Can you really manage remote teams effectively without face-to-face interaction?
One of the main questions I’m asked about remote teams goes something like this: “Is it really possible to manage workers effectively without sharing an office, and make sure they’re actually working, to ensure projects are delivered on time?”
I’ve been working with remote teams for a very long time, and I can tell you: the answer is most definitely YES.
Harnessing exceptional motivation
Over the last year alone, I’ve worked with over a hundred people remotely, and my wealth of experience has shown me they have an incredibly dedicated attitude towards work that you might not get in office environments. These are people who’ve made the decision to work purely on their own, from home or elsewhere. They know they’re in a sink or swim environment, and all the pressure is on them to make sure they perform well because if they don’t, there is no one else to blame but themselves.
This makes them incredibly resilient and resourceful.
They manage time effectively, to get things done efficiently, so they have an abundance of motivation, which often brings a superior level of excellence.
Utilizing elite workers from across the globe
Globalization has well and truly taken hold of the world’s market, and it’s not going away. This huge shift, especially since the advent of the gig economy, has completely leveled the playing field, so you can find quality workers from all corners of the globe who are extremely committed to delivering first-rate results.
I’ve never had a situation where people didn’t want to work, be part of a team, or need the motivation to get things done.
Working remotely, you have to be motivated from the get-go, you’re the only one managing your time, so self-motivation is incredibly strong in this environment.
Once you start to see remote teams from this perspective — how they’re already primed and ready to give you their full commitment — then the entire scenario on how to manage the changes.
Enabling self-sufficient workers to thrive
Someone who works remotely will be measured by what gets done: what is really delivered at the end of the day. You don’t see the hassle, the research, the issues that this person is facing while they work, but rather, you see the fruits of their labor after they’ve used their initiative to solve problems they had, and deliver you the finished work.
This results-led mindset remote-workers have is ultimately why they’re very productive, in fact often more productive than teams who work in an office.
As much as there can be certain advantages from workers all sharing the same space, there are facets in office work that reduce time spent on the job, such as socializing as a group, coffee talks, fervent discussions on a new Netflix show — things you just don’t get with remote teams.
Giving your team the tools to perform
So, how do we make sure that remote teams are actually working?
Well, think of it this way: what would make them not work, considering they are already motivated to do so?
From my experience, it’s usually when they struggle to find the information needed to complete the task, they don’t fully understand the information that’s been given to them, or there isn’t a sufficient overlap created with other team members who they need to work with to get the job done. These are the things that demotivate them and cause them to look for other clients and projects to work with.
But the good news is: these are things you can control. As the manager, you ensure you give them the right instructions they need, making things crystal clear, setting out exactly what’s required and what needs to be done, giving them all the resources they need to do the job, and being on hand whenever they need answers to questions they have.
So, rather than trying to make sure the remote team is really working, make sure you provide the team with everything they need to work with.
Managing time and establishing discipline
How exactly do you ensure remote teams work as efficiently as possible?
I recommend you build discipline, and aim to find a common time in which the working hours of the majority (ideally all) of the team from all over the world overlap.
Once you know when everyone is available, you can manage time much more effectively, sending out requests, assigning tasks, and updating the team when you know they’ll all be able to get the information quickly. Set up a meeting where everyone explains what they want to do on that day, what they plan to achieve, and what they’ve already done so far. This will get them even more motivated to work with you and instill a team spirit to inspire them to deliver their best possible work.
Creating commitment through trust.
Another important element to instill in your team? Commitment. There are some jobs where people need to be directed on what they do, but for gifted remote teams that contain high-performing workers, it’s very important for them to be able to bring their own creative contributions and ideas to the table, and your project will often be all the better for it. These high-caliber, extremely self-motivated remote workers are the ones who are leading the work and can provide valuable input for suggesting certain ways they’ll do things, rather than having a boss who dictates to them exactly how they’ll get something done. Once they feel they have ownership of their work, and that you trust their skills, they’ll often come up with much more creative solutions to finish projects, which leads to more satisfactory results.
Adding a human touch
When you’re working remotely because you’re missing the face-to-face component of interacting with people, I recommend adding a human touch where possible, by telling the team about everyday goings-on in your work life; what you’re working on, if you’ve had any particular struggles yourself, how the weather has impacted your day if you’re hankering after a delicious dinner or a cocktail when you finish work. This universal common ground helps bond them by interacting, much like you’d find in a real office.
Analyzing our own methods
So, the question we should ask ourselves, is not whether remote teams are actually working, but if we have provided them with the right tools and information with which to complete the tasks they are given. If we have, then we should find our self-motivated remote teams will deliver excellent results with a first-class attitude, and be thrilled to work on more exciting projects with us in the future.
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