Leading a remote team has its challenges. However, most of the common fears managers have about remote employees aren't true. Managing a remote team, or even multiple offices across time zones don't have to diminish work quality or productivity. When you set up the right system, you'll have happier team members and ultimately better output.

There are specific tools for remote teams. That's not what this article is about. Instead, in this post, I want to dispel the fears and myths of running a remote team. My advertising agency is spaced out across three locations, allowing people to work as much/little as they want from home or remote locations.

Initially, I was fearful of our productivity taking a hit by allowing remote work; however, I found that by allowing people to work from where they were comfortable, their output actually went up. Not to mention, if your team members have lengthy commutes currently, giving them the ability to work from home/remote can give them more productive hours in the day to get work done and spend time on personal activities other than driving/riding a subway.   

1.You'll never know if people are actually working.

This is a common question I receive from other business owners when I tell them about our policies around remote work. It's quite easy to figure out if people are working and that's based on if they hit their deadlines for projects. Focusing on someone sitting in a chair at your office for 40 hours a week is the wrong metric. Instead, focus on their output. If our team members get their weekly work done in four days, that's great. They've just earned a longer weekend.

Focus on results over input.

That being said, communication and collaboration are big parts of work. So we have implemented core hours where team members have to be available to collaborate and answer questions from other team members. For us, these are between 10 AM - 4 PM EST, leaving freedom for our team members to work around these hours in whichever ways suit them.

If your team member isn't hitting deadlines and is dragging their feet one of two things has happened:

  1. You haven't clearly communicated the expectation of the team member and trained them appropriately to complete their tasks.
  2. You need to examine your hiring procedure. For remote workers, hire slow and fire fast if they're unable to adjust to the freedom.

2. Remote workers are going to cost more.

There's no doubt getting a remote worker set up at home, ensuring they have the proper equipment to get their job done will cost some money to get started. However, it's nothing on the cost of overhead having a physical office space will cost you. For tech companies, all that most people need is a solid laptop and decent internet. That cost is pretty nominal compared to office space, snacks, coffee, etc.

3. Remote workers feel disconnected from the team.

This is something you need to discuss with your team members individually. Some people love working in solitude, only communicating with team members when they need to.

However, I haven't found that to be the case. We use three communication tools all for different purposes attached to them. First, we use a project management tool called Trello for non-urgent communication around projects. This is similar to Basecamp, Jira, and many others. Next, we use Slack for quick communication and fun/general conversations. And lastly, we do video calls with our team members in GotoMeeting once a week so people can put faces to names.

With all of these, we don't discredit the positive effects of having everyone together in the same room and the camaraderie built after work hours over dinner or drinks as a team. With that in mind, we do a working week in a different city two times a year. We rent an Airbnb that can accommodate us and our work needs. Bringing people who work together from different parts of the country only strengthens the bonds the team members have already formed online.

I realize remote work isn't feasible for all industries and is somewhat reserved to the tech world. If it's something you've toyed with don't let these myths stop you from trying it out with your team.

Published on: Dec 12, 2017