Although not yet the norm, many companies operate successfully on a global scale with an entirely remote structure. Many are even finding it possible to scale their business. Guidance is unfortunately relatively scarce on how to establish best practices for 100% remote work. Here is what we know so far.
Three components are essential for working efficiently with a global team: the right people, the right tools, and the right processes.
The Right People
Without this piece of the puzzle, you have no puzzle. Choosing the right people is, far and away, the most important decision.
Remote work is not for everyone. As such, finding people that you trust who are also capable and dependable when working remotely, takes careful planning and a whole lot of thought.
A few thoughts on this:
1. Do your homework.
Remote work doesn’t work if you don’t trust your team. Time spent worrying about productivity and whether real work is being done when you are miles apart is completely unproductive.
Spend the time upfront to vet anyone you consider hiring. Ask the right questions to determine trustworthiness and go with your gut.
The other side of this rule is: once they’ve proven themselves to you, treat them like grown-ups and demonstrate trust. Provide as much flexibility as possible.
2. Hire hard workers who can write.
Hard workers work. Period. They get their work done and make things happen.
But hiring a hard worker isn’t enough if he or she doesn’t communicate well. When operating remotely, communication is essential to working efficiently. Considering the majority of communication is written, hard workers who can write are the holy grail.
The Right Tools
To maintain connectivity among remote team members, the right tools are also critical.
The particular tools you select to remain connected have to be right for your organization. Of course, you’ll consider options like:
Project management tools
Electronic signature tools
Customer support tools
The technology for these types of tools is forever evolving. Be sure to periodically assess the usefulness of the tool you’re using. While it is no fun to change platforms, if new technology emerges that could propel your team toward exponentially better productivity, it should be considered.
The Right Processes
The third component for a successful remote team is designing and documenting processes that work. This means designing, editing, deleting, designing again, and so on.
Good processes create structure that allows the work to happen.
1. Document your priorities.
For most successful companies, the customer is priority one. Without the customer where would we be?
If this is the case for your business, it should be documented on an intranet or a wiki along with priorities two, three, and so on.
This way, when new hires join your business, they can refer to your priorities document and get up to speed quickly.
2. Keep morale up.
Hangouts or weekly meet-ups are a good chance to develop rapport, stay connected, and even learn something new. Some companies call these meetings “all-hands” meetings.
Getting the team together is really for building camaraderie and praising and celebrating good work of the company.
When a remote team spans many time zones, this can be difficult. Consider recording these types of gatherings so those who were unable to attend can easily get caught up.
3. Maintain accountability.
Sufficient feedback must be provided to ensure work produced aligns with objectives. Different companies use different methods:
Weekly 1:1 Meetings. This type of meeting tends to work for smaller organizations. Manager and staff chat, preferably with video and screenshare capabilities, about the current workload.
Departmental Meetings. As companies scale and grow, remote meetings begin to look more like those of traditional models. At staff meetings, staff remotely report first to the department manager, who might be the CFO, CMO, or CTO. Then those department heads will remotely report to the CEO.
No matter what type of hierarchy the company uses, holding each other accountable to company-wide objectives is essential.
4. Don’t completely rule out in-person gatherings.
There is something special about remote teammates being together in-person.
Whether it is a departmental meeting that brings those who work remotely in the same city together or it’s a company-wide event that requires flying in from all over the world, good, old-fashioned face-to-face interaction will provide value every time.
It’s not cheap and maybe your organization is not yet there, but this is certainly something to keep on the table for when it does become a possibility.