October 27, 2016 Management & HR
How To Bring a Virtual Team to Success (And Why It’s Totally Worth It)
A recent report from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com revealed that the number of remote workers in the US has grown by 103% since 2005.
As telecommuting becomes the new standard and organizations start to realize it can bring them substantial savings (even $277 million a year!), managers face the challenge of building and maintaining a strong team of workers scattered around the world.
While industry leaders like Richard Branson are convinced that offices will be a thing of the past, some organizations prefer to stick to traditional working environments – for instance, Yahoo! which stopped letting its employees work from home.
If you’re wondering whether a team of virtual workers is able to address your business needs, here are some good reasons why this model is worth your consideration.
Why Embrace Remote Work?
Research shows that telecommuting brings clear benefits to workers and employers alike:
- A study from MIT Sloan showed that dispersed teams could outperform groups which are collocated.
- Cisco’s survey of 2000 employees revealed that 69% of workers noted higher productivity when working remotely, and 75% of them pointed to improvement in the timeliness of their work.
- According to Harvard Business Review, remote workers tend to be more engaged with their supervisors and colleagues than in-office workers. The wide availability of technological solutions helps employees to stay connected, with video conferencing serving as the strongest bonding tool.
- Moreover, 82% of remote workers report lower stress levels, and that has a huge impact on the organizations which employ them. The same study found out that 80% of employees reported higher morale when working from home, and 69% noted lower absenteeism.
- Happy employees are productive employees. One experiment demonstrated that people tend to work harder by 12% when they’re happy.
Over the years of collaborating with remote teams at Polcode, we developed strategies which help us to effectively streamline project development, maximize team output, and keep our clients satisfied.
Now that you know why hiring a remote team can benefit your business, have a look below to learn the secrets of managing virtual workers.
How to Manage a Remote Team and Prosper
1. Build a strong company culture
Company culture is key to every type of organization, but it’s even more important in remote team management.
Instead of just delegating tasks to team members and managing the general to-do list, you should encourage them to share leadership with you.
By offering workers a chance to show initiative, you’ll help them to become more engaged in the project.
When hiring new workers, assign team members to serve as their mentors during the onboarding process. Organize virtual team-building exercises geared at cultivating the company culture and developing management-related skills.
Nothing builds a strong company culture like sharing leadership.
2. Invest in communication
Virtual teams rely on solid communication strategies.
Communication needs to happen on a regular basis, and many times it’s pushed to email, creating a bottleneck effect which has a negative impact on a team’s productivity.
Develop a communication hierarchy and ensure that team members know when to use the right type of medium:
- For quick messages, updates or emergencies you’d like to communicate to the entire team, use chat software like Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, or other IM tool.
- For longer communications between two people, choose email and CC a person on the team if you think they need to hear about it as well.
- If you’d like to share longer news about a critical milestone, a lengthy report or a bunch of metrics, avoid emailing it to everyone. Instead, write it all down and post this content to your team bulletin wall.
Developing a clear communication system will help your team to save time on interacting with each other and render the project development smooth and effortless.
3. Pick the right tools for the job
Avoid flooding your team with countless updates about what everyone else at the company is up to. Instead, organize your work with a selection of tools that help to connect your team and integrate your project development process.
Asana is a powerful tool to keep your team’s work organised
Here are some tools we use at Polcode to organize our remote teams of developers:
- IM tools like Google Hangouts or Skype are a must – your team needs to have at least one or two solutions for video chatting.
- Zoom – this is our video conferencing tool of choice, it allows screen sharing between any iPhone or iPad app and offers access to Zoom Room collaborative environments.
- Other examples: Gotomeeting, Join.me, Slack.
- When working with our clients, we like to adjust to project management tools they’re already using. Depending on project workflow and methodology, it can be anything from Asana, Basecamp, or Trello to Redmine and Jira. That’s why our teams are familiar with the most popular issue tracking tools on the market.
- Getting the bureaucracy out of the way is a priority for efficient management. Instead of asking your team to print, sign, scan and email official documents, use tools like Hello Sign to focus on what matters.
- Dropbox – an effortless solution for file sharing that helps teams avoid sending countless emails with attachments.
4. Set clear expectations, but be flexible
For smooth team collaboration, you need a consistent development environment.
Automate processes as much as you can to tame the friction that comes with onboarding new team members. Prepare a comprehensive guide that will serve as a reference point for your team.
Develop a set of standard procedures. This is how you manage expectations across your team. Provide workers with firm definitions of “complete” project parts, and you’ll avoid unnecessary ambiguity that might affect your process.
Still, we’re talking about a remote team, so you need to be a little flexible. Allow employees to participate in standard construction, and you’ll only boost their motivation.
5. Remember that face-to-face meetings matter
Even if there’s plenty of video conferencing software around, face-to-face meetings are still important.
This goes especially for team-building, which is most efficient when conducted in person. If you can, organize a company retreat once or twice a year where all your team members meet and develop more personal relations.
Such events can easily substitute informal conversations that happen around the coffee machine in regular offices.
6. Embrace the challenges of virtual teamwork
Virtual collaboration generates new challenges; there’s no doubt about it.
But what seems to be a disadvantage of remote work might, in fact, help you to achieve higher team performance.
Remote workers can’t communicate with each other in person. That’s why they need to learn how to communicate more deliberately through a variety of media.
Moreover, virtual team members work asynchronously. That’s why they’re not likely to be pulled away from work by any distractions.
Developing a well-organized remote team, you’ll acquire a group of efficient workers who additionally boast excellent written communication skills and deal with fewer distractions.
Virtual teams are a strong workforce trend which is bound to become even more significant in the near future.
Hiring a remote team offers an opportunity to reduce in-office expenses and benefit from the expertise of workers located all over the world.
To top it all, remote working environments keep employees stress-free and motivated to go the extra mile in realizing your business goals.