Working remotely isn't new. For many years, it's been possible to work to the same extent outside the confines of office walls. For smaller companies, it's been the better option. The trend is rising quickly. Working remotely allows people freedom. They don't have to be in a specific place in order to be efficient at work. Ditching the commute typically means employees are more successful and content in their jobs.
Global Workplace Analytics compiled a report that said remote workers have increased by a whopping 140% in the past 15 years.
The 2018 Business Communications Technology report is predicting that in the next 5 years, remote working will be a fierce competitor for fixed-location offices.
50% of people over the world work from home (or anywhere) on a part-time basis and said they wanted more remote working hours. 60% said they'd happily move jobs to one on the same salary for this opportunity.
What do the statistics say?
The productivity of remote workers is, despite popular belief, actually very good.
Connect Solutions completed a survey and found that 77% of full and part-time workers said they were more productive when working from home. 30% of those people said they got more done in less time compared to when they were in an office environment.
In a survey from FlexJobs, just under a third of people said they would leave a job that displayed zero flexibility on this matter. Conversely, 95% of the Connect Solutions respondents said that being able to work from home increased their retention rate.
So, how do you build a great team despite the distance?
Finding and hiring a solid remote team isn't easy. There are a lot of uncertainties. Can a manager be sure an employee is working? Are staff motivated? How do you communicate effectively?
Building a remote team lets an employer have the luxury of choice. You can build a great team with fewer constraints. There are things that could and should be done to keep everyone happy.
At Code Enigma, we have a phrase we use, where we try to "over-communicate". Chances are if you think you've given enough detail, there's probably something else you could add to make things clearer. We pride ourselves on our honesty, and that's in our values. We have regular communication through a number of mediums and we also have trust in one another.
We make the most of our communication methods to ensure everyone's informed and up-to-date. Everyone either knows or can easily find out the status of a project or task.
Process and procedures are everything. Project management is at the core. We don't have a specific project management approach, but we tend to favour Agile. Whatever your approach, it's key to have one. You need rules, tasks and deadlines that are shared with the whole team.
The best way to ensure this is with the use of facilitative tools. We use the ticketing system Redmine, for example.
It's important to have rules for the style of communication, too. Decide when email is best (never, in our case), chat, tickets, online meetings, etc.
You should know how your employees like to work. Some go hard at their tasks the moment they're set. Some take a slower approach and get it over the line on time thanks to the added pressure. This is a key vulnerability for remote-based teams. Setting deadlines helps this issue. Ditto reminders. It gives people ownership, and more importantly, accountability. People can visually see their progress, what time they've spent on it and how much is left.
Create the right team
Recruiting the right staff is somewhat of an obvious one. Remote working doesn't suit everyone. Finding someone who has experience working remotely is equally important as finding someone with experience of the task at hand. You need people who are naturally self-motivated and disciplined.
It's not all about them proving to you that they can do the job, though. Your onboarding process has to be a good one. Welcome them into the fold, make sure they have everything they need and have met everyone. Set the right expectations and allow the right time to settle in. It is still a working environment and we're all human.
Build the right culture
Just because you're not in the same office does not mean you can't and won't have your own culture. If you want everyone on the same page about theirs and wider company goals, you need to create an element of mutual respect (and in-jokes).
There are some positive steps you can take to make sure you're building the best remote team possible. These tips aren't exclusively for remote workers, just great teams.