A decade ago, remote work was considered a privilege earned by those who put their hours in at the office. As the world changes, we have adapted to new factors that have made remote work a reality, but a necessity. A study from IWG found that 70% of people globally work from home at least once per week. This number is sure to skyrocket with the emergence of sweeping pandemics.
Building and managing remote teams within your company is a challenging but rewarding practice. For some businesses, it’s a way to solve staffing problems while lowering overhead costs. For others, it’s a lifestyle that aligns with company values. Either way, remote working is thriving and shows promising growth.
Technology has made remote work possible for anyone who has a computer and stable access to the internet. The minimum technical requirements made it very attractive for people in professions that don’t require much of a set up to work.
Why work remotely?
Remote work attracts both employers and employees with its flexibility and accessibility. Beyond the safety factor, consider the benefits that it provides for both employees and the employer.
- Saving time - the first thing that comes to mind when we say “remote work” is no daily commute. The time that employees save every day can be used for both personal and professional development or simply help to establish a better life balance.
- Flexibility - employees are allowed to organize their daily work efficiently in a way that takes into account their peak performance time and work-life balance.
- Better productivity- staying away from office distractions helps remote employees to maintain better focus, adapting the work schedule to peak performance times helps them to get the most out of the working hours without spending them idly in front of the screen.
- Self-organization - unlike work in the office, the remote option doesn’t leave much space for managerial supervision and requires team leaders to trust their remote employees with tasks and responsibilities, which employees appreciate.
- Reducing cost - companies can save between $1000 and $11,000 per remote employee every year. This is due to lower costs for office space, utilities, office supplies, etc.
- Happier and healthier employees - remote work has shown great promise in increasing both employees' productivity and wellbeing. Being able to organize their work time and life better makes employees take fewer days off, maintain work-life balance, and thanks to that show better work results.
- Access to the global talent pool - remote work opens the opportunity to invite global talent to join your company no matter where they are located. You can find great additions to your team in lesser-known places and at a more affordable price.
- Better for the environment - while this one might not be the most persuasive argument towards going remote, working remotely helps to cut down on the use of single-use plastic in cups and food containers, lower paper consumption, and decrease traffic pollution due to lack of necessity to commute.
Even though many different tools help manage remote teams, it can still be challenging to get people on the same page. There’s a different level of patience that is required when working remotely due to time and distance.
Remote work does provide teams with a certain level of freedom and flexibility to their work in a way that suits their needs best, but at the same time, employers expect them to be as much an active and vital part of the company as any other employee in the office. Let’s take a look at some qualities that allow teams to come together and do great things.
Communication is historically one of the biggest concerns when it comes to remote team management. Where in-house teams can take advantage of face-to-face meetings and partnering together in-person to solve business challenges, distributed teams rely entirely on technology. As developed as communication tools are, they can’t replace real-life interaction.
That’s not to say that remote communication and collaboration are less effective, quite the opposite. It’s just that if your team is not engaged fully, then you will have to put in extra effort to get your team to communicate better.
Be sure to check out our article on the 5 Tips for Effective Communication Between Remote and In-House Teams for some ways to improve your team’s output.
It is common among remote employees to feel isolated from the rest of the team, which can reflect negatively in their performance and engagement. It's much easier for the employees located in a traditional office to socialize and connect more spontaneously, while their remote colleagues depend on technology and scheduled meetings.
Allowing employees to self-organize their work routine and focus on delivering the results rather than on the process requires a remarkable effort from the employer. Unfortunately, that means that occasionally, employees may take advantage of the lack of manager presence and slack off work.
What is the ideal remote work environment?
Picture a remote work environment where you can trust that your team wakes up and get tasks done on their schedule, but in a way that fits the greater company roadmap.
Each week, you check in with your team to establish where everyone is, what they worked on, and are working on, then do a team high-five and break off to handle your respective tasks. Team members are actively coordinating with each other and you even get to see a few memes in the #general slack channel along the way. In short, your team is like the Patriots at their prime.
There’s a certain level of professionalism required for remote work environments to truly function in the way that we intend. It’s a work style that does not leave any room for underachievers or those who fail to deliver on their promises.
How to improve your remote work environment
Remote working is often associated with less structure when it comes to day-to-day operations. It's quite the opposite. Distributed teams need to be extremely clear on the roles and responsibilities of each team member. This structure is what ensures the success of the team over time.
