Did you know that around "20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency?" Even more interesting, "80% to 90% of the U.S. workforce says they would like to telework at least part time."
Over the past 10 years I've either worked from home part time or full time. This also includes my team as well. Between technological advances and the rise of freelancing, remote working has become widely accepted by companies and preferred by many employees. The biggest problem with this is managing these remote team members can become a hassle.
Before you consider hiring a remote, let's take a look at the pros and cons of remote teams that I've discovered over the years and how you can manage your team (or yourself) more efficiently.
The Pros of Remote Teams
The biggest advantage that remote teams offer are the financial savings for your organization. The most obvious is being how much you pay in labor costs. For example, a computer programmer in the U.S. averages $59K annually, while in India that same developer would cost around $5,457 per year. That's a big chunk of change that you'll be saving. In fact, some companies have been able to "cut their labor costs by as much as 30 to 70 percent for offshored functions." I'm not saying this is for everyone as I've had my problems outsourcing but it can help.
On top of labor costs, you don't have to be concerned with renting a large office or investing in equipment, resources, and tools because they already possess the equipment and skills needed to complete a project. This not only saves money, it also speeds up workflow and productivity since your remote team can jump right into an assignment.
You also don't have to worry about relocating you or your business since you can hire individuals in your target area and signing long-term contracts.
A final perk of remote teams is that you have the time and resources to focus on improving the core of your business. By outsourcing peripheral projects and services, such as content creation or coding, you can work on the big picture like acquiring and maintaining customers.
The Cons of Remote Teams
There are also a number of cons involved with remote teams. The first one that comes to mind are the hidden costs involved with outsourcing. For example, the computer programmer in India is incredibly cheap, but will they be creating the same quality of work that the programmer in the States? If not, you may end-up having to pay someone to redo the work or completely scrap the project and hire a different person.
You also have to take into consideration barriers like language, time zones, and culture. If English isn't the first language of your remote team members then there could definitely by a lot of miscommunication and you may have to hire someone to translate for you or the work that's been submitted. As for time zones, you could be several hours ahead or beyond your team members. Just because it's 9am doesn't mean it's the same for them. So, don't get nervous if they don't respond to your email immediately.
Other concerns include security since information is sent online, confidentially of team members sharing sensitive information, staying organized, and syncing deadlines since you're not in the same room.
How to Stay Organized and On Task When Not in the Same Room
While there several concerns when working with a remote team, the benefits far outweigh those risks. And, most of the cons listed above can easily be avoided or resolved by taking the following measures before you're officially bring new team members on board.
Assemble the Right Team
Managing remote teams can be a whole lot easier when you have the right players in place. In a perfect world you could have an entire team assembled from referrals or from past experience. For example, I have come across several talented freelancers over the years because I world with them at the same organization. Even though I didn't know them personally, I could trust them because I trusted that the organization I was with trusted that these people were talented and reliable.
However, not everyone has the same privilege. In that case, you could use freelancer marketplaces like Upwork or Toptal. What's great about these sites is that freelancers have example of their work and clients leave feedback. You can review this information before taking a chance on hiring someone that you don't know.
No matter where you find your team, you want to have a brief one-on-one conversation with them - preferably on the phone if you can. This gives you a chance to find out if they're the right fit for your culture and what type of worker they'll be. If you get the feeling that they aren't organized then you may want to move on to the next candidate.
Use the Right Tools
The abundance and availability of tools have made remote working what is today. Without these tools, there's absolutely no way that you could manage, communicate, and keep your team on the page.
While there are hundreds of tools out there, here are seven tools that I believe are 100% essential;
Have a Process in Place
Even if you have the most incredible team ever assembled and are using the right tools, you still need to have some sort of process to tie everything together. Having a process allows you to effectively manage your team since it provides structure and a system for how you and your organization want things done.
The first part of this is communication. If you use Slack, then you're off on the right track. But you should go beyond just notifying your team members of any updates or changes. You should have frequent communication with them both individually and as a team.
Some organizations like to have weekly meetings through GoToMeeting or Google Hangouts so that everyone can get caught-up-to-speed and can share any new ideas, thoughts, or concerns. It's not only a way to keep your team organized, it's also a team for the team to learn something new or brainstorm ideas.
When scheduling a time, pick a time that is best for your entire team by asking everyone in advance. To make it fair you may want to alternate times every week. One week it could be at noon, but the next week 8pm. This way it's fair for everyone.
You can also plan to speak individually with team members every month to find out what the team member is excited about, their concerns, what they can do to improve, and how you can help them make that improvement. If you don't have time for a Skype call, an email can also work.
Besides communication, another process you can implement is making team member accountable for their own work. If you assign a deadline then that team member is responsible for that deadline to be met. But, how do you know when it's complete? Do they know the submission process? Whether if it's crossing it out in a Google Doc or in Trello to make sure that the team member marks that their assignment has been completed. As for submission, will a Google Doc suffice? Do you want it in WordPress or a PDF file? Inform the team how you prefer the final work to be sent so that projects get to when and where you prefer.
You may have to guide them at first, but your most trusted team members will have them process down without you having to remind them. And, when that happens, you can assign them projects and let them go-to-work without much direction.