Can Small Businesses Use Remote Teams Effectively?
Back in June 2014, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) discovered that there was a record number of Brits working from home. The figure was huge - 4.2 million - and neatly demonstrated that the traditional office environment was fast becoming a distant memory for many.
The rise of the freelancer and increasingly convenient channels by which we all communicate in this digital age have made home workers a common fixture in teams of all sizes.
You may be familiar with this yourself - particularly if your business features people working remotely and in tandem with those situated at your office. If so, you may also be familiar with the challenges hybrid teams present, regardless of the abundance of technology we can now call upon.
I think small businesses are excellently placed to use remote teams effectively. I know this because I am part of one myself and have spent the last two years refining the art of the hybrid team.
I’ve learned 3 key things during my journey and I’d like to share them with you today.
Communication is absolutely vital
How many times have you read that on a team leadership blog post? There’s a reason for its dominance when it comes to advice of this sort - communication stands head and shoulders above every other element when it comes to managing teams successfully.
When members of the team aren’t on-site at the office, the methods by which they can keep in touch are even more critical. Thankfully, we have tools such as Slack and encrypted direct messaging services like Zoom to make the process far easier.
However, you can have all the tools in the world, but if they’re not utilised effectively, your hybrid team will quickly fall apart.
Ensure remote workers are empowered to use any communication methods they are granted access to as freely as they would their vocal cords when wandering the office. Set ground rules too - they should know when they’re expected to be contactable and when they should pick up the phone as opposed to firing a ‘reply all’ to everyone and sundry.
You need a project management system
When I first started out running a hybrid team, we relied on spreadsheets, shared calendars and a server full of Word documents. And that was before we even got to our own personal written notes and to-do lists.
It was a mess and it simply didn’t work. So, we changed it and implemented a project management system. The difference was night and day.
Thankfully, there are plenty of free tools to choose from, such as the wonderful Trello.
Choose your remote team members carefully
Not everyone is a good home worker. Some people are easily distracted by home comforts, while others may take the opportunity of being unseen to simply be less productive. It’s a tough reality many team leaders fail to discover early on.
Such people can be quickly identified, but you should do so before starting the process of running a hybrid team. Speak to your employees and ask them for an honest assessment of whether or not working remotely is for them.
You may be surprised at the reaction; many people prefer the camaraderie and social element of working in an office. If so, you’d be wise to keep such workers close by.
You’ll hopefully have had a ‘eureka!’ moment while reading the above. As it turns out, the varying locations of hybrid teams may add some additional challenges, but the mechanics of managing them are no different to those of an in-house team. You simply need the best tools, clear channels of communication and the right team members. Sound familiar?
Proof, if ever it were needed, that managing a remote team is near identical to that of the traditional office-based variety!