A thriving remote work environment helps teams to perform their best, maintain healthy connections between its members, focus on growth, and to reach mutual goals. When all elements are optimized, you can guarantee success in meeting project goals.
1. Clear expectations
Remote working requires a high level of self-organization from team members and provides less structure than on-site work. To avoid any confusion or misunderstanding, especially in the early stages of collaboration between the company and remote employees, discussing and establishing clear expectations is the key to a productive work environment.
The expectations in the workplace are not limited to the outcomes of the project or set KPIs. It includes interpersonal communications, quality standards, situational behavior, and adaptivity. These expectations should be clear to employees when being interviewed and when they join the team.
Employees need to be able to work with team processes, or else they might find themselves falling behind. While some tasks allow remote employees to optimize their workflow, functions that involve other team members and meeting deadlines require organizational supervision from the remote team manager.
Assumptions are the best friends of misunderstandings. Employees should check with their team leader if they have doubts rather than continue working on the project while being confused.
Regular check-ins and follow-ups with the remote employees can help both sides to keep up with the tasks and manage the expectations and manage miscommunications.
2. Open communication
Communication is the key to establishing an inclusive and collaborative environment. Creating trust between the employer and the employees is the first and most crucial step in facilitating open communications.
It’s best to provide the team with a safe environment for idea sharing and encourage collaboration. Remote employees can get caught up focusing on their own duties and keep their thoughts and opinions for themselves if they don’t feel valued in the team or afraid to speak up.
Transparency, inclusiveness, and respect lie at the core of creating a work environment that enjoys excellent communication. It may seem rather obvious, but many companies fail to cultivate it.
One of the most significant elements of communication is feedback. Feedback is usually associated with the criticism and is not generally welcome among the employees, both remote and on-site. But this is a matter of perspective.
Feedback, when presented constructively, can be very helpful. When it’s given at the right time with the right energy and has actionable suggestions and ideas for improvement, it will benefit not just the person receiving it, but the company overall.
Communication is undoubtedly one of the most critical elements of healthy company culture. Businesses that welcome and support open communication establish better relationships with their employees and experience greater productivity.
3. Employee engagement
Employee engagement is an essential part of company culture, and it determines long-term benefits for the ones that have chosen to invest in it. Employee engagement minimizes high turnover rates. It’s based on trust within the organization and is supported by respecting employees and their commitments.
Active involvement in team life gives remote employees clearer goals, helps to align with the company’s values, and creates an environment that promotes professional growth, creativity, and collaboration. Remote employees who know that company leaders value them and recognize their essential role in the project’s success feel more at home.
Decentralized teams need to make an extra effort to keep remote employees engaged. Managers that understand the value of their employees make sure that they support their professional development, help them learn new skills, recognize their achievement, and empower them to grow.
Managers should strive to help remote employees feel more included. Inclusive company culture helps ensure that they are treated as equal members of the team and that their voice counts. Even things like informal chats or team rituals make a difference in how remote employees perceive themselves as a team.
4. Focus on result
Employees who focus on results instead of the processes show better motivation and performance. This applies to remote team management, which faces the need to provide structure for optimized operations without the micromanaging staff.
Focusing on results gives employees control over their schedule, improves life-work balance, helps to optimize work according to the peak performance times, establishes trust with the management, and increases overall job satisfaction.
Managers must set reasonable meeting schedules, reviews, and check-in points to make sure things are progressing on time.
5. Mutual trust
Working in a distributed team is like being in a long-distance relationship; trust becomes a foundation for the future of collaboration. Employers give their remote teams the autonomy to organize themselves, trusting that they will deliver quality results on time. Employees take this responsibility and work to create the best output they can. Both parties work towards creating a better workplace where everyone has confidence in tomorrow. In the end, great products are designed and improved.
Remote work is becoming more popular. Learning how to create an environment for remote employees to do good work and enabling them to manage themselves and deliver quality output will benefit you in the long run. When companies focus on employees and recognize that they are the greatest asset to their growth, they understand the need to support them by creating a supportive environment.
Creating the best remote work environment takes time, effort, and consistency. It requires a clear set of expectations, good communication, trust, employee engagement, and good managerial skills to apply methodologies that seek to help team members work better together and on their own.