Each year more companies are choosing to leave the office behind and create a remote team. Trello and Github are just two examples of businesses, creating virtual offices that allow workers from all over the world to join.
For an early-stage start-up, a remote team can be especially beneficial. It drastically reduces company overhead, maintains a flexible schedule and helps recruit the best talent possible.
Remote teams are also cheaper and faster to get started and gain momentum. Even for the traditionalist company, the benefits of building a remote team are enticing.
But actually assembling that dream remote team in the first place is an art that’s still being refined. Which leads to the question: How do you build an awesome remote team?
First, familiarise yourself with three core tenets of operating a remote business: Communication, trust and culture. You’ll have to set clear standards for each of these aspects early on so your business can operate seamlessly.
Communication is hands-down the most important aspect to focus on here. Without consistent communication, a remote team will fall apart. Each member needs to understand his or her responsibilities and deadlines, and everyone needs to be regularly checking in with each other.
In a team environment, there’s no substitute for talking with others face-to-face. Scheduling video calls with your team – or parts of your team – is one of the best ways to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Skype and Google Hangouts are your friends here. Make face-to-face chats a regular part of the workweek.
Keep the conversation going
While video calls are important, you also need to create ongoing communication channels. Many companies use Slack to keep real-time chat going, which approximates the in-office experience. Trello is another invaluable tool to aid in project management and organisation.
Create a communication schedule
A remote team needs clear-cut rules on how communication will happen. Set aside days and time slots for meetings, and specify how other tools – like email and Slack – will be used. This will prevent an astounding number of problems from happening and will keep everyone equipped with the information they need to do their jobs.
Also consider monthly or quarterly virtual town hall meetings in which all employees can hear from the founder or senior management on company performance and other key pieces of information. This will keep teams engaged and aligned and create a sense of togetherness.
The absence of trust will crush a remote team. All employees rely on one other, and you need workers who will be honest and motivated.
All workers should be self-driven to complete their tasks, as no one will be checking in every hour to see if they’re slacking off.
Hire the right people
To build trust in an online team, hire the right people. As Alex Turnbull wrote on the blog Groove, “A great startup employee doesn’t necessarily make a great remote startup employee.”
The traditional hiring process doesn’t work for a remote team. Discipline, drive and organisation are three vital characteristics that every remote worker should have. You won’t be able to look over your employees’ shoulders, so you need to ensure they’re capable of self-management.
Ask the right interview questions
Ask specific questions during the interview process to gauge the applicant’s work ethic and level of motivation. Look out for specific answers about how the applicant manages time and organises the workday. The ability to describe these processes will help create a more productive team.
Here are some of my favourite questions to ask a remote hire.
- What tools and/or processes do you currently use to manage projects, personally or professionally?
- How would you prioritise your work if your manager wasn’t available for a few days suddenly?
- What does your work environment look like?
- When you do great work, how do you like to have your work recognised?
- What motivates you to want a telecommuting job?
Aside from interviewing via phone or video chat, I also highly recommend a round that is completely text based. While verbal communication is important, in remote roles the ability to explain your ideas or problems through clear, concise written communication is critical.
Of course, you can use employee management software; Hubstaff is one company that does this successfully. Still, it’s up to the workers to get things done, so a team that’s willing to hustle is key.
Related: Work Less And Live More
3. Company Culture
Remote teams need a company culture too. In fact, culture is more helpful for a remote team than it is for an office-based one. Because your workers are spread across different cities – or even countries – you’ll have to go the extra mile to unify your team and establish a group ethos.
Create a culture of work
In the words of Zapier Founder Wade Foster, “Culture is about how you work.” He argues that workers should be motivated to work because they find the work rewarding. And he’s absolutely right.
For a remote team, culture means working toward a common goal.
That’s why you need workers who are motivated and dedicated. If your team doesn’t enjoy the work, then nothing will ever get done. In other words, work needs to be fun for everyone on your team.
Since a remote team is interdependent, you’ll need to get to know one other’s work styles. Learn everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and work on them as a group. Encourage workers to help others solve problems and answer their questions.
Learn to work remotely
Remember that every day, working with a remote team is a new experience. You may run into some unique problems – like how to reconcile time zones – that make you look at the team environment differently. You’ll adapt your policies, and think up new ones to account for these unexpected issues.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Your Team Will Succeed Only If They Trust Each Other
Trust is difficult to establish, hard to maintain and easy to break.
Bureaucracy exists were trust doesn’t. Excessive process and micromanaging exist because people don’t trust each other to do what’s right and what’s needed. In a digital era where social tools make you more visible and accessible, you make personal and business decisions based on trust daily.
The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, often identified as the benchmark of trust measurement, recently identified that there has been a “loss of trust: The willingness to believe information, even from those closest to us.”
