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How to Succeed When Your Team is Working Remotely

Dec14
Here at WorkIntelligent.ly, we spend a lot of time debating the merits of a flexible, remote work environment, and just how much it can increase office productivity.

Now, say you’ve made the decision to hire remote workers, or that some of your existing employees are heavy travelers. How can employers keep their teams on task when they’re working remotely across the globe?

It’s More Than Just Working Outside of the Office

Giving employees the green light to work remotely isn’t simply a matter of shifting people out of a centralized office space and having them do the same work from different locations. When face-to-face interaction is limited and replaced with less frequent electronic communication, business processes and personal relationships are forced to undergo a dramatic change and must be reconfigured to properly leverage the new, remote work environment.

According to Mitchell Harper, co-founder of BigCommerce and boss to many remote employees, good, clear communication is key. His advice? Put expectations in writing right out of the gate, hold regular check-in meetings, and provide and track key performance indicators. At the same time, be sure your employees experience an appropriate work-life balance as the lines between work and play can easily blur for off-site workers.

Stay on Track

Time Doctor, a time and productivity monitoring tool that has staffers spread across nine countries, has compiled a list of the eight best collaborative tools for virtual teams. Google Docs makes the list because it allows anyone with a free Gmail account to manage documents and spreadsheets in a way where multiple people can work on the documents simultaneously, while BaseCamp or LiquidPlanner can be used the same way to manage whole projects or events.

SkypeGlip and Google Hangouts are popular, easy-to-use platforms for those holding video conference calls over the Internet. Skype also allows users to share their screens with one another, while an additional free service – Jing – allows them to record those sharing sessions.

Finally, there’s Dropbox, which is a free, cloud-based file-sharing service. Use Dropbox to share documents and images with co-workers and clients, and receive an email every time a shared file is updated.

On the hardware side, upgrading your mobile infrastructure is a necessity when your team is spread out around the world. It’s difficult enough to deal with time zones, and having to bear with a 5-year-old laptop and ancient flip phone is downright limiting. Consider your IT infrastructure and whether or not your business can handle this type of mobility.

Fostering Communication

FreshBooks, an online invoicing and expense management service, tells employers they should also be sure to give workers a “virtual water cooler” where they can meet online and forge bonds and develop relationships with one another. Nichole Kelly, president of Social Media Explorer’s SME Digital, advises employers to set up an internal social network to bridge information silos between different divisions, different offices, and even within departments.

“If your internal social network is a broadcast channel to communicate with employees, you are doing it wrong,” Kelly points out. “This is an opportunity to build connectivity between employees rather than another Human Resources portal for dissemination of information.”

So, tell us – what tips or tricks do you or your company use to ensure employees are working remotely in the most efficient, effective and productive manner?