TigerTeamX has been running the fully remote for the last 10 years. Maybe, for some companies, the recent COVID-19 pandemic completely revolutionized how to build team and think about work. However, we as a company were ready and even more. We gained some fields to leverage our experience. With the physical restrictions imposed, other companies and organizations were compelled to find ways to get their employees working from home. What seemed like a hurdle for them at the time proved quite a sustainable, cost-saving, and productivity-enhancing model. As this blog intends to provide value for our readers, Tiger TeamX decided to share our own experience of remote work ethics, management and cooperation.
How to manage a remote team successfully?
Now it's clear. After the lockdown restrictions were lifted, most companies stuck with this productivity anywhere model. With teams working remotely, managers are finding it a challenge to keep regular tabs on people they rarely see in person. So, how to manage your employees when they are scattered all over the globe? Here are the tips that we used and that you can easily implement:
Not everyone has a wide vision of things going on. Generally, most employees want to do a good job, but it's hard to do so if they don't know what is expected of them. As a manager, you are expected to give clear instructions to your team, outlining their responsibilities. This helps us to be guided towards the future goals of a company
However, as the adage goes, charity begins at home. Before figuring out what is expected of your team in this new work era, you first have to understand your role and what is expected of you.
Develop and structure an onboarding process
New hires are often enthusiastic and understandably nervous on their first days on the job. Your onboarding process defines your employees' experience and influences their productivity right out of the gate.
We acknowledged that the need for an effective onboarding process is even more pronounced, as new hires cannot simply turn to their colleagues for clarification. Therefore, you need an easy step-by-step guide that helps new hires grasp and embrace the company culture. For instance, assigning them an onboarding buddy would be a good place to start.
At TigerTeamX, we have a short onboarding process tackling the tools we frequently use. We avoid complicated processes and using too many tools so people can explore and find their own ways. Members of our tiger team are also granted a lot of responsibility over a particular subject, which we've found helps get them up to speed fast.
Regularly get in touch with your team
When your team is working from the office, it is easy to notice when one is overloaded. This can manifest as them skipping lunch, always staying late, or other noticeable signs. When they're working remotely, it's easy to miss these signs.
When assigning employees with urgent tasks, make a point to ask how they're doing with their current workload. Additionally, occasionally, inquire about how employees meet deadlines and if they need more time.
At our tiger team of software developers, we hold short daily status meetings where everyone describes their work and any problems they've faced. This helps our team lead and instruct them on the next course of action. These meetings are crucial in ensuring everyone is on the same path. If you'd like to know more about our work ethic, vision, and principles of cooperation to get things done - you should know how we do software.
Let your team members input ideas
As a manager, you'll typically have to establish working structures and expectations for your team. However, in remote work, circumstances are unique to each individual. As such, you may benefit from asking for input on what systems work best for your employees.
For instance, you could schedule different work hours for employees in different time zones. You could also ask their opinion on how best to get their job done. When they feel heard, it'll likely improve their job satisfaction and ultimately, their productivity.
Nevertheless, it can be hard for junior employees to point out troubles to their superiors. To help ease this, we in TigerTeamX may sometimes hire a mediator to facilitate these difficult conversations. Alternatively, ask them to point out two things you do well, and one thing that could be better. More importantly, avoid getting defensive or talking down to people when they criticize your management style. We've found that this can hinder their willingness to open up.
Transparency and trust
Transparency is vital in every workplace, whether on-site or remote. The best way to cultivate a culture of honesty and openness is to inform your team on overall decisions and strategies made on top. This way, they feel aligned with the company's big picture and tackle challenges with this goal in mind.
At TigerTeamX, we achieve this by adding a clear "Why" and "What" to every task. This way, the employee can understand why they're doing that particular task. The "What" is merely a suggestion, and if they can find a better alternative to reach the same goal, they're allowed to improvise.
This is actually the tactics of military commands, that we've implemented in our software development workflow.
Clear reporting and communication
A company runs on the efficiency of communication. With an in-house team, it is easy for employees to walk into your office to report their progress, or if they have an inquiry. For remote teams, your employees may not always know where you are, or if you're available for feedback.
A good practice would be to schedule specific times during the day when they can book short sessions with you. You could then avail them with a calendar so they know which slots are open. Our team achieves this by holding the aforementioned daily status meetings.
Clarify the rules and goals
When putting down rules and procedures in the workplace, it is easy to include vague terms like "properly". It is important to be clear about what each of the rules mean. For instance, rather than use adjectives like urgent, clarify that you need the work delivered by end of day, or in two hours. Additionally, when giving deadlines, it is vital to clarify when it starts and ends.