Trust is difficult to establish, hard to maintain and easy to break. In business, trust is one of the most valuable and complex of all your assets. It solidifies your relationships with all people and leads an organisation to thrive. As Richard Branson often says, “Learn to look out for your staff first, and the rest will follow.”
Let me share with you eight principles that determine whom and how you trust in the workplace.
1. How people handle failure
Within an organisation, when people trust each other, their energy is invested in minimising damage and getting on with it.
The involved parties take responsibility without prompting and lead the conversation to see how the problem will be avoided in the future.
A recent Google study, Project Aristotle, was founded on the premise of understanding why certain teams in the workplace struggle while others thrive. Researchers determined that “psychological safety” is the key to building and fostering successful team.
When people don’t trust each other, blame and shame runs rapid through the tapestry of the organisation. Taking responsibility embraces your vulnerability and leads people to move forward together.
2. Accumulate trust deposits
Trust is like a flower. Once we step on a flower, it’s difficult to revive it. When you think about trust within a workplace, we know that when members trust each other to execute, teams are inherently productive.
When we want to create and build upon an environment that fosters trust, then what we say we will do, we do. We genuinely are curious and listen.
We are honest in how we provided feedback, without the sugar coating. And we don’t engage in gossip, eradicating the “I shouldn’t be saying this, but…” conversations. When we are visible and transparent in the workplace, we create a platform that invites shared thinking from all.
3. Work together to solve pain points
Most projects take more than one person to accomplish. Trusting colleagues is about letting go of the urge to be a lone ranger. Your team members have to be trusted to accomplish their tasks so you can complete yours.
Autonomy is only possible where there is trust. When you trust, you don’t expend much of your time and energy watching your back. Your energy is directed towards productivity and innovation.
Horst Schultze, one of the founders of the Ritz-Carlton Hotels, epitomised what it meant to be a trust-building leader.
Every employee was provided with an induction to the organisation, coupled with extensive training and a $2000 discretionary fund they could use to solve a customer problem without checking with anyone. He honoured his people by collecting their stories in making a difference for customers.
Related: Team Building Without Time Wasting
A team with high trust inspires its members to retain trust through excellence. Time is spent on identifying and breaking through road blocks, inspiring people to share more and working together to resolve pain points.
4. Small actions over time
Trust is not a matter of technique, but of character. You are trusted because of your way of being, not because of your polished exteriors. Building a culture of trust in the workplace occurs one step at a time. It is the small actions over time.
As a leader wanting to build trust, talk about what you want, not what you don’t want. Lend your voice toward what you want to bring to make it happen. When you operate from a place of trust, you demonstrate a commitment toward trust.
You show others what can be by promoting the ideas, talents and contributions of those you work with. Focus on what people can do and help others succeed. Step toward trust from where you are.
5. Sharing stories
Trust can grow rapidly when someone shares with you something touching that happened earlier in their life. You start to build a shared empathy.
When you want to create trust in teams, initiate conversations or invest in team games that help you tell stories you want to tell.
You control what you want to share with colleagues that can break down the divide between people and teams and lead to more empathy. Sharing stories is one way to connect and build trust.
6. What can mice teach us
A study at NYU Langone showed that when mice were given oxytocin, they started caring for the other mice’s babies as if they were their own. The oxytocin hormone enhances bonding, and even after the mice’s oxytocin receptors were shut off, this behaviour continued.
Oxytocin, the trust molecule, can teach us a lot about working together as a team and building great working relationships leading to more trust in the workplace.
Related: Making The Team ‘Work’
The best way to build your team’s internal trust is to be transparent about the overall vision and progress of the business, showing people how and why their work is important. Leaders must provide guidance, schedule check-ins between colleagues, and make room for conversations that strengthen connections.
7. Monkey see, monkey do
Our brains are wired to place survival as the top priority. In the workplace, any person who can demonstrate that they can reduce or eliminate threats to other’s survival is deemed trustworthy.
When we watch someone else, our brain is activated in the same way that the brain of the person you are observing is activated, effectively through what is called “mirror neurons.”
This means you may unintentionally transfer your own feelings of distrust to others. The trick is you can’t fake trust. You must believe that your colleagues are trustworthy to transmit this signal to them. In return, their brain will start feeling trust towards you as a result.
8. Emotions impact trust levels in the workplace
There are many ways to treat your colleagues well, but one of the most important initiatives is creating a culture that makes it safe to make mistakes and openly debate and discuss issues without fear of retribution. Your colleagues will trust your ability to help them grow if they know that failures will be treated as teachable moments.
In a time of crisis, how you act in difficult times is the greatest measure of your integrity. Don’t wait to talk about a mistake that happened until everyone finds out about it on social media, and don’t sugarcoat what happened. Take swift action to right a wrong. Taking responsibility preserves trust.
