The evolution of technology has completely transformed the way people work or businesses operate, subverting the paradigm of traditional workplace. Both large and small companies embrace remote work. The number of remote workers grows exponentially and thousands of companies comfortably manage remote teams located in Germany, Ukraine or India from their New York office in the US. Employees from Fortune 1000 already work distantly 60 percent of their time. Finally, government agencies, news organizations and independent researchers agree that remote work offers benefits to employers and workers alike. That’s why – to be or not to be a company that hires remote teams, is out of discussion in 2017. What really matters is how to make a remote team effective. Happily, the challenges you may face while managing a remote team mostly deal with people. Using the right tools will help you succeed, making sure everyone is communicating, collaborating and staying productive.
Remote work can take on many different forms
Measuring the amount of remote work in your company can get tricky. It starts from well-known freelance work, when companies hire employees to fit in with their project, schedule or needs (any given IT company can be an example). Then comes the part-time remote work with most of the hours spent in-office or with most employees being co-located (e.g. GitHub, American Express, IBM). And finally, remote-first, or full-time remote work is for people and companies that work remotely 100% of their time (e.g. Buffer, InVision, Stack Overflow, Zapier).
It’s all about remote today
Recently, remote work has become an attractive solution for both employees and employers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 43 percent of people are already working remotely (compared with humble 19% back in 2003). Almost 67 percent of companies allow their employees to work from home some time. In a 2016 Vodafone study, 58 percent of US companies admitted to increase profits from implementing remote work with flexible schedule. Speaking of remote workers, they become more productive and engaged with their jobs. Remote work also leads to greater profit and cuts employer spendings. A typical business can save $11,000 per person per year, saving up to $7,000 to the remote workers as well. Companies also benefit from less overhead costs for office supplies, space, and computers when they hire remote teams to work on a project.
Statistics shows impressive results for the companies who take advantage of remote work. However, the numbers don’t always reflect the value you are getting. Success stories from Stack Overflow, Zapier, Groove and hundreds of other companies are absolutely breathtaking.
With so many people telling that going remote is a great thing it is easy to fall into the trap of false certainty about the miraculous nature of remote work. Although it may work for most companies, there is a downside to the remote team model as well. For example, StatusPage.io has decided to consolidate instead of becoming distributed (another word for remote, by the way).
According to the article “Will Half of People Be Working Remotely By 2020?”, the future of work is about to become remote. Wondering how it will happen? The millennials would be glad to explain, as they strive for flexibility even more than businesses do. These people want to shape the future of work to fit their needs. The Generation Y and Z not only realize, that there is no longer a need in coming to the office, but also prove that they are more productive working from home.
The biggest wins are those you discover on your own
Along with increased productivity and decreased expenses, which are well described in the statistics and success stories, hiring a remote team grants you the following advantages:
- Hiring global talents. Going the remote route brings you on a whole new level of flexibility. You are free to hire the best workers for your company around the globe, regardless of geography.
- Commuting is a pain many office workers suffer every day. Imagine that an average commute time of 45 minutes from leaving home, traffic, parking the car and getting to work, equates to 300 - 400 hours of time which could be spent more efficiently. Along with wasted time it causes additional health problems to people, environment pollution with smoke to the planet and even ruins your marriage.
- With no commuting remote workers spend more time actually working. The HBR survey shows that such workers also tend to take fewer sick days and less vacation time.
- One of the best benefits of remote work for employees is the ability to work and travel at the same time. There are numerous tips for remote workers to make use of their flexible schedule and turn another work week into a vacation, enjoying every minute of their time. Such a change of place often leads to improved engagement and productivity as well.
- Remote teams allow your business to operate in different time zones, ensuring round-the-clock productivity. This brings us to a thought that flexible working hours will finally replace traditional nine-to-five schedule for most of the industries operating worldwide.
Hopefully you got the major insights into how a company can benefit from remote work. Don't take this as a final list or universal truth though. One of the beauties remote teams deliver is a feeling of an open mind and ability to experiment. So go ahead and get your own benefits from being remote.
Although remote teams bring many benefits, they may cause a few challenges as well. Fortunately, 90 percent of the challenges companies face while managing remote teams deal with people.
In order to succeed, your remote team members must be able to communicate, collaborate, and share ideas with efficiency and ease. This is why you must use the smartest technology to keep everyone organized, engaged and productive. We’ve got 7 tool categories to help you solve these problems and make remote team collaboration effective:
1. Team communication tools
Miscommunication can happen to any co-located or remote team. When your team members don’t communicate well, they become an untapped resource sitting on strengths you don’t even know about. Faulty communication between teams also causes collaboration and productivity to suffer. However, it becomes a real problem when your colleague is in a different county or time zone. To solve this problem every team member should stay in the information loop.
Luckily the technology comes in hand. All you need is to choose a communication channel and leave the rest to software. Business messengers like Chanty, Slack or HipChat get you covered with real time communication in private, public and one-on-one conversations; emojis, GIFs and stickers add a little levity to workflow-based discussions.
