Building high performance remote team

Working with a remote team can seem challenging and it has often been the source of challenges for companies who expected a simple "purchase and forget" approach to building offshore and remote teams.

We believe remoting is a net positive but just like properly managing a local team it requires attention and nurturing to reach its full potential.

Invest in your hiring process

There's no going around it. Building a great team starts by hiring great individuals; and it is even truer when your team will be away from you. That said not all individual are fitted to work remotely. There are few things to look for over and above their technical skills.

Hire independent self-starters

Remote team members need to have a skill set that includes independence, initiative, and self-discipline. Working remotely is not for everyone, but it can be the perfect environment for people with the right mindset. Once people have the opportunity to work remotely, most never look back: 90% of current remote workers plan to work remotely for the rest of their careers, according to Buffer.

Hire good communicant

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but don't underestimate the importance of good communication when the team is dispersed.

Build a culture of trust

Encourage transparency

As a manager and leader, you also need to lead by example. You can’t expect your remote workers to open up, get to know you and each other or discuss projects and share their opinion if you don’t do that yourself.

Be transparent. Get them involved in all aspects of the business, share with them the company vision and objectives, let them resonate with that. Then, set clear expectations, tell them some things about yourself and let them talk about something other than work too.

Empower team members to make decisions

While communication and collaboration tools have addressed the communication challenge with remote team members, it still isn’t as simple as walking over to another person’s desk or office with a question. It generally makes sense to empower remote team members to make day-to-day decisions, rather than getting approval from HQ. The level of decision making should vary by role, but successful remote team members typically prefer this type of freedom and are often more effective when given the latitude to make decisions.

Set boundaries and clear working times

Everyone understands an emergency once in a while but when working remotely it's easy to forget about time zone differences and workings days. If the boundary between the private and the working life is not clear your team might think they are expected to reply at any time of the day or night which will eventually create stress and disappointment.

Establish clear processes

Decide on the communication style for each situation. For example, you can email each other for things that can wait, but can also use a chat room that’s open 24/7 if something urgent comes up.

Set clear deadlines and make sure everyone knows the next steps on the project. Make use of the collaboration and sharing options that project management tools offer so you can see what others are working on and what’s left to be done.

When you need your workers to be available in certain hours of the day, set expectations as to when.

See our tips for good communication below.

Keep up with international holidays

It might seem annoying at first to have your team taking a day off while you're working but letting your remoters take days off in accordance with the country they are currently in will give them opportunities to spend time with their friends and families and participate in their community activity. They'll be able to refresh and unwind before going back to work more motivated than before.

In order to manage the disruption that having different holidays can bring we recommend to maintain a global calendar that includes everyone's holiday and to make it globally available for everyone.

Don't try to match working hours

Certain roles may require remote team members to be online/available during a set schedule. However, if your remote roles are more project focused, don’t get hung up on whether every team member is in front of their computer from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (or later) every work day. One of the biggest benefits for remote workers is the potential for flexibility in their hours: start early, work in the evening, etc. A common issue for people who work remotely is that they have a hard time disconnecting from work outside of regular business hours. You may want to focus more on ensuring your people take appropriate time for themselves and don’t burn out by working too many hours.

Have team members meet in the real world

You can build a strong remote team, but there is no substitute for face-to-face communication to cement relationships. Whether it’s getting team members together at an industry conference or planning a company summit, find ways for the team to meet in the real world on occasion.

Ensure good communication

This is when you expect team members to use one medium of communication rather than another

Be available

Remote does not mean absent. Even if you hire strongly independent team members, you still need to check in with your remote employees regularly, provide support and guidance as needed, and make sure everyone is on track and focused on the same goals.s

Timely meetings

Hold daily or weekly meetings to keep all members on track on a project’s progress.

Get good communication tools

Our team doesn't use email. Yes, You've read that correctly. We have not exchanged a single email in months. This might seem surprising to many companies that still use email as the catch-all default information management system. Part individual tracker part place where everything disappears in inboxes containing thousands or unread items that were Cc'ed to you for no particular reason. We don't use email and neither should you.

Don't make the mistaken assumption that we don't communicate; we do in fact exchange information all the time but we do it in the right way; using tool dedicated to each type of communication that we need to have.

Tasks

The tasks list is our foundation. Everything we need to do, or we think we need to do, go into our tasks list. We regularly prioritize the task list and everyone has access to it and knows exactly what are the priorities.

Everyone should know that the task list is the source of truth when it comes to what needs to be done and everything that was potentially discussed but didn't make it into the task list isn't something that ended up being planned. This very important rule allows everyone to stay focused without having to doubt whether they need to shift their priorities around following a conversation.

"Task lists" software comes in a multitude of forms from the much loved but simplistic trello or more or less fully featured project or team management platform like JIRA, asana, monday.com (etc...) all with a slightly varying feature set.

Chat

The chat is our pillar, anyone who is actually working is as much as possible connected to the chat so they can be pinged when it's important. This is where we have our short and to the point conversations and also where we chit-chat and share funny cat video once in a while to relax.

We do however not consider the chat as an always-on - always available channel as it is very disruptive. We recommend to all our teammate to remove the notification by default; unless they are explicitly pinged using the @user syntax.

Creating & Sharing documents

The chat is fantastic for small questions and quick clarifications but it is not the right place to discuss complex architecture or functional point in which a decision needs to be made and recorded. Neither is the tasks list.

A shared & collaborative document repository is what you need. Wikis can be a good solution but I personally prefer a platform that allows real-time co-editing. Google doc is a good starter so is Dropbox note but there are new entrants in the category every day such a Slite which are worth considering.

Video chat & conference

What can I say about this technology, it's old and reliable yet you wouldn't believe how many teams still don't have a working one-click meeting and conference system to save on a few dollars every month. While the typed chat is very useful it can quickly become cumbersome for more interactive discussion; better to switch over to a call.

Desktop sharing

It usually comes with the video chat or is integrated into the operating system but being able to quickly share a screen to demonstrate something or to seek help is a time saver.

Use many of them at the same time

Don't think this is an "or" proposition and do use many of the tools at the same time. You can completely use the chat to discuss point while recording the output in the master specification document or use the desktop sharing while prioritizing the task list to make it more interactive.

Boosting Employee Morale

Positive feedback

Reward achievements

Reward them with something useful

Mailing employees gift cards from places they cannot possibly access is a lazy tactic. To make rewards a bit more impactful, ask the employees you recognize what they would like as a reward. You can also reward them with cash prizes like a nice little bonus with their monthly salary.

Give them targets

Clear work targets assure remote employees where they need to be to achieve rewards. Give them weekly or monthly targets just like you would in a physical office.

Start off meetings with kudos

Unless you make time, remote teams rarely have the opportunity to celebrate victories. Kick off each team meeting by encouraging and praising employees. It’s also a good way to start any meeting on a high note.

Plan social events

Take advantage of meetups (if you can) by celebrating successful milestones with social events. It’s a great way to boost morale and to get the team to know each other.