Running an Innovative Remote Team in 2019

Remote workforce is the hype of our times. Not only does it allow for enhanced opportunities (for both the employer and employees), but it also brings together people from around the globe who would otherwise probably never have met.

It’s exactly that diversity that makes remote work so tempting and enjoyable. Many people prefer working in such an environment merely because they get to broaden their perspective (not to mention hone their skills in different ways).

Remote teams are popular among businesses large and small, not necessarily for the same reason. While the first are interested in outsourcing because of lower fees and salaries, the latter may bring like-minded people together in a cost-free way.

Finally, with remote work, there’s no end when it comes to acquiring new talents. Professionals in different parts of the world may benefit greatly from remote work, thus earning more and selecting just the projects they are professionally interested in the most. Employers have the same privilege, except they don’t have to think about relocation costs and associated conundrums.

Diversity: The Most Rewarding Trait of Remote Work

Businesses limiting their scope of employment to a specific geographic area never get the chance to experience the innovation multinational teams tend to bring about. 

This is not so difficult to imagine, either. Let’s imagine a London-based business that employs capital’s residents only. This group of people, no matter how diverse the individuals may be, comes from the same background and is used to a certain way of living.

Now imagine a new person just relocated from Australia, joining the team. This one person will bring a whole new perspective to the group of Londoners because they don’t have the experience of living in Australia.

Different settings and environments shape people in various ways. Just like many psychologists and sociologists point out, research disregarding data obtained from non-English speaking countries can hardly be granted the honor of crediting the entirety of mankind. The same holds true for businesses.

If a company employs only locals, there will be no challenges and influences leading to innovation, simply because a fixed mindset is unlikely to come up with new ideas without becoming aware of different perspectives.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that employees must be scattered across the world. Sometimes it is enough for employees to come from different parts of the same country. Think in terms of a relative from a rural town coming to a big city — or vice versa.

The final product, as a rule, combines different ideas by many different people, rather than just a few.

Flexibility: The Top-Rated Quality of a Remote Workforce 

Many people name flexibility as the single most important reason why they’ve decided to do work remotely. It’s not difficult to see how it works in a number of ways. Take only digital nomadism as an example — it spells freedom without the nomad having to compromise on their professional development.

In the case of companies employing people from far-away countries, time zones may come in handy in lots of ways. Let’s mention only customer support to illustrate here. A 24/7 availability becomes a far less cumbersome task if everyone covers it in their respective regular working hours… or not! Some people are night owls, so each to their own.

The point is that the flexibility makes the joy of work palpable, as opposed to an office-locked workforce with three shifts.

Setup: Establishing a Remote Team 

Everything said so far illustrates the benefits of working remotely. However, in order for such a work organization to work properly and render benefits for everyone involved, it is crucial for the business to be set up properly.

What does “properly” exactly portend?

Well, for one thing, you should only hire people who agree with the benefits of remote work. Some people prefer face-to-face contact and socialization in the traditional way, and there’s no fault in that.

Secondly, proper communication is the key to running a successful business, traditionally or online. Therefore, you should establish some form of communication so that employees will know what to expect.

Although there are no general rules in this regard, it goes without saying that knowing your team is the first step towards thriving cooperation. Thus, some form of one-on-one communication should be set up so that everyone knows how to contact the person in charge should a need arise.

Further out, company updates have proved to be a good practice. As for the frequency, it is recommended to ask the employee how often they would like to attend general meetings (online, of course). Some businesses do it monthly, others quarterly and some bi-annually. It depends on the environment, the number of projects, the size of the company, and so on and so forth.

Large businesses can better manage smaller teams by delegating a manager per each. In that way, communication will be more personal, and people on top won’t have to deal with all that ongoing work. They’ll simply brief section managers, similar to traditional business practices.

Ultimately, you will wish to inspire a high-performing culture that operates remotely. In the beginning, this will truly appear to be challenging, but remember that feedback is the single most important guideline to bringing forth a stable collaboration.

Remember that remote teams combine different values, behavior and attitudes, and it is your (and your team managers’) task to mix them in such a way as to concoct a win-win situation for everyone. This means listening to people.

There are various ways to build trust in a remote team: from online meet-ups, shared team activities, cross-collaboration on various projects and even occasional team-building activities at an actual non-remote location.

Start small, but think big. I.e., when a new person joins a team, make certain they have access to all the resources and tools and take time to answer all their questions. A manager may also decide to start with smaller tasks, to allow for the time necessary for the newbie to adapt to the current environment.

Always keep in mind that the employees don’t share an office or even a building and that it takes time for them to get to know one another and build a connection based on trust and respect.

So, what are the key takeaways? As it turns out, a remote workforce is more similar to traditional ones than it may have appeared at first. These are real people we are talking about, after all, with all their wishes, fears, desires and attitudes.

Take your time setting up remote teams the right way by establishing communication channels and building trust, and your employees will be as happy as you are with each new success.  

Barry's 25 years of experience with Silicon Valley Corporations such as IBM, Compaq, Hewlett Packard, Hewlett Packard Enterprise & DXC Technology enables him to share his knowledge of succeeding in today's professional corporate environments and develop a great work life for yourself.