At TigerTeamX, we have common known essential work principles and core values that we live by, which help define our company culture. Though each team member works with a lot of autonomy, adhering to this culture helps ensure our continually successful results.
Being human, we all struggle with distractions, lack of motivation, and many such hindrances to productivity. As a manager, you should give your team some tools that have helped you overcome this hurdle.
For instance, there are a variety of apps on the internet that can help you focus and avoid distractions. You can also introduce them to white noise generators and LoFi music channels to help them set the mood for work.
Be aware not to make your workflow too "noisy". We in TigerTeamX keep things simple. Even though sometimes one tool is better than the other in specific cases in terms of functionality and user experience - it is better to set all your workflow in 1-2 project management flows, not to get lost.
While working remotely, employees can't just walk up to their colleagues and ask how something should be done. Therefore, you should have clearly defined standard operating procedures (SOPs) for damn near everything. Our experience tells, that it is better to keep it simple by having task templates that you just fill out.
Never overload your employees
When employees are working from the office, it is easy to distinguish between work hours and time to call it a day. With remote work, it is not so clear-cut. You could find some team members working longer hours, which negatively impacts their work-life balance.
In our team, we have two personality types. For one, some people have low self-drive, and thus need to be motivated with big and exciting tasks that they'll feel nice accomplishing. The other is enthusiastic people who take on whatever tasks you assign them and overwork themselves without complaining.
It is, therefore, important to know your team and each of their personality types. If you have a personality one person and don't give them exciting tasks, they'll get disengaged, underperform, or even leave. Over-tasking a personality two-person, on the other hand, will lead to burnout.
Small things matter
Such things as water-cooler chats and small talk at the office are generally viewed as distractions. However, such informal interactions help bond your employees and prevent feelings of isolation, which fosters team spirit.
As such, when working with remote teams, encourage these informal interactions. For instance, you can host virtual team-building activities, or use your communication channels to host non-work-related social interactions. In our team, we have Friday meetings where we banter and discuss off-topic stuff, or play online games to strengthen our bonds.
If you're a perfectionist, it's easy to fall into the dangerous trap of micromanaging your team. Rather than produce desired results, this often leaves your employees feeling like you have no faith in their abilities.
Rather, let employees do their work. You can give feedback on their results, but not on their process. If you have suggestions on more efficient ways to do things, approach it gently and explain why your way might be better. More importantly, give clear and sufficient guidance to get the job done, but not too much. It is also important to calibrate your instructions to each different team member, as some will need more guidance than others. Remember also to ask for their input on your suggested methods.
Look for opportunities for collaboration
Remote workers often struggle with feelings of isolation. You, as the manager, can solve this by encouraging interaction among your team. When assigning tasks, break projects down and assign them to small teams rather than having one person do all the work.
With remote teams, employees may have different emotional setbacks affecting their productivity. We've established loneliness as a common struggle, while others may have personal issues affecting them.
TigerTeamX members are happy to have a professional that comes in once a quarter to talk to people and see how things are going. We've found that this helps alleviate a lot of their stress and ensure their well being.
Provide remote-specific training
The dynamic around working remotely is completely different from in-house work. As such, you need to train your employees on the skills they need to work effectively while physically separated. This has been the trend with most companies gravitating towards remote work.
In our team, we have multiple employees for the same roles. This way, they get to work together on one thing, sharing ideas to figure out the best way forward.
Motivate your workers
As a manager, you usually need everyone in your team properly motivated to do their best. You can achieve this by setting goals and recognizing their success. On the flipside, in TigerTeamX we've found it is vital to highlight whenever things are not going well. In such instances, we are sufficiently direct and solution-oriented. Additionally, don't call out people in front of their teammates - just let them know privately where they went astray and how to improve it.
Further, listen to your team's inputs and any issues they raise.
More importantly, create opportunities for people to move up in your company, and encourage problem-solving, growth and education. This lets them know that you're involved and invested in their future with your company.
How to manage freelancers effectively?
Working with a team of freelancers rather than permanent employees has several benefits. For one, they come with the required skill, saving you valuable training time and resources. Their flexibility can also benefit large organizations that serve customers from different time zones.
However, managing them can often prove difficult since they are not familiar with your company culture. Here are some pointers on how to effectively go about it.
Positive relationships and communication
Much like with employees, it is important to maintain a positive relationship with your freelancers. This will significantly improve their responsiveness and the quality of work they produce.
When working with a team of freelancers, you should choose a preferred communication channel that they can all reach you on. Further, establish a required communication pattern, such as a mandatory weekly or daily check-in.
