There are a lot of perks to working remotely: No long commutes to work, access to a wider pool of talent, being able to work from the comfort of your own home (or anywhere), and lower overhead, among other things.
For these reasons, more and more employers are allowing their teams to telecommute, either occasionally or full-time. Our company, Firefly Partners, is a digital marketing agency for non-profits, and we’ve been fully remote since our start in 2008.
Even with all of those benefits, being a distributed, remote team does come with its share of challenges. How do you meet with team members? How do you ensure people are accountable? How do you create team spirit? How do your team members get to know and trust each other? These are all realities that we have worked hard to conquer at Firefly, and we’re proud of the end result (both within our team and with our clients).
Whether you currently have a remote team or are considering the option, here are four important tips for ensuring that your location-independent team succeeds.
- Communicate efficiently and often.
Communication is important in any sort of work environment, but it becomes even more crucial in a remote one.
You no longer have the face-to-face interactions that happen organically in a traditional shared office. Instead, you need to choose your method of communication based on what you are trying to communicate. Is this something that should be put into an email? Or perhaps you can send a quick instant message? Or would it be more efficient (and effective) to pick up the phone or video conference?
Figure out what method works best for the message you’re sending, and use the tools you have to connect with one another optimally and often.
And be aware that there can be a higher risk of misunderstandings in a remote environment. Don’t assume that your team knows exactly what you mean. Take the time to think about your messages and convey them clearly. (Sometimes challenging when your days are fast-paced!)
For five tips about how to effectively leading your team, check out this blog post.
- Recognize that a remote team has a different company culture.
It’s important to hire people who are comfortable working in a remote space.
Let’s be honest: There will be times when the work is isolating. Some people are not a good fit for this way of working, and that’s okay. This means that to have a strong remote team, you need to find people who will thrive in this environment.
However, that does not mean that you should send your team off to their virtual corners and never reach out to them again. A remote team environment should still allow plenty of opportunities for team members to engage with one another.
Since checking-in does not necessarily come naturally in a remote setting, be proactive and schedule regular times to touch base with your team members. Stay in tune with their “outside of work” lives along with discussing the details of the work-related topics.
- Be present and be accountable.
Firefly has team members across the country and spanning three time zones. This level of flexibility can be great for finding and retaining talent, though juggling so many different work schedules can be a challenge. You need to always know when each person is working in order to be able to properly manage your team.
In addition to tracking your team’s work hours, you also need some way of tracking productivity. Not only is that information helpful for you to know what your team is working on, it can also help keep your team on task.
Nobody wants to be micromanaged, though many people benefit from some outside accountability. A remote position doesn’t always inherently provide that, so it can be important to track team members’ productivity to help prevent them from getting sidetracked.
- Trust your team.
You already do your best to hire people who are the right fit for your organization. Now, one of your biggest tasks will be to simply trust those people to do their job (even when you can’t see them hard at work). It will help both you and your team if you encourage an open and transparent work culture. Expecting remote workers to send email replies at all hours of the day, night and weekend because “they’re at home” is probably not the best way to demonstrate trust.
Creating a trusting, collaborative atmosphere is important for team morale, but it will also motivate your team to be productive. After all, no one wants to let their team down! The understanding of “you have my back and I have yours” makes our remote arrangement work really well at Firefly.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced working or managing remotely? Share with us in the comments.
Could you and your remote team use some help making your digital marketing goals a reality? Click here to set up a free consultation with Firefly Partners.
About the Author
Trang Ly, Project Manager, has over a decade of experience working in nonprofits. Prior to working at Firefly, she held marketing and database management positions at St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and the Desert Botanical Garden, where she helped implement direct mail and online marketing campaigns.