As our means of communication continue to modernise so rapidly, remote working is not only becoming more of a reality for businesses, but the preferred way of doing things. In fact, a 2009 study by the ladies and gentlemen over the sea at MIT (that would be the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) maintain that nowadays, virtual teams can even outperform those which share a location (those would be offices).
Of course, there are several variables which must all align correctly in order for a team of telecommuters to perform as efficiently as those who share a water cooler. Primarily, I am referring to management. Getting the best out of a team who all work remotely takes an all-together new kind of management, though one which does employ many universally recognised business practices.
Here are some of those practices:
Keep Everyone in Close Communication
Maintaining a sense of ‘team’ is pretty important for the continued success of any team, though when it comes to telecommuting teams, it’s absolutely imperative. Making sure that each member is in regular communication with their co-workers is essential for fostering a sense of inclusion, as well as for providing continued opportunity for input and the growth and honing of ideas.
The means by which this is done is of little consequence, though the more stress-free and at-hand-in-the-home-office options will obviously prove more effective. In my experiences e-mails have sufficed, but I’m a lowly writer and my world revolves around black letters on a white page. If your trade is a little more visual or otherwise aesthetically exciting then you could always give the likes of Skype, or heck even Snapchat a go!
Create a Neutral Mind-set
A principal difference between in-house business teams and their telecommuting counterparts is the issue of, and indeed the implications of, hierarchy. Though competition is famously and rather directly encouraged between individuals and teams in the office environment, this kind of attitude can be dysfunctional amongst a team of professionals working together, remotely.
On the flip-side, we have a ‘co-operative’ mind-set. The flaws involved with this revolve around the looming problem of over-niceness and the blockage of constructive criticism and the benefits the venting of personal opinions and discretions bring to any team. Bring together both competition and cooperation, be collaborative.
Inspire and Lead
Any professional team must know its own purpose within the bigger picture, however once again it is even more important in the case of remote teams. As well as knowing their own role within the larger enterprise, telecommuters require frequent reminders of what is expected of them and how they individually contribute to the team. Without this kind of clarity, inspiration and leadership, it’s extremely easy for a remote worker to slip in productivity and proficiency.
Create and Apply Standards
It is vital that, in order to remain productive, a telecommuting team must be comprised of members who actively adhere to certain standards in both their work and conduct. Given the variation in backgrounds a team will in all likeliness possess, as well as the inability a manager has in overseeing work-time directly, it is important that everyone knows what is expected of them.
More than anything, issuing standards and micromanaging any departments that don’t meet them is an opportunity to further encourage the aforementioned ‘team ethic’. Set benchmarks, make your own suggestions, allow for retort and articulate your expectations clearly at all times.
As I’m sure we all know, employee morale is, or at least should be considered as important to the success of a company as the proper management of cash flow. Just as the office party (unfortunately) exists, you should take steps to reward, celebrate with and therefore bond with your team- and allow them to do so with each other. Granted, it can be tricky given the circumstances, but just think of it as another way to get creative with one another!
Management is management regardless of the circumstances laid before you. The ability to persevere goes hand in hand with clarity of thought and ability to communicate in the proper way in the virtual office-place just as it does anywhere else.