Research has shown that more organizations are embracing the idea of working with remote teams because of numerous advantages. For instance, people tend to spend more hours at work when remote working, are more productive, and are less expensive too. Moreover, employees prefer the flexibility and freedom that comes with remote working. In fact, a majority of professionals across the services spectrum say that they would prefer to work from home with reduced salaries. Organizations too would prefer it to stay that way, especially because remote working has reduced the attrition rate and positively influenced the bottom line.
Although working with remote teams does come with certain challenges, it does not mean that remote teams are not worth having. It is important to consider whether remote working is a good fit for your line of business, people and clients. Some jobs are better suited for remote work than other kind of tasks; for example, remote working works best for functions such as graphic design, copywriting and editing, call centre or help desk operations, accounting functions and sales. These functions mostly require only a computer, Internet and telephone access. Another important aspect to consider is the fact that not everyone is primed, disciplined and motivated to buckle down and get work done without direct supervision. With your existing employees, you can probably already tell which of them can do a better job working from home, but it may be a bit trickier when it comes to new hires.
If your organization is seriously considering remote working, then here are a few factors that you need to follow:
- Track staff performance and output, not presence.
Some organizations set the wrong precedent by expecting remote staff to work the same working hours as that of the regular staff. Remember, remote staff do not work under a controlled environment (such as in the office) and they are exposed to other factors as well. As long as the work is done and progress is evident, it does not matter if remote staff follows routines differently than their colleagues at office. Flexibility is the essence of remote working—not merely doing the job exactly as per the office timings.
- Communicate to foster the bond between teams.
Encourage team members to be in constant communication with each other—both formally and informally—using apps and tools such as Slack, Trello and GoToMeeting. Open communication lines enhance productivity and improve responsiveness. When it comes to virtual meetings or conference calls, always choose an overlapping period keeping in mind the geographical time zones.
- Limit the time your team spends on each task.
Assign a shorter time frame for each task you give to your remote team. We are not talking about rigid work schedules—it will hinder your remote team’s productivity. Although it is important to specify a time for each deliverable, it is not necessary that you should give them the luxury of additional buffer time. Ensure that they inculcate the habit to keep you regularly updated of the work done.
- Respect each team’s time zone.
As remote workers are at different geographical locations, be sensitive to their requirements and use complementary work schedules so that they are not made to work at odd hours. Be smart with the deadlines and make the dependencies clear to all stakeholders.
- Set expectations and track results.
Some organizations incorrectly give credit to the assumption that having a virtual team with flexible work schedule can make team members lazy and goalless. Show the teams how the work is tracked and monitored, then you will observe a noticeable difference in the output of remote staff. It is important to let the remote staff know that they are not working in isolation; they need to be reassured with fact that their contribution helps the organization.