The remote work trend is only becoming more common every year, as Wi-Fi becomes more readily available, and more jobs can be done online. However, most offices still limit remote work, and have their team members come in at least once a week. Only about 31% of American workers are remote full-time. Even that is changing, however, as more teams are discovering the perks of working fully remotely, including reduced costs and better opportunities to recruit top talent.
Some companies don’t have an office at all, and while it might seem amazing that any work gets done from afar, these companies have made it work—and made it work well. If you’re thinking about going all remote, here’s how it can work—as well as some pitfalls to avoid.
Scheduled Meetings Still Happen
Even though remote teams don’t gather in the same room, that doesn’t mean meetings can’t happen. In fact, getting the team “together” on a regular basis is one of the things that makes remote work actually succeed. Even just a 15 minute weekly check-in is all most teams need to make sure everyone is on track and working toward the same goals.
Working in different parts of the world can feel very isolating, so it’s important to remind everyone that they are part of a cohesive team. Since 89% of remote workers say consistency is a challenge, regular meetings can help to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Communication Flows Freely—Accountability is Key
Even though remote teams use communication technologies that allow for communication without meeting face to face, accountability and communication are keys to success. Using applications like slack or Hipchat, team members need to be responsive, and thorough about documenting their work.
It’s also important to have parameters for availability—if everyone is expected to be “on-call” at all times, or are just never reachable, remote work is unlikely to work. A healthy balance needs to be put in place from the beginning. Expectations need to be set up so that everyone knows how to meet them.
Saves Costs—and Time
Many remote workers enjoy a better work-life balance—especially when they are able to eliminate commuting from their daily routine. This saves everyone time (and aggravation), allowing productive work to start sooner. Companies will also save money on office space, coffee, snacks, and other common in-office perks.
Of course, remote work doesn’t work for everyone. In order to have a successful remote team, you need to hire people who can be productive without their manager present. You have to hire people you can trust, and come up with ways to help everyone work together as a team, even if they’re thousands of miles apart. Your employees need to be able to write and communicate well over chat, email, and phone, and you need to have systems in place for staying on track and checking in. Unfortunately, some people just can’t thrive in a remote culture, and you need to be prepared to make some tough decisions when necessary. A remote team can’t succeed if only part of the team is on board—the culture isn’t defined as well outside of an office environment, and everyone needs to be dedicated to making it work.
Close Monitoring and Communication
There are other problems that can arise with all-remote teams, including communication misunderstandings, due to lack of context or skilled written communication. This is why it’s so important that remote teams are overseen by trained managers who can closely monitor the team without micromanaging. Keeping the communication productive and constant is difficult, but it can mean the difference between success and failure.
Some companies have thrived in an all-remote environment, while others just can’t seem to make it work, and that’s okay. Some teams just work better in an office together.
If you think your team could work remotely, you don’t have to jump in with both feet. Try slowly transitioning your staff to more remote hours and see how everyone feels. Remote work may be the trendiest perk out there, but you need to make sure it works for everyone!
Ryan Ayers is a strategy and management consultant with over five years of experience in multiple industries including information technology, medical devices and logistics. Many clients call him the BizTech Guru. He is a freelance writer on the side and lover of all things related to business, technology, innovation and the LA Clippers.
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