A remote team has been a trend for many years now.
The advantages, for one thing, are clear: you don’t have to pay for the office, hunt for talent in a particular location, etc.
For employees, there’s a sack of advantages as well: no dress-code, busy traffic, uncomfortable place at the office, etc.
Remote work is a modern and comfortable way to push the project forward.
It spreads at the impressive pace in e-commerce, mobile app development, etc. There over 700 000 lost to outsourcing, statistics say (in the US alone).
It all seems easy and perfect until it isn’t.
A fair share of teams that tried going remote has eventually bounced back into a traditional system.
Employees get bored after working at home for a while, put on their office outfits and hunt for a full-time cubicle position.
Why do we seem to settle for a less comfortable solution for both parties? Is there a way to manage a remote team at its peak activity?
At first, let’s take a look at all the roadblocks you can face with remote IT jobs.
Tracking and Evaluation Problem
It’s one thing when an employee is at the office 9 till 5 – you can always take a look at all the work in progress.
Even if someone in the company or department isn’t doing very well, you’ll at least know they’re trying.
Even with best remote jobs, things are different.
If you haven’t heard from an employee in a while, how can you know if he or she is even working?
Maybe, the member of your team is just too busy pulling off all-nighters but, far more likely, he’s not at work at all.
There’s always a risk your freelancer will not meet the deadlines or even worse, bails on you.
Even outsourcing companies do not always provide enough feedback. It makes you feel rather helpless.
That’s why building an offshore development team is all about dedication and legal agreements.
It’s not the same as having an in-house team because your service provider actually hires the right people for a full-time job strictly on your project and provides everything from a workplace to free coffee and a ping-pong table.
With all that said, your contractor would make sure everybody is result-driven and everything works efficiently.
Besides, there are some things that everybody should be aware of.
Lack of Dedication
When you work at the office, you eventually feel a vibe of the company.
You soak in the corporate culture, the values – and before you know it, you’re the company.
Even if one tried to be indifferent to what is going on at the job, he probably couldn’t, seeing how you spend most of your day at the office.
Working on remote tech jobs, employees are generally more indifferent to what’s happening at the company.
In most cases, the employees haven’t even met each other as well as the manager.
So, even if you try to inspire them to work, it’s easier to be done at the office rather than via Skype or Google Hangouts.
The lack of dedication is a huge problem regarding remote teams and a strong stumbling point for managers.
Even in a remote company, you can ask each member to sign a DNA. Tracking its compliance, however, is way harder.
What is easy to achieve at the office by installing tracking software, is not as possible while managing a remote team.
Confidentiality breaches can occur, taking into account the fact that your employees can manage a few projects simultaneously.
Managing Time Zone Differences
One of the biggest points in favor of office job is that you and all of your employees are physically close to each other.
Managing remote software development jobs, however, you can hire people that are not only in a different zip-code but in a whole different part of the world.
Time management is crucial when it comes to working on a project – successful people have a lot of practices to follow and share.
However, the time difference makes the work in international distributed teams so much harder.
Scheduling group chats and calls is a challenge – same as setting a deadline or keep one-on-one communication efficient.
How to Make the Most out of Remote Work
You just might find a solution that gives you the ease of staff augmentation, ability to onboard experienced specialists or even talents with rare skills and saves you a lot of money at the end of the day.
Though to get it all at the same time, make sure your service provider is already doing it for someone else and they feel happy about it.
You might have got an idea that one mistake will result in complete failure for you.
It’s not necessarily the truth.
On the contrary, the hard part is choosing the right remote work model and reliable contractor.
The rest actually depends on your needs and capabilities.
Communication Is Always the Key to Success
In any team, being able to address issues and work on new solutions is crucial.
When it comes to remote work, communication is not just an important factor but a stepping stone for a successful collaboration.
The following tips are to keep the ongoing communication efficient.
Find a platform that will be your company’s virtual office
For many, it’s Slack thanks to its multi-functionality.
However, you can use Basecamp, WhatsApp, or anything else that appeals to you.
When a remote developer is working, he has to be online. If he’s not at the virtual office – he’s not at work.
Come up with a clear system of reporting
Choosing a day for receiving reports and setting up team chats is a very useful practice.
That way, everyone on the team will stay disciplined and motivated.
Separate work and personal life of your team members
Due to the time difference, a lot of remote teams don’t have any boundaries whatsoever.
However, by demanding your employee to be online 24/7, you ask too much.