Atlassian, a global software giant, built a culture where articulating why certain decisions are made is important in how they have built trust.
An “open company, no bullshit” value within the company has provided teams with access to information as quickly as possible, allowing employees to share and express their opinion without feeling they are going to get judged or pulled down. The company supports an environment where individuality is celebrated.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Why Remote Teams Are More Productive Than Ever
Remote work is an absolute cornerstone of any businesses employment model. This is why.
Over 40 years ago remote work seemed like a product of the distant future, a fever dream that was too good to be true. Nowadays remote work has become something of a commonality. However, many companies are very reluctant to the idea of remote workers. Business owners all over the world are used to the draconian by laws that dictate the socialised environment of traditional work culture.
Managers in physical offices typically enjoy the stranglehold they have over the individual employees life. However, employees are no longer enjoying the typical corporate business environment.
After slogging through their day-to-day and being judged harshly by men and women they do not know for their livelihood, they are starting to pursue other opportunities in the remote industries. Beneficial to this cause is the fact that businesses all over the world are beginning to accept remote work and telecommuting.
As employees begin to flee the authoritarian environments of traditional work spaces, remote businesses are beginning to see a boom. What was initially seen as a millennial go to has now shown its appeal to workers of all ages. This has created an environment of fierce competition for employees in remote work but luckily more and more businesses are seeing the benefits.
Here, in this article, we explore why remote teams are becoming more and more productive.
Traditional office spaces have often been seen as vestigial structures left over from the time of monarchy. Draconian dress codes and bylaws that restrict employees from being themselves are no longer appealing to the pseudo independent worker. While initially reluctant, businesses are beginning to turn and allow telecommuting workers.
This led to an initial bloom in productivity that has not since slowed down. The freedom it grants the employee cannot be understated and immediately invokes a sense of pride and relief along with comfort in their new working environment. This led to a change over and how businesses treated their employees after noticing that employees who were respected and trusted performed better than those who were not. This is only the individual, not the team.
When it comes to teamwork the upsides are obvious and the potentiality is enormous. To put it in simple terms, remote teams benefit highly from their relaxed environments and comfortable spaces. What this means in greater terms is that the individual employees are more satisfied with where they work and how they work.
This creates a culture based in de facto trust and respectful space. Teams that operate through remote work are typically much more pliable and friendly.
Remote work has seen productivity go up exponentially for every business that has incorporated it into their employment scheme. When employees are not being squashed from the top down, they feel levity and an increased push to do their work as efficiently as possible. Some estimates put the productivity increase at over 400%.
When we talk about remote teams we are truly talking about the division of individuals. Due to the pressures being absent from remote work environments, teams in remote environment are more likely to get along and produce higher-quality work. This benefits employees as much as businesses, if not more so.
To contribute to the individuals mood alone, however, would do Injustice to the massive Innovations created in the field. Years ago remote work would only be accomplished via fax machine and telephone.
These days, with apps like Slack, employees can speak to each other in a moment’s notice and organise meetings and projects quickly and efficiently. Email of course is an incredible technology but the ability to have a meeting on your phone, with apps like Zoom, send remote work to another level of interactivity.
These applications make remote work similar to traditional working environments without draconian overlords or harsh judgments by strangers who feel that they are the appropriate judge of whether you get to eat or not.
This furthers the productivity of remote teams and gives a good argument for remote work to businesses that have not implemented it yet. Ultimately, the productivity of remote teams can be linked to an increase in happiness for the employee.
As businesses begin to respect their workers and their spaces they are seeing increases in productivity and profit. Owners who respect their employees receive immediate benefit and can expect business growth along with high levels of productivity. This makes remote work not only a good idea but an absolute cornerstone of any businesses employment model.
How Much Does Your Remote Team Actually Need to Know?
Even self-sufficient employees who excel at figuring things out need tools and resources only you can provide.
To get the most out of your remote team, however, your team members need to have all of the relevant information – and a few golden nuggets of advice – at their disposal.
How to make remote collaboration real
Communicating and collaborating with your team is key, but this is especially true with remote employees. After all, you can’t simply stop by their office to ask them a question or resolve a misunderstanding. You aren’t gaining the subtle information about their motivations and habits that you pick up in working side by side every day.
So how can you effectively communicate and collaborate with team members who aren’t in your immediate proximity? First, look in the mirror, and strengthen your communication skills so you can explain yourself clearly and concisely. That includes learning to identify the right tools for the specific communication job, from email to Slack to video conferencing. You shouldn’t have serious conversations about performance via Slack; you also don’t need to burden a staffer with a 10-page memo for two kernels of information that apply to her situation. Keep your team notified of any workflow or company changes though group emails.
