Remote working is a hot topic. Ever-improving technology plus globalization mean that companies can employ staff who live in different parts of the world, and even those who like to work as they travel.
It can be tricky enough managing and growing a successful web design and development team in a single location. So imagine the complexities of managing a team of people that you rarely, if ever, see, who work from different locations around the globe, often with vastly different time zones. Without the right systems in place, there’s a danger of miscommunication and misunderstanding, which is bad news for your clients and bad news for your business. It’s not all bad though.
The benefits of remote working
First, a quick reminder of why remote working is so popular for employers and employees alike.
For employers, it means they can pick the cream of the crop from a global pool of talent while saving valuable costs in terms of office space and equipment.
Employees, meanwhile, extol the virtues of an improved quality of life, a better working environment, and they love the scheduling flexibility involved. This means they can work around school holidays and after-school activities, be at home for important deliveries, and take advantage of quieter hours at their gym. They can even decide to pack up and head somewhere warm during the winter months.
There’s another important recipient to these benefits too: the environment. Remote working reduces the amount of commuters on the road, whereas smaller offices mean less energy used (and smaller heating bills!).
Convinced that remote is right for your team? To help you navigate the difficulties, here are six tips for managing a remote WordPress agency:
Hire the right people
You need people who are doers, people you can trust to get the work done by the required deadlines (and not be tempted to sit around watching cat videos), and people who are excellent communicators.
Remote working isn’t for everybody – some people are unable or unwilling to motivate themselves, while others simply don’t work well away from an office environment. While co-working offices can provide a useful work environment for the latter group, you want to ensure that your remote team members have the right mindset and motivation to succeed away from the office.
Set goals and expectations
If people are going to work effectively, they need to have a thorough understanding of their goals and responsibilities for a project, and be clear on the project timeline.
There are several excellent project management tools available, such as Redbooth, where everybody can keep up to date with how a project is progressing and track their personal progress. (I’ve written more about useful tools for communication and collaboration here.)
It’s a good idea to introduce a culture of accountability, where team members post an update at the end of each week, along with their goals for the following week.
Be clear about time
Time can cause all manner of problems when team members are working from different time zones. To avoid any nasty surprises, use a tool such as World Time Buddy so you don’t try to contact colleagues at an inconvenient hour or schedule a call that falls in the middle of the night for one of the most important participants.
It’s also important for team members to be transparent about their working hours – if they work part-time elsewhere or have other commitments such as looking after family, it’s important that their colleagues know when they’re available and when they’re not, so workflow on a project isn’t disrupted.
Communication is key
For some people, it’s easy to be distracted when working in an office – gossip and office politics can drag you away from the important work at hand. But for remote teams, the opposite can be just as difficult.
It’s easy to get distracted or become unmotivated when there is silence. A tool designed for chatting, such as Slack, is a great way to stay in touch with your colleagues, while regular video calls or hangouts help you get to know each other a little better. (Nonverbal cues tell you a lot about a person.) Plus, it’s much easier to discuss a problem or issue over a call than it is to exchange numerous emails.
Build personal relationships within the team
Building personal relationships with your team and encouraging them to learn about each other is vital to building a strong team culture. Find out what your team members’ hobbies and interests are, and make sure you remember their birthdays – you may not be able to pop to the pub for a drink after work, but you can all sing happy birthday over a hangout. Bonus points if you remember important holidays in their country of residence!
If possible, try to arrange actual meetups occasionally so you can hang out and do fun stuff. A team retreat or fun day out is a great way to bring people together and gives you the opportunity to learn things about each other that wouldn’t come to light over email.
Instill a culture of respect and trust
Finally, you need to instill a culture of trust and respect throughout your team. Without trust, you simply have a group of individuals working for themselves. In a remote team, there are no rules about being glued to your screen at specific hours. But for this to work, everybody on the team must be able to trust their colleagues to deliver on their promises, so they can focus on their work without worrying about being let down.
If your remote team is going to be successful, trust is the foundation, along with respect for each other’s beliefs, perspectives, philosophies, personalities, ethics, and abilities.
Remote working has many benefits for employers and employees – as long as it’s carefully managed. Do you have a remote team? If so, what are the tips and tools you use to ensure its success? Tell us below.
What’s next: Running a remote agency: How to adapt & thrive
We partnered with our friends at Wholegrain Digital, an agency based out of London who’s been semi-remote since 2007, to bring you some advice dedicated to transitioning and managing remote teams successfully.
In this webinar, we dive into the nitty gritty of working remotely with Wholegrain Digital’s Managing Director, Tom Greenwood, and discuss challenges around defining expectations, managing a work/life balance, and communicating with your team members. Walk away with tangible advice for you and your team. Ready to get started? Join the webinar here!