and to keep each other in touch and updated about progress or problems. Frequent check-ins among team members are a must – don’t just leave people alone for a week and hope that all’s going well. But equally, one of the joys of remote working is being able to focus in a relatively distraction-free environment, so you don’t need to be in touch every five minutes. Trust is key. Reliable team members will keep you updated and let you know if there’s a problem. Most remote teams measure performance by outputs, not hours spent at a desk, and hire people who are happy without a lot of direction.

productive remote working team

6. Plan how you’ll bring your remote team members together, both online and in real life

Think about ways to help your remote team members get to know each other. Larger remote companies often put a lot of effort into building that ‘team feeling’ among staff who may have never met in person, and are based all over the world. For example, Buffer assigns a workplace buddy to help show new hires the ropes, and regularly pairs up people people who don’t normally work together for a video coffee and chat. It might seem a bit artificial, but in a remote team, you won’t be bumping into other people in the kitchen, so it can be helpful to engineer ways for people to connect with each other.

If you can afford it, real-world get togethers are great too. Some distributed teams such as 10up invest in an annual company meetup, a chance for everyone to work together and socialise in real life for a few days. If that’s too expensive, making time to meet up at conferences or training days might be another way to get people together. If your team are based relatively close together, you could always mix in some regular coworking days to bring people under one roof.

7. Have a remote working policy

The UK workplace advisory service, ACAS, recommend that you have a policy on remote working. A good remote-working policy will cover issues such as health and safety, set out who pays for things such as home-office equipment and insurance, and so on. ACAS has lots of resources to help you put a policy together.

productive remote team

8. And finally – invest in your remote team

Building a remote team is a low-cost option, but not a no-cost option. You’ll need to hire meeting rooms if you want to host clients or hold a team get-together. You might also need some extra IT support to ensure good connections and make sure your data is secure. Cloud-based and online services such as Slack and Sococo can also boost costs; although most have free options that will be enough to get you started, as your team grows, you may want to upgrade to premium, business versions, and costs per person can quickly add up. Investing in good tools, as well as meet-ups, training, good video conferencing, fast bandwidth, coworking memberships and so on will all help to keep your remote team happy and productive.

I’ve worked remotely myself for many years, and love the flexibility it brings. It means I don;t waste precious hours commuting, and means I can work wherever I feel most productive. With the technology we now have to stay connected with team members from anywhere, it really does feel as if remote is the future of work. Hopefully these tips will help you to get the most out of remote-working for your startup.  

Recently launched, myworkhive is a specialist job board for remote jobs – as well as a social venture on a mission to bring flexible work to those who need it most. If you’re hiring, visit the site to see how you can list your remote vacancies for free, and for more resources for remote teams. Or find us on Twitter and Facebook to talk all things remote. 

 

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Published on: 26th September 2017

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