Remember when Microsoft painted this terrifying picture of the future of remote work? It’s enough to send shivers down even the biggest, most badass workhorse’s spine.
It’s also not all that accurate. At least, not in our experiences with managing remote teams.
In reality, countless studies show how remote employees tend to be more engaged than their in-office counterparts while also living healthier, happier personal lives.
If you’re new to managing remote teams or are looking for tips to improve your current workflows, this post is for you. We’ll walk you through three important lessons we’ve learned as our own fast-growing organization has come to rely on the productivity of remote teams.
These dos and don’ts will help you avoid potential pitfalls and reap benefits. (In other words: you can learn from our mistakes.)
Don’t: Require frequent check-ins
If you could’ve seen some of our first daily standups, you’d be floored at how unproductive they were. Demanding too many status updates can have the same impact. You’ll spend more time tracking down what employees are working on than focusing on big picture goals, which ultimately negates the productive power remote teams can offer.
Do: Have a system for sharing progress that doesn’t slow things down
Instead of filling your calendar with online meetings and conference calls, leverage technology that allows for efficient communication and camaraderie. When used effectively, tools like Google Hangouts, Slack and Jell can quickly get everyone in sync so team members can spend less time updating and more time getting things done.
Don’t: Require strict, set work hours
A big benefit of remote teams is the ability to hire the best of the best, regardless of where they’re located. Employees may span different time zones and have different lifestyles, but hiring talented self-starters gives you a serious competitive advantage—if you let people maintain some autonomy. Chaining everyone to the same strict 9-5 schedule is a surefire way to kill your opportunities for big ideas and achievements.
Do: Offer flexibility
When you let remote employees identify their own creative ways to stay engaged, you can reap some big rewards. Flexibility means you get people at their most productive—whether they’re powering up PCs at 5 a.m. or shutting them down at 11 p.m. And today’s technology (see above) makes it easier than ever to overlap schedules and coordinate day-to-day deliverables.
Don’t: Treat teams like contractors
A worker who feels isolated from a team isn’t going to be inspired or productive. This particular hazard is most likely to surface at organizations that are only partly remote: off-site employees are handed one-off projects while in-house team members are tasked with all the collaborative work. When remote employees aren’t treated as key contributors to big picture goals, you risk a revolving door.
Do: Find non-intrusive ways to engage with them daily
Committing to remote work means involving everyone in daily projects and progress. This becomes more challenging when there are no water coolers and conference rooms down the hall, but it can be done. (And, in fact, this is exactly why we created Jell in the first place).
Managing remote teams comes with a unique set of challenges. Handle them with care, and you stand to reap some big rewards. With basic dos and don’ts, a little technology and a lot of flexibility, you can be on your way to happy, in-sync teams.