Define project details
A freelancer is an outsider who isn't familiar with your company's way of doing things. As such, you should provide them with clear project details and guidelines on how to meet your expectations.
A good place to start would be at the job description you use in the selection process. Define the scope of work and the deliverables you expect from them. Then, after onboarding, you can provide them a reference document detailing any specifics relevant to their task.
Often, your freelancer team will need documentation to ensure that their work is up to date. For freelance writers, this may be the tone and grammar your company needs for its publications. On the other hand, developers may need directions on how to document their code or specific coding styles to follow.
Provide a clearly defined project scope
You should have clearly defined project details at the beginning of your interaction. These include the scope of the project, the deliverables, and the deadlines for each. Also, define how you'll evaluate their work to ensure it meets your standards.
This can be done on the job description you post calling for applications. The job description should also clarify the technical skills you need, and the process you expect a suitable freelancer to follow.
Freelancers are not employees
Freelancers are independent contractors. As such, they have the right to refuse any work you assign them. They also have the liberty to work on their own schedule and take time off whenever it suits them.
As such, do not micromanage your team. Rather, you should afford them the flexibility to work as they see fit, provided they submit their deliverables on time.
Treat freelancers as your business partners
Essentially, a freelancer is your business partner. You should think of them as an organization that provides a service to yours. Therefore, you should treat them with the same courtesy you would a client, supplier or independent auditor.
Use project management tools
Project management software is essential when working with freelancers. It helps you manage tasks effectively, even when you're tracking multiple projects. Additionally, most of these tools will have provisions to communicate on the same platform, which is easier than going back and forth on email.
Set expectations and budget
When you hire a freelancer, you should have clearly defined expectations in place, as well as an agreed upon rate of payment. In the event you give them any additional work, you should also provide extra pay. When you respect your terms of contract, they are more likely to deliver high quality work within the agreed upon timeframe.
Include freelancers in team building activities
Though they are not your employees, making freelancers feel part of your team is essential. For instance, you can have them undergo your organization's remote onboarding process, so they understand your company's culture. You should also engage them in informal activities and interactions outside their scope of work. This helps build camaraderie and trust, which are stepping stones to a healthy long-term relationship.
Freelancers are self-employed and are thus highly motivated to turn you into a regular client. As such, they tend to strive to deliver so you consider them for future projects. In order to ensure their deliverables are up to par, you need to give regular feedback.
It also applies when the relationship turns negative and you stop working with the freelancer. Feedback on where they went wrong and how the issue can be avoided can help their relationship with the next client.
Respect their time and autonomy
Freelancers often work for several clients concurrently. This means that you can't expect their constant attention or availability. As such, it would be counterintuitive to micromanage their actions. You should allow them to act independently while still maintaining strict schedules.
Know their strong and weak sides
Freelancers will often have a niche or two they are particularly good at, and others they struggle with. You should make a point of finding out where each of their strengths lie. This way, you can play to their strengths and ensure they constantly deliver high quality work.
Hold live meetings with freelancers
It is important to check in regularly with your team of freelancers. One such way would be by holding live meetings. However, remember that a freelancer's time is valuable, and scheduling emergency meetings may not work for their schedule. Ensure that you inform them of any meetings well in advance.
Rewards and recognition
It is important to keep in mind that freelancers are human. They can take time off, or have a sick day. More importantly, they need the recognition that their work is important. To motivate them, reward their successes and milestones. Though you may never meet them in person, it is important to cultivate a personal relationship with them.
How to share vulnerable data with remote workers and freelancers?
When working with remote teams, you'll often be required to send sensitive information such as passwords securely to company software. Due to the abundance of malicious individuals on the internet, it is important to utilize a tool that ensures the privacy of such sensitive communications.
Duckist is an ideal solution. It is web-based, meaning you won't have to log in or create an account to use it. It works by encrypting your message right on your browser, so you only send a link to your remote team members. Once the recipient reads it, the message automatically self-destructs. This ensures that anyone else who accesses it only gets an expired link, rather than the actual message.
Remote workers are employees who are free to work from any location. Leading a remote team can prove hectic, as managing people you hardly see is challenging. When managing remote employees, it is essential to maintain clear communication and set precise requirements. Transparency and trust when managing remote teams are also vital, as is motivation and providing emotional support.
A freelancing job means you're essentially a contractor hired to work on a specific project. There are often several issues when managing freelancers. This is mainly because they are not familiar with the company culture. However, by clearly outlining the project scope and details, you can ensure you hire only the best freelancers. More importantly, you should treat them as business partners and respect their autonomy.
Reading about 7 Tips for Effective Communication in Remote Teams will also help you get better at Remote. Check it out and thank us later!