GithubZapier, Buffer and Basecamp are some of the companies renown for the success they’ve achieved from teams located across the world. Remote working is becoming more common and can be highly effective, particularly for companies that focus on a digital product.

Several basic rules underpin the success of a remote team. Find out more below!

Build the Team from People Who Thrive in Remote Teams

Remote teams work better if they have the right type of people. These people usually show several specific characteristics:

  1. They are ‘doers’. It is important they have the technical skills to complete the work, but they also need to be self-starters who don’t need close supervision.
  2. They can communicate effectively and will respond in a timely manner. They can articulate themselves clearly and quickly. Typing skills may be important if messaging is your primary mode of communication.
  3. They show high levels of accountability and display personal responsibility for the completion of the team’s work. Potential issues are communicated early, and updates and reports will be submitted on time.
  4. They do not need a highly social workplace. They can cope with hours without contact.

This sets the foundation for a remote team. It’s very difficult to be successful if your team members are simply not compatible with the way a remote team needs to work. Your hiring practices need to match this reality!

Foster a Great Culture for Remote Work

Remote teams should save personnel and office costs for your company or project, but they will pose slightly different challenges. This is most obvious when it comes to culture and the way the team works. It’s key that the team maintains rapport and trust, despite the physical separation. A remote team will need to invest more effort to achieve connectedness and a sense of community.

This imperative has several implications:

  1. Meetings and get-togethers are key for a remote team, whether that is virtual or in-person. There is no prescription for the right amount, as it varies between teams.
  2. Technology is critical for a remote team. Tools like Slack (for messaging), Google Drive (for storage) and Trello or Jira (for work allocation and management) are very important.
  3. Video tools are essential. Seeing each other is key to resolve miscommunications, clarify issues and connect as people. Skype or Google Hangouts are the tools of choice for many, but the best platform may depend on your team size.
  4. Don’t forget to inject some emotion and personality into your interactions. It might sound silly, but even the use of emoticons in chats can be useful to move beyond the literal exchange of ideas.
  5. If you’ve got company merchandise like t-shirts, don’t forget to send it to your remote staff. They need to feel included.

Consistency is also key to developing a great culture for remote working. Commit to regular updates and catch-ups, and don’t let these key interactions slip. Induction is also really important, setting the foundation for each new team member’s experience with the company.

Manage the Remote Team Effectively

Quality of management is key for any team, but good management practice for a remote team can be a little different. Consider these three areas that need focus.

Firstly, clarity of expectations becomes really important for the members of a remote team. Without exposure to ‘water-cooler conversations’, remote staff can miss out on vital contextual information. Each individual needs to know what they must achieve, and how their work links to the bigger picture. It’s really important that a remote team member understands the “why” that underpins their work.

Secondly, it’s key that there are regular check-ins with all team members. Managers should be talking to their remote team members at least weekly, and scheduling a longer catch-up at least monthly. Management at Zapier focuses on four questions at these monthly meetings. Managers should discuss one item that excites the team member, one thing they are worried about, one thing the manager can do to help the staff do their job, and one thing that the staff member can do to improve at their job.

Finally, track progress of each member of your remote team. JIRA makes it easy to track development, but simple apps like I Done This can also be used to keep track of daily progress. It’s also important to take time for monthly or quarterly reviews of progress at an individual level. Assess progress against objectives or metrics that have been agreed.

Get Your Own Remote Team

Remote teams offer companies the ability to access hard-to-find talent or make significant savings. You might be interested in our tips for communicating in a remote team or our tips for hiring remote developers. Of course, get in touch today if you’d like to discuss a new remote team of your own.