By Cody Candee, CEO of Bounce.
For years now, there has been a push among businesses to move to remote work. This trend has only become stronger with the Covid-19 pandemic. Being able to work from anywhere is no longer a luxury. More and more, it’s becoming a necessity.
However, making the switch from an on-site to a remote workplace comes with challenges as well as opportunities. At Bounce, we manage a remote team across five different countries. Here are some of the things I’ve learned about managing remotely.
Don’t Forget The Phone
With so many videoconferencing and chat apps becoming available for remote work, it’s easy to forget how important a phone call can be. Often with remote teams, the temptation is to communicate through email, messaging and other written methods, but sometimes, it’s better to talk to someone one-to-one and get a quick decision without waiting for someone to get back to you later.
I’ve found it helpful to try to mimic how these kinds of interactions would work in a real office as much as possible. If you would just go over to someone in the office to get their opinion quickly, pick up the phone and do the same thing remotely.
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Transparency Is Crucial
There’s a tendency for communication to suffer among remote teams. As any manager knows, a company’s culture can be vital to its success, and that culture is formed in the break room just as much as it is in the boardroom. Staying transparent with your team about ongoing projects, future goals and other business developments is vital for keeping them engaged in the company’s success. Feeling like we are working toward something bigger helps all us feel a little less isolated.
Keeping everyone updated on progress is part of the transparency I mentioned above, but it’s important to keep everyone updated not just across the company as a whole, but also within smaller teams. When everyone knows what’s going on, they can work with less supervision from management and free up greater opportunities for collaboration toward a single goal.
Build Team Relationships With Hacker Houses
When people don’t see one another face to face, it can be hard to create a team spirit. One way to recreate the unique synergy and collaborative vibe that existed before the pandemic is by using hacker houses.
Once common in Silicon Valley startups, hacker houses allow multiple people to live together in a shared space and collaborate even as they work on separate projects. Since the pandemic, hacker houses have been making a comeback as a way for teams to interact in the physical space while still following social distancing requirements.
We’ve all heard of those companies that have too many meetings, but if you can get the balance right, they become especially important when working with a remote team. Weekly and even daily meetings can help everyone stay focused on the project and see the progress their work is contributing to.
During this pandemic, meetings are more important than ever. Encourage your team to check in and share highs and lows of the week with one another. Not only does this help to forge stronger bonds within a team, but it can also help improve the mental health of isolated workers during a difficult time.
Hiring And Onboarding
When onboarding a new team member, it’s always vital to ensure a good fit. With a remote team, it can be tempting to focus less on interpersonal relationships because people aren’t in the same physical space, but that’s shortsighted.
When working with a remote team, it’s more important than ever to choose self-motivated people who can work well with others. Social interaction becomes more difficult when we can’t see each other face to face, so you need to make sure you’re bringing in people who can handle nonphysical communication and will fit in with the culture of your remote team.
Creating A Virtual Office
The way offices work today developed over decades. Often, there’s a reason things are done the way they are. There’s a temptation to always be looking for a new method for everything in unprecedented times like these, but sometimes, it’s a good idea to remember what worked in the past.
For instance, the humble office watercooler is much more than a way for staff to stay hydrated. As an informal place for people to meet, watercoolers, break rooms and cafeterias are the spaces where company culture is formed. Creating a kind of virtual watercooler, whether it’s a video meeting on a Friday afternoon or a regular online chat session where people can talk freely, even about things other than work, can help keep your remote team feeling like a team.
Think about how you would have done things if your team were in a physical office, and try to recreate that through the technology that’s available. Not only does this help create more close-knit teams that work better together, but it can be vital for your team member’s mental health.
The Future Of Remote Teams
There are many benefits to a remote team. Working from home has become more desirable than ever, and technology has made it easier to manage remotely. Plus, being able to hire talent from anywhere in the world gives you a far greater pool of team members to choose from.
But for many of us, remote work is still relatively new. The companies that will thrive in the future are those that are best able to create close-knit and efficient teams made up of people from around the world. The office of the future, it seems, is no office at all.