10 Lessons I Learned From Building and Managing a Remote Team

Remote control staff and project management

By Aljaz Fajmut

Remote teams are on the rise with startups and small businesses. A TINYPulse study reports that 91% of remote workers are more productive than their office-dwelling counterparts, which is good news for the workers—and more importantly, it’s good news for you. Having remote workers also means you don’t need to spend extra cash on office space. Fantastic.

However, building and managing a remote team isn’t always easy. Research has shown that remote workers can feel left out, which has a negative effect on morale and performance.

I’ve spent the last few years putting together a remote team of workers for my SEO software company. There have been more highs than lows, and the company is now thriving with remote workers as its backbone. I’ve learned lessons along the way, which I will now share with you.

1. Productivity can be hit or miss

I have to admit that I find the results in the study I shared earlier questionable. Why? Because there is absolutely no guarantee that just because a worker is working remotely they will be more productive. The theory is remote workers are more productive because they’re working in an environment of their choosing. They’re (supposedly) happier and less stressed, and they don’t have to complete a grueling morning commute to the office.

However, what you need to consider is that not all remote workers are super self-motivated—some are, but some definitely aren’t. For a remote worker to excel for you and themselves, they need a lot of drive, energy, passion, and motivation to even get up in the morning at a reasonable time, not to mention meet deadlines. Not all of them have this, and it’s important that you separate those who have it from those who don’t during your hiring process.

2. Communication will be hit and miss, too

I worried about communication issues when I first started hiring remote workers, not because of time zone differences, but because some people are just inherently bad at communicating. And—without wanting to offend anyone—this can be exacerbated by remote workers who “hide” and do not respond to messages for a few days.

It’s problematic. Not everyone you hire will be good at communicating, and some will be hard to reach. We actually had to let people go because clear, transparent communication is a priority for our team, and in my opinion, it’s crucial for a remote team. The best thing to do here is to arrange weekly or biweekly online calls, and sign everyone up to a team collaboration and messaging app.

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3. Work will follow you home

From now on, your remote workers will be everywhere: Slack, Trello, Telegram, Facebook, email, you name it! Moreover, they’ll be everywhere all the time.

Remote workers all have different ways of working. Some will work the normal 9 to 5 routine, but many will work at night, while others will work weekends. And they’ll be messaging you and handing work in at very odd hours. It’s important, then, that you find a way to manage your own work-life balance. Otherwise, you’ll find it hard to switch off and you might burn out. If this is becoming an issue, I’d definitely recommend hiring a virtual assistant to help you manage the load.

4. It can be tough to collaborate with a partner

I’d say it’s 100% easier to work with a partner in person than it is online. If you co-found a startup and work remotely with your founder, you might find it hard to really kick things into gear. I’m not saying it can’t work—just that it will be tougher. But, in my case, we wanted to make it work, and we did.

5. Brevity is key

This one was key for me. If you spend too much time composing messages to team members, or if your meetings go beyond allotted times, you’re punishing everyone. It’s the same with calls. Moreover, not only are you wasting time, you’re also proving that you’re not very good at getting your message across.

I know that it’s hard to get messages across sometimes via online communication, but you need to learn how to communicate better, clearer, and keep things short and sweet. Say what needs to be said—not too much but also not too little. If a remote worker needs something clarifying, they will ask.

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6. Trust people!

As long as you hire pros who have a proven track record, why wouldn’t you trust them to do their job?

If you basically say to a remote worker, “I don’t trust you,” they’ll lose all motivation and interest for your project. Put faith and patience in your team members and let them do their jobs before you see the results. After all, that’s what they’re here for.

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7. Set clear team goals

Teams who know what their goals are will succeed above and beyond teams who don’t.

Set deadlines, articulate your vision, and let each member know how their individual goals tie into the bigger goal of your whole business. This helps with motivation because each team member now has a purpose and actually feels like they’re a part of your team.

8. Bringing everyone together onto one communication platform is essential

Imagine spending time emailing each team member individually? Gosh, you’d be there all day! Use one communication platform. It not only saves you time but lets you keep on top of what everyone is up to at any one time. Team members can report back and update everyone else with their progress.

9. Introduce team members to each other

Remote workers are human beings who like to laugh and share stories about what they did during the weekend just as much as office dwellers do. Give them the chance to get to know each other by holding virtual meetings or having a special Slack channel for chitchat.

I’ve found that team members who know each other and who chat to one another and have a laugh together perform so much better for each other than teams who have no idea who anyone else is. Talking how everyone spent their weekend or sharing a meme can really boost morale.

10. Stay on top of tech

Lastly, stay on top of tech advancements. Tech will enhance the way you manage your remote teams, from screen sharing tech to video conferencing tech. It’s all there for you, and it will make your life so much easier.

All in all, building and managing a remote team of workers hinges on your ability to talk to people. Communicate well, foster team spirit, and you’re halfway there. Most importantly, hire self-motivated people, and there’s no reason why you can’t succeed.

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About the Author

Post by: Aljaz Fajmut

Aljaz Fajmut is a digital marketer, internet entrepreneur, and the founder of RankTrackr and Nightwatch—search visibility tools of the next generation. Check out the Nightwatch blog and follow Aljaz on Twitter: @aljazfajmut.

Company: Nightwatch
Website: www.nightwatch.io
Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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