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Thanks to the internet, we can aptly describe the world we live in today as one big global village, and with that comes the concept of remote working teams who are not limited by time or distance. We have come to accept the fact that it is possible to have 6 people from 6 different continents working on a single project and doing it so effectively that it would not make much of a difference if it was done by an in-house team all working from one location.

However, the advent of virtual teams has brought with it the dilemma of not only recruiting the right sort of individuals but getting them to commit fully to the project—a necessary ingredient for attaining productivity and efficiency. To help you navigate this terrain, here are a few tips that will help your remote teams grow to be more productive and well-coordinated:

Set clear expectations

Everyone has a different idea of what doing something “quickly” or “well” means. Whether showing examples of what you expect to be done, calendar sharing, etc., make sure you have clear expectations from those you work with online. The more prepared they are, the better they can serve.

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You should set clear expectations for:

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  • Work hours
  • Availability
  • Communication system
  • Timely meetings
  • Key projects and deadlines
  • Scheduled meetings
  • Response to email

Trust your team and manage expectations

Sometimes, businesses are not willing to embrace a remote workforce because there’s uncertainty about whether or not the work will get completed at the same level as if they were in the office. To combat this belief, set up work-from-home guidelines, such as emails must be responded to within 24 hours, use text for urgent matters, and no calls between certain hours to make sure teammates are not working around the clock. Make sure your team is familiar with turnaround times, communication protocols and any other limitations or costs related to scope.

Make it feel inclusive

Too often, it is easy to just relegate remote staff to secondary consideration. This can be overcome with virtual meetings and staff partnerships. Consider assigning remote staff with a local point of contact where communication and connection are valued.

[READ MORE: Creating a project plan for your startup: Here’s what to look out for]

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Stay focused on goals, not activity

It is important to manage expectations and stay focused on goals when embracing a remote workforce. Do not worry as much about what is being done. Instead, concentrate on what is being accomplished. If we are meeting our goals, then great. If not, we need to look into the situation further. It is all about accomplishment, not activity.

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Use technology to build community

Building community is important to developing an engaged remote workforce. Use technology to create dedicated spaces for celebrating special days (e.g. birthdays), company milestones (e.g., months or years of service), as well as community recognition. Being intentional about creating a community helps develop a corporate culture that inspires connection, which can result in increased productivity.

Remove the remote once in a while

Although the business world has grown pretty comfortable with the idea of remote work, you cannot underestimate the power of spending time together, face-to-face. There are so many positive outcomes from gathering in a shared physical space. It helps in planning long-term strategy, boosting morale, building relationships, and bringing new hires into the fold.

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Give them help when they need it

Being out of sight, you may have to struggle to address the needs of every employee. Though you may be out of sight, don’t ever let them be out of your mind. Unexpected problems related to the project, or a teammate or how the work is being done are common in every business. If something is really bothering your employees or they’re feeling under the weather, understand the clues they might be giving you and give them a helping hand.

Invest in the right remote project management software

Your remote team working culture will flourish when you have everything under one roof. And this can be made possible when you rely on remote team management software to plan tasks, projects, and even people. Here’s what you can do on a project management software:

  • Communicate with your scattered team
  • Track productivity
  • Maintain and manage timesheets
  • Share information in real time
  • Manage the tasks on a task list
  • Interact across different time zones

The challenges of managing a remote team

There are a few challenges to consider when managing a remote team. The most obvious problem is that you have fewer touchpoints and less control over what is actually happening with them on an hour-to-hour basis. But for every problem, of course there is a solution.

Communication challenges

Establishing good team dynamics and communication is crucial with distributed teams. It differs highly from office culture in the traditional sense. After finding remote workers with the appropriate skills, you have to make sure they function well in your distributed team and fit into your remote company culture.

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Solution – Get Slack, set up groups on WhatsApp, Skype, Microsoft teams, Basecamp and other tools going and actually improve communication. Plus, you get the added benefit of documentation on the cloud.

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The challenge of discussing individual projects in-person

Solution – Top video conferencing platforms allow you to see videos of the other people and communicate directly with them. You can even share screens and “look over their shoulder.” Google hangouts are now equipped with remote desktop, which you can use for customer support.

Summary

Managing remote teams is challenging: organizing a meaningful process, monitoring team members’ activities and keeping track of work process is much harder than at an office. However, follow some simple rules, and you’ll do it. This way, you can have a group of loyal, hard-working and productive employees who will help you reach the company vision sooner.

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