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A Guide to Setting Up Remote Teams and Employees

The Essential Elements of Setting up Remote Teams

Technological advances have enabled the rise of remote teams across the world, which means that multiple team members may be working from different cities or even countries.  While this allows for selecting the best team members based on talent rather than location, it does create challenges for those setting up and managing the team.

There are three essential areas to pay attention to when setting up a remote team: 1.) hiring the right members, 2. ) communication and 3.) ongoing management.

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Hiring Your Remote Team

·      How do you select the right staff, and what qualities do you look for?

Successful members of a remote team will have a few key characteristics.  Because there is a lack of direct daily oversight, you must hire people who are self-starting and can accomplish tasks independently.  This also means that they are the type who can operate without the typical work environment that offers social interaction.

Other important qualities for remote team members are that they can be trusted to carry out assignments, have the required skills and are generally reliable day to day.  Otherwise, team managers will have to spend too much time checking on progress or asking for updates from members that are not executing their role.

·      How do you onboard them and ensure they understand your organisation?

To build an effective remote team and onboard the right workers you will “need a clear set of expectations and open communication”.  In this way, you can attract the type of worker that you are looking for, and only interview those that are a good fit.

One of the key decisions to be made prior to hiring is whether you are looking for a full time employee, or an independent contractor/freelancer.  The choice will depend on the amount of commitment you want from the worker, job parameters and length of assignment.  Even remote teams may be subject to misclassification pitfalls as discussed here in this related article on the employee vs. contractor relationship.

The method used to interview candidates for remote work can give you an early indication of their work and communication habits.  Most remote work will require both written and verbal communication, so using a combination of email, phone and video interview methods will reveal the candidates ability to respond and articulate in each format.

Even though you are working with a remote worker, you need not make the interview feel distant. The more methods of contact that you use, the higher likelihood you have of making the right hiring decision.”

Staying in Contact

Once you have assembled the right remote team, the next step is to establish an efficient communication method for ongoing contact.  Due to the nature of remote work, this may make the difference in keeping your remote teams and involved with other members and management.

How do you keep them connected?

In order to achieve true team collaboration it will be necessary to rely on technology for real-time interactive communication.  While it may be tempting to use email or one- on-one phone conversations, it is preferable to set up visual and audio meetings via videoconferencing.  This is also a better alternative than phone conferencing since it is hard to gauge attention and participation when there is no video feed.

There is also a need to establish clear meeting schedules and agendas ahead of time, so that all are prepared for the topics discussed.  Scheduling videoconferencing can be a challenge depending on worker location and time of day or night, and it may be necessary to record it for some members.

Related article from entrepreneur.com.

What do you do to make life easier for them?

Although it may seem like a perk to work remotely, it can present difficulties for some workers that are used to a traditional work environment.  Even when workers are located in the same locale as the main office, they can feel estranged or isolated by the apparent separation.  Remote workers may perform their role from a home office, or even some type of serviced office space provided by the company.

A key consideration is to accommodate for time differences between the worker, the home office and others in collaboration.  This can be a significant factor in a large country such as the US with four time zones, and is amplified when workers may be located overseas.  Fortunately, there are management apps that can account for the time zones of all workers at any given hour, allowing for easier communication and planning.

At times a remote worker may be relocated to the country where the company is located, or to a foreign location for a specific project or assignment.  However, the worker may lack the typical social and cultural introduction associated with office employment.  It is essential to ensure a smooth transition into the country if an employee is relocating, and there may be a need for additional support and orientation.  It is recommended to bring remote workers into the company headquarters periodically to offer a real time interaction and sense of being part of the overall mission.

Tools to monitor and manage them

For management, hiring and connecting a team of remote workers is only the beginning.  The primary task will be monitoring work output, oversight of quality and timelines, and management of worker time and activity.  If you hire contractors or freelancers, this simplifies the management process, since they are typically paid on a project basis or hourly.  However, it will be helpful to set either daily or weekly milestones for each worker within their assignment, as well as team milestones.  It may be necessary to check in on remote team members more frequently than office staff, to offer support and clarify project direction.

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.  These resources are far more preferable than the classic group email that can go to many pages of replies from team members.

Slack is another messaging app for 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.

Summary

Using technology and traditional management techniques, a remote team can be as or more effective than an in-office team working on a similar project.  With the right team members, ongoing contact and tools for managing projects and communicating, a remote team can be a cost-efficient means to support business goals.

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