The Impact of Covid-19
The working world has changed a lot over the past few years. The pandemic has seen an acceleration in the trend towards working at home. A survey by Owl Labs found that, after Covid-19, 80% of people expect to work from home for the majority of the week. Although we appear to be reaching the tail-end of the virus, it seems that working from home is one trend that is here to stay.
For many, the transition to remote work started with setting up a dedicated workspace, learning new virtual collaboration tools, and adapting to new ways of interacting with colleagues and clients virtually. The workspace moving into people’s homes has presented an interesting challenge for managers, who now can’t use their physical presence to motivate and to delegate, but instead need to make that presence felt in online spaces, and ensure open communication and collaboration over potentially boundless distances.
Managing a Remote Workforce
Managing remote teams in 2022 hinges on one overarching principle: communication. You need to establish a communication method for your team that works for them, and a method that is beneficial to you as the leader. If you are not creative, a management strategy can turn out to be extremely tedious when handled entirely online.
Being a great team leader is no easy thing, but there are certain tenets that you should always keep in mind. The key elements are:
Building a team that can effectively work together.
Being an effective motivator.
Ensuring good interpersonal relationships.
The management process always begins in the hiring process. A team of developers will typically have learned their skills in an online environment, and therefore are used to handling information remotely. However, it’s important to hire people who are self-organized and dedicated enough to be suitable for a remote job. In interviews, ensure that any potential members of the remote team possess strong levels of self-motivation and are proven to be reliable when left to their own devices on their own time.
The Importance and Limitations of Standard Email
Once you have assembled a team you are confident in, it is time to put some real thinking and creativity into developing an effective team communication method. This is an area that can be defined in many ways, but the key factor is setting up an environment that encourages team members to communicate regularly and effectively.
Whilst setting up a company email is imperative for making official communications look professional and establishing a recognisable company brand - you can see how to make a custom email domain here - remote teams shouldn’t rely on just email. Sending different emails between you and your teammates is inefficient and time consuming, and you should instead set up a team resource platform that you and all of your team can access. This should include time management tools, monitoring capabilities, and shared cloud storage. You may want to set up a system where each employee is assigned a task or is given a list of tasks from which they choose, as well as a sharing platform where they can upload finished work. These would eliminate the need for recurring work like sending an email or calling every time a task is either delegated or completed.
There are many platforms out there that have this capability, and the exact one you use is a matter of personal preference, but it’s important that it is fast and scalable. The motivating aspect and capabilities of using a shared storage system can’t be understated, either. Employees will be able to see each other’s performance, as they will all be connected to the same system. They will naturally compete to be the best team member that they can, and this process will lift up the entire team’s performance. Similarly, the shared system means you can easily track everyone’s performance, and collectively receive their feedback and quickly give feedback of your own.
Some cloud storage options.
The Importance of Communication
Once you have chosen the digital infrastructure of your projects, you should think about how to optimize communications within your team. As mentioned above, you and your team will be able to see each other’s progress as they complete tasks, but it is also important that you understand how to measure their performance in more sophisticated ways. Identify some KPIs (key performance indicators) that can help give you a clear idea of your goals, which can be easily shared and understood by your team, or discussed with any external clients. Despite not being in the same place, the entire team should be heading in the same direction.
Video conferencing and live streaming as a technology has been available for many years now, but it has really come to the forefront of the business world throughout the pandemic. Having reliable software to speak with your employees, the closest approximation to an in-person conversation possible, is incredibly important when managing a remote development team. It can be hard to get personal with your team, but it really is the best way to motivate your employees. Communicating regularly and actively with your employees will build a strong relationship that will ensure accountability and morale throughout the team.
Working as a Team
It’s also important to have group calls where every team member is on the same call, enabling faster feedback loops and stronger bonds within the team. You should ensure that whatever video conferencing software you use has screen sharing tools. The ability to see each other’s screen and get a detailed look at how and what everyone is working on, allows for instant and effective collaboration. It is an incredibly efficient way of training up new employees and it is immensely useful in troubleshooting technical problems. For example, let’s say someone was having an issue with the cloud storage system: instead of trying to explain the problem, they can now show it to the IT department, or whoever else might have the best idea of how to fix it.
Furthermore, screen sharing is a helpful development tool, because it allows developers to see how their content would be displayed on screens of different resolutions and sizes, even in different languages. Developers and writers using unicode and zawgyi unicode need to ensure that their content translates properly and that digital content can be properly presented across phones, laptops, tablets, etc.
Despite all of the amazing communication tools available to us today, running a remote team comes with issues that need real thinking and strategy to overcome. For instance, the team could be spread across multiple time zones, which requires work and tasks to be automatically and independently distributed, or at least delegated ahead of time. With so much independence, team members can interpret tasks in wildly different ways. To avoid this, clear and easily accessible work procedures should be established. There should be project guidelines, style guides, and a collective vision and goal shared across every single worker. Communications should be democratized and accessible. Any changes to the overarching ideas behind your work that have been discussed between you and your team should be transparent and all-inclusive. No worker should be left behind. These are things that could be taken for granted when everyone is in the same space, but in the online world, extra care must be taken.
Trust and Engagement
Finally, one of the most important things about managing a remote development team is building up trust and engagement. One of the key benefits for a remote worker is the level of independence, where they are left to get on with their tasks and work towards their goals within a designated time frame. There is relatively little oversight as compared to most in-person working environments. The difficulty with this, in addition to the ones outlined above, is that it can lead to workers feeling unengaged, or as if they are not part of a team. The digital communication tools used to manage a remote team need not only be for explicit business communications. They can be useful to maintain healthy and friendly relations between everyone working within a business. Whilst a lot of team building activities are not possible remotely, you can still hold icebreakers, meet and greets, have people break off in pairs to get to know one another. These spaces can also be used to give praise and appreciation to your workers, to remind them they are a valued part of the team.
Remote working isn’t going away, and while it presents challenges, the benefits of being able to build and grow a team without being bound by geographical locations cannot be understated.
About The Author
Jenna Bunnell - Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Dialpad
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system and call recording software that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways. She has written for sites such as MacSecurity and Lucky Orange. Check out her LinkedIn profile.