2. Video conferencing tools
Daily round ups or weekly meetings have never been so easy with video conferencing. Be it a direct call with Skype and Hangouts or a group call with GoToMeeting you will never lose your remote team out of sight. With the ability to chat, your employees can ask questions and share ideas with other team members as well. Speaking of chatting, business messenger users will also have an opportunity to make audio and video calls to your team members with no need to install dedicated apps.
3. Cloud storage and file sharing tools
Sharing files over the internet is an essential part of team collaboration. Tools like Dropbox, Box, OneDrive make sending, storing and receiving multiple files insanely simple. Once you upload a file, it can be accessed from any other device, web browser or native application. You can also set up shared folders for members of a team, so everyone has access to the files.
Your team will use these tools for most files that different in-office and remote team members would like to access, including sharing photos after a team meetup or vacation.
Don’t forget that you always have an opportunity to share multimedia files directly in your business messenger too.
4. File collaboration tools
Crystal clear communication is critical when it comes to managing a successful remote team. Most companies have their favorite channels of communication that keep their teams productive, connected, and engaged. In order to create a bond in a remote team working together, you should consider collaboration tools.
File collaboration in Google Suite, Microsoft Office 365 or Confluence allows not only to document business processes, meeting notes, knowledge bases and manuals, but also to work on all the company documents together in one place. There is no need for endless email threads attaching modified documents. All the documents are now a button away from sharing with co-located and remote team members.
5. Project management tools
Asana is a widely used project management tool that lets you run your day, your team, and your company from everywhere in the world. If you are looking for a project management system with less functionality than Basecamp is a good choice. You will monitor the tasks, discussions, scheduling and important milestones in a user-friendly dashboard.
Project managers can stay on top of every project of a remote team and always see the whole picture of what's in progress, easily delegate work, set deadlines, review, and evaluate what's left to do. Both Asana and Basecamp include all the tools remote employees need to never miss a deadline again.
Jira makes it easier to see a project making progress keeping your projects organized in separate boards with lists, notes and ability to assign tasks to any member of your remote team.
Integration of a business messenger and a project management software creates a single notification center for your team. Once you set up the integrations you can track the changes happening on your project and discuss them with your team real time.
6. Time tracking tools
Businesses large and small are still struggling with keeping track of employee time. Some ten years ago if you wanted to track your employees productivity, you would walk over to their office desks and talk to them. Now, with Timeboy, HiveDesk and Toggle there is no need to even be on the same continent. These popular time trackers are perfect for managing a remote team. They give an opportunity to track how much time is being spent on different tasks showing remote team efficiency.
Tracking time is also useful for remote teams as well. Imagine that you have worked for a whole day, but at the end have done only few tasks. Time trackers will let you know where you lost your time and it’s up to you and your manager to find ways for improvement. Finally, you will minimize unwanted and distracting activities focusing on your work to get better results with less time.
7. Software development and design tools
Software developers and designers are a vital part of almost any business, regardless of its size. It’s no wonder there are great tools to make remote developer teams more productive.
Bitbucket is a powerful collaboration project management tool for your code. All the development grind usually happens in Bitbucket, where the code is peer reviewed before it goes into master. Remote development team can easily collaborate on features, perform code review, and push out software updates on a regular basis.
Continuous integration and delivery powered by Bamboo lets you build, test and deploy your projects from any place in any time. Its integration with Jira, Bitbucket and HipChat gives a green light for a remote team to communicate and collaborate on the product builds real time.
InVision is a product design collaboration platform. It is amazing for building UX prototypes, sharing them with a remote team and gathering feedback.
Remote teams are still worth hiring at the end of the day
Remote work is absolutely a win-win for modern employees and employers, but it requires a change to a management system and a proper set of tools to receive the best results.
Statistics and success stories of remote-first companies prove that going remote is a right thing to do. Remote employees are thrilled with a chance to work from home or any other place different from an office. They are more than happy to get rid of commuting, make use of flexible working hours instead of 9-to-5 office work and be able to travel around the globe while still working in a company.
Employers are satisfied to see increased productivity, decreased costs, ability to hire regardless of your geographical location and work round-the-clock. As a result you can get top-notch candidates without investing in office space costs, electricity bills, office supplies and equipment. In addition, remote teams save money on commuting, take fewer sick days, enjoy increased productivity and higher engagement.
Project managers should constantly check that remote teams are not left lone or isolated, making them feel that they are a part of the company like their in-office colleagues. Most of the problems your remote team is likely to face are closely connected with team communication, collaboration and management. Luckily, using proper software tools offer a solution to any of these problems.
Check out our infographic – Remote team collaboration today & tomorrow. It will shed more light on the concept of remote work, give insights into the future of team collaboration and share tips on how to use the right tools to get the best results in your remote team.
This is a guest post by Nick Kamyshan, a Chief Executive Officer at Chanty – simple AI powered business messenger and a single notification center. This powerful and free Slack alternative is aimed to increase team productivity and improve communication at work. Nick is responsible for the development and execution of Chanty’s long term strategy and short-term plans, as well as for all day-to-day management decisions. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickChanty or feel free to connect on LinkedIn