Establish a number of working hours an employee has to put in – normally, it’s an 8-hour work day.
Set up a place for face-to-face meetings
Obviously, if you’re thousands of miles away from each other, it’s impossible.
However, if all of your employees are within the same country, make sure to plan and schedule a team retreat.
It can be as much as a week per year, yet it creates a huge boost in terms of dedication and communication.
How to Approach the Hiring Process
Thinking of how to manage remote teams, make sure to gather a strong reliable team, which you can trust.
That’s especially important if you choose to work with freelancers since you don’t have control over the process and far not all the freelancers are trustworthy – some of them fail to meet your requirements, deadlines and even bail on the project.
Here are a few more tips to follow while scouting your future talent.
While you can control the progress by making calls and video chats, a lot of things are discussed in writing.
For that reason, it’s amazing to hire someone who’s at ease with writing. It’s not the main criteria for a successful remote worker, yet a crucial one.
Hire those who don’t need busy socialization
Almost every remote company has a person or two who are rocking up every chat or group and seem very active there – however, there’s little to say about them when it comes to actual work.
Make sure your next hire is okay with just working quietly instead of distracting every member of the corporate chat.
Hire people you trust
Working with remote teams, sometimes you don’t get to see new hires.
Sometimes the only thing you ever now is the nickname in the chat.
Remote work is distant, so it’s important you trust the one who’s in the other end of the line.
Here, one of the best practice is to trust your gut (or heart, whichever you prefer).
Hire people who can work anywhere
Your team can be on a trip, in the middle of personal perturbations, etc.
While it’s all extremely overwhelming, it’s important that all the work gets done.
Make sure you hire doers – people who can finish their project on mobile app development or anything else regardless of where they are or what changes they are currently undergoing.
Use the Tools That Suit Your Needs
A comfortable workspace is important. That’s why we put kitchens and espresso machines at the offices.
Much like a physical office, it’s important that our virtual workplace is comfortable.
In order to make sure you’re making the most out of working remotely, here are some tools you can start using.
If you feel like you’re lacking the control over your employees, ask them to use Swiggle.
The tool takes a picture of a person in front of the computer every 8 seconds.
That way you can know that the employee is at his workplace tweaking the project instead of handling personal stuff.
The tool is an easy well-known way to manage spreadsheets.
So, if you’re not exactly fond of long rows of Excel, consider using Airtable for team management.
Everyone who’s worked at the office knows that stand-ups perform miracles in terms of project management.
However, done via Google Hangouts or Skype, team chats can be too complicated and distracting.
iDoneThis simplifies the process tremendously by creating a daily digest of the things every member of the team has accomplished during the previous day.
Out of all the editors available on the market right now, Google Docs is the most comfortable one for teamwork.
A few people can simultaneously edit the documents and make changes.
Also, all the changes are auto-saved on the Cloud – this makes collective writing so much easier.
Contracts, NDAs, and other important documents need to be signed all the time.
However, doing all of that remotely is quite often complicated and time-consuming.
With Hello Sign, you can spare yourself the trouble of printing, signing, and scanning the document – just sign the paper online.
Remote work is one of the ways of collaboration that hasn’t been around until recently.
Technical advancements made all of it possible. However, most teams still prefer an in-house team to a distributed one.
Surely, working remotely has its own sack of issues – lack of dedication from the team, communication troubles, difficulties tracking and assessing the results of team performance, etc.
On the other hand, each of these problems can be eliminated or may not even take place, depending on what type of remote work you use.
Keep in mind that before looking for a service provider, you would need to define what location (country, city) is the best fit for you.
Look for places with the highest concentration of tech talent and lowest salary rates.
For example, Ukrainian software developers are often listed as one of the options with appealing price/quality ratio.
There’s no way you can exclude the location from this equation unless time shifts and cultural rifts don’t bother you.
However, any uprising issues can be solved with a few measures.
Go an extra mile when it comes to communication, hire trustworthy employees ready to work on the go, and don’t forget to use the right tools.
Such instruments as Google Docs, Airtable, Slack, or Basecamp make life a lot easier but you can always browse the web and find something you’d be even more comfortable with.
Is remote work the future? If done right, it is a blast.
Remember, that you only learn by doing, so don’t hesitate to experiment and implement new working practices.
Anastasia Stefanuk is a passionate writer and a marketing manager at Mobilunity. The company provides professional staffing services, so she is always aware of technology news and wants to share her experience to help tech startups and companies to be up-to-date.