Why are remote working teams relevant and what do you need to consider to achieve one?

Published on: 19 Dec 07:18

When we hear about remote work, we are often worried. But where do the worries come from and why do they occur? Is it possible to find a plausible reason to understand the issue? What snares exist and what aspects shall we consider to better coordinate remote teams?

unsplash-logoMimi Thian

The traditional 9 to 5 working life has been internalized over time, even though we are in a civilized society. The typical day of a worker usually begins at 8 or 9am and ends in the afternoon or the early evening. It became a routine, which we got used to. But now imagine a manager who always lived the 9 to 5 working life and suddenly will be confronted by remote work. This now means that his employees can choose freely their working space and times. Of course the manager will now feel losing control, so that emerging worries and concerns become comprehensible.

Besides the "traditional 9 to 5 working life" there is a contrary position, which means a new and modern manager, who is striving for the remote work on purpose. But though both of them have to deal with difficulties and to overcome them:

Communication: The remote work originally strived to save costs. In the beginning it seemed to be very rare to have a good team work because of the few systems and programs existing at that time, with email and telephone as the most common ones. But nowadays we have a wide range of programs, helping us to communicate and facilitate many work steps. To mention a few of those: Google Hangouts, Whatsapp, Zoom, Skype, Slack, Trello, Clubhouse etc. Instead of the real face to face interaction we have the video call on regular basis, which is especially suitable for remote work. Furthermore, the wide range and progress of systems help us to push forward the quality of remote work and make the work more reliable. At that point it is important to mention that every team needs to find its most efficient program to work with.

Presence and visuality: As mentioned in the beginning, surprises or huge changes won’t make everyone happy – especially affected managers. When you work remotely, there won’t be visuality or physical attendance of the complete team as it is the case in the office. Therefore, the work is based on trust. Just for that the team should be in line to make the most out of the remote flexibility. Due to the work time issue, the work effort can only be measured by the results. Thereby, the risk to overlook the efforts - which were made but can’t be measured properly such as active sourcing (it takes time but often ends up with only a few end results) - is pretty high. In that case a lot of time was spent but can’t be seen and can thus evolve a wrong impression. But all in all manager of remote teams can’t have the 100% insight of every members’ efforts.

Let's have a look at the five aspects to prepare remote teams with very necessary aspects to succeed.

1. Remote work needs adjustment

In the beginning it is important to mention that not everyone is suitable for working remotely. For some it is a blessing and for others it is a curse – both blessing and curse concerning private life, the place of residence and personal interests. Besides the remote work also depends on factors, for instance the field of work. To make an example: a developer can work with his equipment and know-how from any place. It wouldn’t make a big difference if he did his work in the office or at home. On the other side there is for example a production worker. He wouldn’t be able to work remotely because he depens on the machine he’s working with.

There are still open questions about remote working freelancers. For example, imagine being a manager who has to decide whether or not employing a candidate. How will he know how he acts within a team? How is the candidate responding with its soft-skills in a remote surrounding? The candidate might be brilliant in his profession but may not be compatible with the team. Not knowing that before can be challenging sometimes. That’s why it is so important, to observe the following attributes more in detail:

1.1 Self-initiative and proactivity: Is the candidate proactive and self-initiative? While there should be online meetings on regular basis to keep each other updated, it would also be beneficial to have someone being able to work independently and to look after meaningful and efficient tasks for the company without being intensly delegated or guided.

1.2 Setting priorities: a competent remote worker has a good sense for relevant and irrelevant things. Especially as a remote worker it is important to know how to set priorities in a good manner for delivering results which develop and enrich the company.

1.3 Writing skills: The communication in remote working teams is generally based on a writing habit by using internal communication channels. Because of the writing habit it is well appreciated to be able to keeping a good standard in written form as well as expressing yourself appropriately and precisely to avoid misunderstandings.

So, where do I find people being familiar with these skills? That kind of people more in the start-up scene or freelancer who already have a remote working background. That’s because in both of the mentioned scenes you will be automatically confronted by being self-iniciative, setting right priorities and more.

2. Setting Framework conditions but giving space for freedom

Doubts and concerns about remote work arise because of the difficulties and lack of experience of this new working culture.

Experience shows that good and productive working teams are very often free and self-determined in their work. There is plenty of room for each individual, unless some conditions are met. So it is important that employees have the full use of freedom to be creative and productive, but also a control function is needed because it secures that everything is in the slot.

How can you reconcile all of this? Prerequisite is a regular team call for communication and the use of selected systems for internal use. Only then it makes sense to give the team members their freedom, so they can be limitless in their capabilities. Depending on their place of residence, martial status and personal interests, the developers feel more independent than the traditional office worker. This also has a positive effect on the company because the feeling (of freedom and self-determination) influences the attitude to work as well as the work performance.

In the coming years, the number of remote teams will increase and a control function will be always necessary so that things don’t get out of hand.

3. Find the right way to measure the results

As mentioned above, there are leaders who measure the productivity of their employees by counting the number of working hours, but it is more meaningful for remote teams to measure and highlight the productivity by the delivered results. Is the team progressing and pushing new things forward? If yes, this is certainly a good sign. Remote teams need to be measured correctly! But how? This is tricky but the responsible manager has to figure it out by himself in consideration of his team. He also should question himself if his measurement is realistic or not.

4. Choose the right tools

The choice of the most suiting tool is an essential factor for the success of a remote working team. Very important to mention is also the quality of the internet connection. As a remote working freelancer, quick and reliable internet shall be more than a matter of course. Only by this the communication and arrangements can go smoothly. The modern century also provides us more and more new programs, which facilitate the work in several ways. Because of that reason the communication of remote teams can almost be compared to the one of teams working in a fixed office. Of course the personal and physical contact based communication is still not equal to the online based communication but the latter doesn’t have any serious disadvantages.

Real-Time Communication: Real-time communication is also relevant for remote teams. To achieve real-time communication once a day for a short time is a good habit! Some remote teams have an agreement, for instance us from Gerlent: We have a daily standup call which lasts about 20 minutes to get updated about everyone’s tasks. Another meaningful agreement in our team is the following: due to the different time zones we’re located, we have to respond to messages within 24 hours during working days.

There are various tools available for communication, whether with or without video. We are very happy with Slack, but also Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype etc. are useful tools. Each of these programs has its own advantages and disadvantages.

5. Implementation of routines/traditions

Routines are necessary to hold everything together and help to find a rhythm. At Gerlent we have our daily standup call as mentioned above. Besides, we have the tradition to provide a short weekly update to our team manager with a brief summary of our tasks of the past work week. In addition to that, we also have commitments for the new week, which we strive to fulfill. These are only some of the many routines that can be maintained as a remote team. They also help to support the team and to keep it together.

Conclusion

It is obvious that remote workers have deliberately chosen this career, allowing them to isolate themselves from the standard working hours (9 to 5 scheme). Moreover, these people are also more productive if they can be autonomous and have this freedom. It can be beneficial to have established an authoritative internal structure that will help to achieve desired projects and goals. The use of selected tools should not be neglected!