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5 Common Misconceptions About Remote Teams

Remote work is gaining popularity globally as more skilled employees and contractors look for autonomous positions. Despite this, some companies continue to avoid engaging remote workers for their business activities. These organisations may still be hesitant and are not always receptive towards the idea of having team members that are located in multiple geographical locations. Using remote team members for technical, sales or creative work may seem to entail greater risk, and runs counter to the traditional office based environment that is seemingly easier to manage and control.

Nonetheless, the advantages of hiring remote employees or contractors are hard to ignore, and more companies are gravitating toward forming remote teams in order to fill certain types of work roles. This article explores a few common myths and misconceptions about remote workers that need to be dispelled before a company can embrace this growing business strategy.

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1.  Remote Workers are not as Productive

One of the leading concerns for a business owner who is contemplating hiring remote workers, is the idea that team members cannot possibly be as productive without supervision and on-site management.  However, in the modern age of time tracking tools, message boards and websites such as Slack, there are many ways to manage remote workers and monitor productivity.  The key is “to hold employees accountable by establishing a process that is flexible, and using tools to follow the process.” 

In truth, the businesses that use this strategy find that remote team members are actually more productive than office staff. The larger problem is actually that of over-work and burnout, due to the temptation to work longer hours without the daily support of co-workers and managers. 

2.    Remote Workers are not as Skilled

Another misconception is that most skilled workers prefer to be in a formal office, while remote workers are those that simply could not qualify for the leading positions.  This myth is especially prevalent when a worker is an independent contractor or freelancer, where they are perceived to be less capable in developing their skills. In fact, many contractors prefer the independence and autonomy of self-employment, and often have a high level of skill and motivation developed during their career.

Hiring remote workers allows access to some of the most highly skilled talent in any given industry. Companies are no longer bound by geographical restrictions and may expand the hiring pool to extend across state and regional lines, or even international borders. This broadens the scope of truly finding the best in the field. “Recruiting talent without geographical boundaries is the only way to get the very best people. If the person who is the very best in her field lives by choice on a sustainable ranch in Montana, do you opt for second best? Or do you take the talent where you can find it?”  

3.    It is Difficult to Find Remote Workers

A key question that arises for a company contemplating the use of remote teams is how to locate and recruit workers.  In some cases, they might be former employees or contractors, but more often a concerted networking approach will be required to locate top talent.  Websites such as LinkedIn offer a possibility to begin growing a pool of potential recruits from the over 200 million users.  There are also sites that list a wide range of project-based contractors and freelancers who may be open to a broader commitment.

A company can also access international freelancer networking sites for specific industries such as software development and engineering. Actively participating in these sites can result in contact with established contractors in a given region or country.

4.    It is Difficult to Communicate with and Manage Remote Workers

A natural issue with a remote team is that of communication and management across distances and time zones, without losing a sense of connection and inclusion. The primary question that arises for an employer is, “how do I know what my team member is doing, and what progress is being made?”  Not every remote worker is skilled at self-management, but fortunately there are apps and tools available that can overcome this potential problem.

One way to establish and monitor milestones is through online checklist boards such as Trello or Basecamp, which allow team members to communicate, post work product and signal project progress. Slack, is another messaging app for remote teams with real time message boards similar to Skype, but with the ability to integrate multiple teams and give a sense of a virtual workplace.”  For a thorough discussion of communication and management tools for remote workers, you can browse through this article.

Using these tools can ease the challenges of communication and management for remote teams, shifting the focus onto actual performance and project progress.  “Measurable timelines and job conclusion are a lot more telling than out-of-date proxies like, “is my employee in his seat?

5.    Remote Work is Limited to IT and Data Entry

There is a historical acceptance of using remote workers for certain types of technical work, customer service and data entry positions.  Given that these roles do not depend on physical location or close supervision, businesses recognise that projects could be outsourced or contracted hourly on an individual basis.

However, remote work teams do not have to be limited to certain categories and the online collaboration and communication tools allow the creation of a ‘virtual office’ for a wide range of business functions.  While IT development roles remain a popular remote work niche, teams can also be recruited for sales and marketing, product development, creative work and customer interface.

Summary

Remote teams are growing in every industry, and may become the norm in the future for global companies who master the recruitment, management and communication tools available. While younger workers who have grown up with new media tools might likely be comfortable filling remote work roles, mid to late-career professionals may also find that they have the ability to self-manage and find fulfilment as a remote team member.

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