Make sure that each communication channel has a purpose and that your team knows how to use each; attempt to occasionally have in-person meetings or retreats for the team to maintain a collegial vibe and keep up a feeling of team camaraderie. Encourage your team to ask questions and raise concerns.
More tactical tools can also be helpful. Calendar and management tools should be streamlined and accessible to your entire team so you can schedule meetings and track productivity across multiple time zones. Take into account time zones when scheduling meetings; if an employee can’t attend, record the meeting so it’s accessible later.
Provide contact information or a staff directory. This eliminates the middleman, allowing your remote team members to go directly to the source. Give your team access to relevant files and software, and share everything from company mission statements to long-term plans. Ensuring your remote team members are still absorbing the culture of your company is crucial to consistent work and employee retention and engagement.
Empower employees by handing them the reins
If you hired a content specialist for your company’s website, for example, that’s her responsibility. She’s churning out written content for your blog and helping your marketing team develop sales collateral. Hand the reins over, simply ensuring the remote worker is actually doing the work she was hired to do. Empowering her by making yourself available – while avoiding hovering – will spur increased productivity for both of you.
Once remote workers are on board, you also need to provide them with guidelines and procedures. This allows the writer to jump right into an article, knowing exactly what’s expected. And if she has a question down the road, she can turn to the document instead of waiting for me to respond. If she finds a problem not addressed by the document, that triggers an update to our procedures so others who run into the same problem know what to do.
Can remote workers achieve work-life balance?
Even seasoned remote workers struggle with work-life balance. Because they’re not clocking in and out, remote workers tend to overwork, not underwork. There’s no clear divide between their home space and their workspace. This can eventually lead to burnout, which isn’t good for you or them.
As a leader, you can work against this tendency. Don’t assign more work than your remote workers can handle in an allotted time period, and encourage them to step away occasionally. The only way to find out whether this is happening is by communicating with them frequently so you can gauge how they’re doing. You can also use time-tracking tools to see how long they’re actually working on a task, and then plan accordingly.
Experiment with schedules
We all have different times of the day when we’re most productive. For some of us, that could be first thing in the morning; for others, it’s at night. Encourage your remote team members to find out when they’re most productive by experimenting with their schedules until they find their “prime time.”
Generally, our prime time is based on our own ultradian rhythm. This is a recurrent cycle that our bodies go through daily. Have your team members download this Prime Time Calculator Spreadsheet so they can determine when they’re most productive.
An even easier method is having them track their time. This can be as simple as writing down how they spend their time each day for a week or so, noting how long they spent on specific tasks or how long communication with a certain client required. There’s also time-tracking software you could invest in to easily view the team’s productivity at a glance.
Also, remind remote workers to note how they felt. If they’re tired and spending 45 minutes on social media in the early afternoon, that’s definitely not when they’re most productive.
Remote workers struggle daily with unclear priorities and constant distractions. Be empathetic as they sort this out. It may involve some trial and error, but if you guide them, your team members will get this down pat.
To steer your team in the right direction in regard to priorities and distractions, encourage your team to keep their to-do-lists short. This should include only their top two or three goals for the day. (On your end, this means not bogging them down with lengthy to-do-lists.)
To meet those select high-value goals, let them know the power of scheduling. I plan my entire day the evening before; this keeps me focused and prevents anything that’s unplanned from wasting my day. To that end, give them tips on how to eliminate distractions. I let my remote team in on my secrets: This includes turning off email and message notifications on my phone and batching similar tasks together. If I work from home, I sometimes place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my office door.
If you have something important to discuss with an employee, don’t email him throughout the day. You’re better off scheduling a five-minute phone call to address the matter. This way, everyone can stay focused on work instead of sending back-and-forth emails for hours.
Encourage employees to be their own tech support
Remote workers are completely at the mercy of technology. This means if a computer crashes, their internet connection fails or their power goes out, they have to fix it ASAP or make their way to another location. Either solution results in time spent not working. And if they don’t seek out those solutions, they’re not making money, as well as falling behind on the work you’ve assigned.
As such, they need to serve as their own tech support when they experience hardware or software problems. The first place to start is to let them know who to speak to. If their internet goes down, they should have the direct tech support number for their internet service provider. That eliminates time wasted on the phone with an employee who can’t assist them. It also helps to ensure employees have a mobile hotspot in case of emergencies.
If you have an employee who seems to excel at IT problem solving, you may even suggest that she take some online tech support classes. For a small pay bump and reimbursement for the classes, she can add to her skill set and serve as your team’s go-to tech assistant in addition to her regular duties. This can empower your employee and provide others who are less tech-savvy with some needed relief.
Remote workers tend to be self-sufficient employees who excel at figuring things out. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t need tools and resources only you can provide. Think through the ways you could be hampering your remote workers’ productivity, and do your best to get out of their way so you can both reap the rewards of remote work.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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