Remote staffing is a fast-growing trend that many businesses might soon adopt. Check out this guide for managing an effective remote team.
In today’s business tips:
00:05 – Been reading the book “Remote”
01:07 – Is remote working the future trend?
02:23 – A strong culture is essential
03:03 – Focus on output
03:30 – Similar time zones help
04:28 – Our management structure
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James Schramko here with some tips on remote working.
The Freedom of Remote Working
I’ve just read a book called “Remote.” It’s by the 37signals guys, and it’s really good. It’s actually one of those books where I’m reading and agreeing with pretty much everything they’re talking about.
I already know how this works. You see, I quit my job more than five years ago. I work from home, like this. Currently, I’m the only person here, and that’s the way I like it.
I can really get stuff done. I can make a video like this, or I can answer emails, or I can read a book, or I can go for a surf, or I could just sleep. It doesn’t really matter, because I’m not getting interrupted. The interruptions I have are ones that I schedule.
Now I do not miss that transit time of getting in the car, driving through traffic, going to work, getting bombarded all day, and then driving home again. I like working from home. But it doesn’t have to be from home, I can work from anywhere. As you know, I travel a lot, I take my laptop with me, and wherever I am, that’s where I can do my work.
Can You Work Remotely?
So let’s talk about you and remote working. Is it something you can consider? The notion put forward in this book, which I agree with, is that it’s the way that things are going. Firstly, you can access a global marketplace of labor, so if you want to work with someone anywhere in the world, you can. The technology is here, it’s just a lot of companies haven’t really caught up with it.
When I’m talking to my clients, I’m actually showing them solutions that help them communicate better even if they’re in the same office as people. Things like Dropbox, Google Apps for business and Skype makes working online so much easier. We can be cloud-based.
I think that a lot of companies will eventually go this way. Some are actually winding back and going the opposite way, but I think that it’s going to continue to go more global and virtual.
Maintaining a Social Life
If you want to meet people, if you need that social thing, you can still meet with people as much as you like. Probably each week I would have coffee or dinner with someone who’s visiting town, or catch up with a friend of mine. I know lots of other remote workers and we hang out online.
There are also online communities. There are forums, like SuperFastBusiness.com, where currently we have nearly a thousand people, and a lot of them are actually remote workers as well.
A Strong Culture
So if you’re going to do remote working, what are some of the tips? Firstly, foosball table is not culture, OK? Jamming a few little pinball machines and having a room with beanbags does not make a culture, if you have a normal office.
So the thing is, the stronger the culture is in your business, regardless of whether you’re in an office or whether you are remote, the easier it is for you to go remote. Because if people know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it and what the company’s all about, they can get on with the job instead of being interrupted. So if you have a strong culture, then your remote team is going to be more effective.
Look For Output
Also, you don’t need to worry about all the controls and management, and seeing what everyone’s up to all the time. The chances are, even if they’re in an office they’re still on Facebook or doing personal banking. So I don’t worry about that.
What I’m looking for is output. I actually have very few controls and constraints in my business. But we hire the right people, we make sure that they know exactly what the job needs doing is, and then we get about doing it. And that’s how we’re so productive.
Similar Time Zones Help
Also one tip is, it does help if you have a fair amount of time where you’re on the same sort of time zone. I find it’s a little bit more difficult when I travel to the other parts of the world where I’m 12 hours apart from my team, like as far as possible in terms of the schedule. We only have a little overlap at the beginning and the end of each day, and then a lot of in-between time.
I like to work within a similar time zone as my team. All of my team are in the Philippines, which means they’re two to three hours apart from me, which is really good. So I can get access to information in real time if I need to, but in saying that we still have systems and things in place that mean we don’t have to be talking every second.
It’s also good to have a chat open. A social chat line, like a Skype chat, with the people in your group, so you can have that water cooler chat, that discussion, and that’s exactly how we roll. We have little chats for each of the different subgroups of our business.
We still have management structure as if it’s a normal business, but it’s quite flat. We have managers, team leaders, and then our general team. So that works really well for us.
There is a daily reporting requirement just to send a little note of anything out of the ordinary, anything exceptional or any sort of heads-up for what’s happening tomorrow, and we do have very, very small meetings, fairly often, just to say what’s happening and where we’re up to. That, plus some good solid reporting of knowing your numbers, you can get by. Now we’ve managed to do this around to about 60 people in our business, and they all work from home, probably in their tracksuit pants and T-shirts, and they have pretty flexible hours.
I think if you can enable some remote team members for your business, you’re going to see a significant lift in productivity, enjoyment, enrichment, and it’s really exciting to go and meet the people. I enjoy meeting my team. That’s something really important.
I say to customers of mine, “When you hit three to five people, that’s time to meet your team.” A live meet-up, once or twice a year, is invaluable. It really lifts the game. It puts a human face to it and no matter how remote you are, if you do meet up face to face, you’re going to build those connections.
So there’s my tips about a remote team, I highly recommend you read the book “Remote,” by the guys from 37signals. I’d love to have your comments here and I might even answer a few questions. I’m James Schramko, and this episode was brought to you by our remote team from all different places. Take care.
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