Remote Team Work – How to Turn Challenge into Opportunity
Remote work and distributed team management are nowadays among the hottest topics. Many of the IT industry leaders - including Oracle, Apple, Google, and Amazon - have already adopted the remote work model as a preventive measure to protect their employees and safeguard the same level of productivity.
For Sigma Software, this has been a reality for many years already. Our delivery organization is spread across eight offices in Ukraine and Poland, 95% of our customers are located overseas – no wonder most of our routines are connected to remote collaboration. Of course, personal meetings have always been an important part of building long-lasting relationships with most of our customers, but we have also seen numerous examples of projects successfully delivered with online communication only.
What we’ve learned through all these years is that remote work (if organized properly) has its advantages and can definitely bring numerous new opportunities for any business.
TOP 5 REASONS TO ADD REMOTE WORK POSSIBILITIES TO YOUR BUSINESS PROCESSES
In fact, the most interesting thing about remote collaboration is that once you add this option into your business processes and set up the system capable of supporting it, you suddenly realize there is so much more you gain than a temporary solution to today’s challenges. Namely:
- More sourcing & recruiting possibilities – you are no longer limited by your location and can recruit talents from other regions and involve contractors from other countries;
- More flexibility for your employees – the possibility to work remotely has become a great bonus for many professionals and can turn out to be a great competitive advantage for you as an employer;
- More stability for your business – one of the reasons why companies like Google and Apple were among the early adopters that switched to remote work during the pandemic announced, is that they already had remote work possibilities embedded into their daily routines, and it looks like remote work possibilities will definitely become a part of the business continuity plan for many companies nowadays;
- Entering new geographical markets – once you have mastered remote work, you end up realizing remote delivery is just one more step you can easily take dramatically increasing the pool of potential customers and using it as an additional growth opportunity;
- Savings on office infrastructure – implementing a temporary or constant remote work model allows you to save some of the company's budget for office needs and redirect it to the development of your business. These may not be large amounts, but under the current conditions, they will come in handy.
HOW TO ORGANIZE EFFICIENT WORK IN A DISTRIBUTED TEAM
While working remotely your team still needs to communicate and collaborate efficiently. This brings in a number of challenges like making sure everyone is up-to-date with the work and motivated, and that no important things are missed in communication nuances.
Being able to face up those challenges is very important and requires additional efforts on two levels: company culture and processes.
Distributed Team Culture
Creating sustainable remote team culture is essential for keeping the team together and having it move towards defined goals as a cohesive unit. The good news is that the actions you take to build this culture are quite similar to what you usually do for creating your company culture offline. It’s just that now with the team working remotely, it may take more efforts and require some fine-tuning in implementation strategies:
- Hiring the right specialists to the team (the ones you will trust and the ones who fit into your existing culture);
- Maintaining a team’s spirit of cohesion and involvement in the process;
- Creating a sense of accountability when each team member understands how his/her input affects the results of the team;
- Creating an open environment where all team members can speak their minds and come up with suggestions on how your collaboration can be improved.
Additional fine-tuning you may need:
- More communication – you will need to communicate with the team more often than you would have done while being in the same office – more ad-hoc discussions, more on-line sessions, and calls.
Small tip: If there is some ad-hoc work question you would ask your colleague right away while being in the office together, don’t wait for the next planned meeting to discuss it while you work remotely. Just drop a note in the messenger you use for team communication and get it fast and easily.
- Add personality to your online communication – use more video and audio calls instead of messages, share ideas and insights with the team, discuss things outside exact project routines.
Small tip: You definitely miss those occasional chats at the coffee machine in the office and your lunches with the team. Be sure – your teammates do miss those as well. So, invent some online rituals (e.g. 15-minutes Friday coffee online, separate thread in a messenger for sharing jokes, etc.) to fill in these remote communication gaps.
As Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of Basecamp, say in their best-seller Remote: “You don’t need everyone physically together to create a strong culture. The best cultures derive from actions people actually take“.
So, stick to your company’s values, talk more with your team – that’s the only way to be distributed, but united. Practice what you preach and make it visible to your team.
Distributed Team Processes
The steps you need to take from the process perspective are also quite obvious and can also help your team be productive offline as well:
- Clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of each member of the team (you can find more information about remote team roles and responsibilities here);
- Define KPIs and the way you will track them;
- Decide on communication and reporting channels;
- Agree on regular sync-up meetings at different levels;
- Select the set of collaboration tools you will use and make sure all team members are comfortable working with them (more information about tools for remote collaboration is available here.
Additional fine-tuning you may need:
- More information about your processes and ways-of-work – While working with remote teams, it is extremely important to have your processes well documented and available to all team members.
Small tip: It makes sense to add a brief walkthrough on the processes into your onboarding process, so that all new team members would know where to find the necessary info.
- More visibility for team tasks and progress – with most of the things being done remotely, visibility becomes extremely important – create common dashboards with team KPIs, an online Kanban or Scrum board with tasks, etc., so that every team member could get an instant view of what’s going on with the project.
Small tip: Turn it into a habit to look at those boards together with the team during your regular meetings – thus you can make sure everyone: a) knows they exist; b) stays involved in the process and understands his/her impact on the overall team performance.
- Remote work infrastructure - Make sure that all team members planning to work remotely have all necessary equipment and access to your internal computer network through a secure VPN connection. And that your network is configured so that it can support all those remote connections.
Small tip: In addition to organizing the infrastructure itself, make sure team members know who to contact if they need help setting up access and equipment, and that such person is available for consultations and support of your team members.
To sum it all up, of course, you will need to put additional efforts and make some changes in your organization to be able to support remote collaboration for your team, but all those steps and efforts will also have a very positive impact on your daily business, even when you return to work in your office. Modern technologies and tools offer a variety of possibilities for switching to remote work easily. Read our TOOLS FOR REMOTE WORK AND COLLABORATION article to learn more about the tools, which can help you make remote work efficient and start enjoying it!