4 Tips For Managing A Remote Team

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A recent survey reveals that most Canadians would prefer to not have to commute to the office day after day. According to the Connected Workplace report sponsored by Rogers and conducted by Harris Decima, over half (53%) of Canadians working full-time consider the ability to work remotely either somewhat important or very important. The report also shows that there is a gap between the number of days employers them to work from home and how many they’d like to work from home.

You can view the findings here:

I was somewhat surprised by the fact 56% of Canadians in the workplace are no permitted to work remotely. I’m surprised because Grassroots Online has been designed to allow the entire team to work from wherever they are.

As the business has grown, so have the processes in place to manage the activity of the team here. We collaborate with vendors across Canada and the United States, many of which I rarely see in person. So, here is some advice on working with a remote team:

Have a central repository for all client matters

There is nothing worse that an infinite email thread. If you are serious about working remotely, you need to have one place where the history of the file resides. That includes discussions, assets, calendars, to-do lists and anything else. We use Basecamp for our primary project management tool, with Asana and Trello being two other popular options.

Shared infrastructure

Tools like Basecamp are great, but you often need a place where you can keep and access your files from wherever you are. Most have heard of Dropbox and they are great, but I only use them for initially transferring files – I don’t like to keep files there due to the lack of password protection if my was ever swiped. We FTP a lot of our files on our various servers to areas we designate for larger files to be located and stored.

Use video for calls

Email and messaging can be impersonal, so we encourage video calls to all for the “face-to-face” interaction. Skype is a simple tool to use for group calls (if you have a pro account), but I would also recommend Google Hangouts for teams under 10. I like video chat rather than conference calls as you can pass things like links or even files to other team members in the app during the call rather than emailing or posting to your project files.

IM the small stuff

Using a shared Instant Messaging (IM) app like iMessage, WhatsApp, Kik or even BBM allows for you to converse with your team for small, temporary items such as quick heads up or simple questions. I find it replaces the intimacy of an office, as it is more informal and personal. It is my primary method of communication for day-to-day conversations with the team and I find it really keep the “epaper” clutter (emails, posts, etc) to a minimum.

If you’d like more resources, there are some excellent ones out there. The guys who built Basecamp, 37Signals, have released their third book, Remote: Office Not Required, which discussed how they built a company with staff on different continents. This is also a great video about how to get started with remote teams. And finally, I like this article about managing a virtual team. The author goes through the process of how he set up a virtual team and deal with the challenges.

Working remotely is certainly not for everyone. It takes discipline and the ability to complete your tasks with little to no daily supervision. But it also provides a flexibility that is an important requirement for juggling busy personal and professional lives.

Do you work remotely? Any tips that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below.

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