In my tenure with Pythian of almost 10 years, as a remote employee and as a manager, I have a lot of experience managing remote employees, in different geographies and time zones. As a remote worker myself, I am very familiar with the challenges and opportunities that this model presents.
Over the years I have developed specialized training guides to help remote teams succeed, and have also developed strategies to help managers increase the productivity of their remote teams.
Here are six of my tips for those managing remote employees:
Bring the team together regularly
Regular meetings where each member of the team can listen and share are a must. I speak with my team to give updates for around 15 minutes, and then turn the meeting over to them. In today’s agile world of business, change happens quickly and finding a new solution to a difficult problem is something that the team can all learn from – and this meeting is a virtual space to share the knowledge. A sense of humor helps too, as it builds a sense of camaraderie and bonding with the team. Many managers encourage the use of a webcam to add an element of face time, though this isn’t always possible.
Know your audience
There are lots of great tools available that can be used to make everyone stay connected. Whether it is Slack, Google Hangouts or even email, reach out and say hello to your team members regularly (even daily). It’s important to work with their preferences, and sometimes give a nudge (if necessary) to encourage participation on one of the team channels.
Ensure that you solicit their candid feedback about their obstacles, especially for new employees, which is a great segue into my next tip.
Always involve Remote Employees when fixing problems with Remote Employees
All too often, companies rely solely on onsite headquarter employees to fix the problems encountered by remote workers. Working at HQ and occasionally working from home is not the same as working remotely for months or years on end.
The same goes for creating relevant training for remote workers. Involve your remote team members in this process and I guarantee the feedback will lead to far better material.
Be mindful of time zones
When booking meetings, be aware of time zones. As someone who over the years has scheduled meetings with members participating in Australia, Canada, UK, USA, Singapore, India, I try to pick a time that will work for as many participants as possible. A very useful app called worldtimebuddy.com can help take the worry out of calling a colleague – or a client – in the middle of the night.
Create an inclusive corporate culture
It’s important for remote employees to feel connected to their team, but it is also important to engage them and make them feel that they are part of the company as a whole. Company-wide meetings that bring everyone together help to nurture feelings of belonging and pride in a (virtual) place. For example, Pythian holds quarterly (sometimes more) “All Hands” meetings, a forum for executive presentations and sharing news followed by Q&A. Participation from the executive level is also essential. CEO, Paul Vallée hosts informal “fireside chats” on GoToMeeting, where employees have the chance to engage in a casual conversation with Paul and anyone else who joins. Again, making sure that you cover as many time zones as possible so remote workers can participate is key.
Provide useful resources and support
Don’t assume that every remote team works the same way. When on-boarding new remote employees, make sure they are aware of the tools that are available to help them succeed. For employees who may be at the start of their career, a presentation on tips for working from home will likely be useful. Equally important is an office allowance to help cover some of the more important things employees may need when working from a home office. Never underestimate the value of a good chair!
There are many ways to motivate remote teams which will help drive productivity; some of it is trial and error to find out what works for each team. When everything comes together, businesses can continue to develop their unique recipe that will lead to positive results and contribute to the success of their remote teams.