Never before has there been such a large number of remote employees scattered around the world. And several businesses that prefer a remote team building format still increases. It is a flexible and viable model if it is properly organized.
A work team is like a ship’s crew: everyone has a role to play in a huge effective system. A remote team is a virtual ship crew, a ship that floats in the future of work.
Like most IT companies, Standuply crew has a cozy office too, where we go to work every day. As an office team, we managed to reach considerable heights in product building, but it was time to expand the team. So we decided to set the course in the direction of remote team exploring the benefits of virtual teams and began to look for employees in other places.
On our way we faced lots of virtual team challenges and now, many months later, we know a lot about remote work: how to work from home, how to collaborate effectively if your team is remote and how to create a business with employees who rarely see each other in real life.
Don’t get us wrong, we don’t want to say that everyone has to quit office work and start working remotely right now. We really love our office, but also we have an experience of remote team building and now want to share it with you hoping that it will help those who have not passed that hard way yet. So are you standing in front of the challenge of building a remote team and do not know where to start? Then this article is for you.
Cast off! We are going on our journey across the workflow! Remote workflow, to be specific.
More, More, More People!
‘Less is more’ is the first rule that you need to consider in team building with remote employees. All problems revolve around people, no matter how many they are. Especially when you do not think much about how and who to hire and do it quickly taking a person for each task. As a result, you find yourself surrounded by a fleet of employees, but do you actually need them?
Stop! And think. Identify the people you need and what they will do. No need to recruit a lot of people, just take three persons who will be able to do the work for the five. This does not mean that three people have to work for the whole company, it means that working remotely employee performs a greater amount of work than working in the office, making the same efforts and not being distracted.
Most modern IT offices are coolly equipped, there are a lot of bean bag chairs instead of hard ones, and even hammocks, you can play kicker with colleagues, and some offices like Google’s one reminds children’s town. We do not argue with the fact that a cozy office is indeed awesome because everybody should work in comfort.
Those who go into remote work just clearly understand that work is the work, not just a kicker.
They create a comfortable area around themselves for work and they have no temptation to have snacks with employees and games. They plan when they work and rest during the remaining time.
This rule is about minimalism. Remote employees just don’t need such stuff that office gives, such as table football, and bean bag chair could be at home.
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Find an ideal employee
Search for perfect remote employees, who will succeed in the project implementation and realize the global idea is a goddamn hard virtual team challenge. You can find a lot of people who want to work without getting up from the couch, but will they suit you? What qualities and abilities are worth paying attention to in order not to screwup with a person and then start all over again?
So we can list dozens of such abilities, but we have identified 4 main criteria, which we look at when choosing an employee:
– Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of.. enthusiasm!
Any captain wants each of the crew to share the interests of the whole ship, see him/her being proud of work and striving for common success. Enthusiasm is the fuel in the workflow ship that keeps it afloat. It all starts with an idea and desire to bring it to life. It is critical that applicants are interested in your company’s area. If a candidate at the interview did not even bother to read about the project on its official website, he/she would waste your time.
– Perfectionism (but not too much)
For a remote employee, it’s important to think critically and evaluate the work done objectively, especially if the time zone is different. Being picky and look at work as a head. The person needs to clearly understand the main goal, be able to break it into small ones and move step by step to achieve the main goal.
– Make work, not shirk
Office employees are used to working and getting paid for the time, for example from 9 to 6. Remote workers are paid not for the time, but for a result that should not be affected by any distracting things, whether it’s a sudden general cleaning or a kid who wants to watch SpongeBob right now. Or possibly it is you who want it, whatever. All this can cause the work to be completed in the last minutes before the deadline.
– Desire to work
And to learn. If the person is too lazy, has no desire to develop, and is looking for work only for money, most likely he/she is not interested in the company’s goals at all. The imaginary presence of a few working hours at the computer will not help this new fish to join the team. But what is more important is to contribute to the development of the company. It’s not gold that should keep a sailor on board.
As a rule, lazy employees are eliminated at the test task stage. If they are not really interested, they will not spend their time. You don’t need people like that.
We’ll talk more about how to cultivate these traits to go to a remote job as a job seeker and without any discomfort, but this article is not just about that.
Control your control
Obviously, when you build a remote team, it is difficult not to worry about the employees’ productivity. How do you know if a person is really working if you are not sitting in the same room? But actually, the problem is not about hundreds of miles between you and the employee. The problem is about lack of trust.
Some companies force remote employees to install special programs on a personal computer for time control. These are accounting systems for website traffic and counting employees’ work time. We strongly don’t support such method (and we didn’t even mention these apps in the tools section) and that’s why:
Firstly, such a distrustful attitude kills any motivation and initiative. Your employee will do the job half-heartedly and just to work off the required hours.
Secondly… Really, if there is a need to control your worker so much, do you need such worker at all? People choose remote work for freedom and the opportunity to work for the result, not for the number of hours spent on the site. Remember that your remote employees are your secret weapon.
Give your employees the freedom they are looking for and you will be surprised how effective people can work if they are not pressured.
Let’s play a game
It could be challenging to maintain team spirit in a virtual team. It’s clear зъwhat people do in an office team: take a break from work in the workplace, chat at the cooler, play kicker, have lunch or smoke together. And what about remote team members who have never seen each other in real life, how make them feel as a part of the whole team? Without constant communication, members may feel superfluous, or even outside the crew.
Let’s look at several options for remote team building activities as solutions which we successfully use.
– Virtual games
We really like using Drawasaurus and Skribbl – drawing & guessing game like a remote charade, but your partner in the game must draw the word you should guess. Also, you can not even resort to third-party services to play charades just recording video using Standuply.
– Special Slack channels
Create one or several chats for non-work-related communication. Some kind of virtual cooler or virtual smoking room, where you can discuss the weather, music or the latest series of Game of Thrones (no spoilers, deal?)
– Different challenges and competitions
It can be simple photo challenge like “picture of your desktop” or “today workplace”, or funny story related to the work, after which the employee will have to pass the baton to another colleague. Thus, you will involve the whole team in this game.
– Birthday and location map
No one should be sad on their birthday. The team is a second family and no matter it is a remote one. Create a map of birthday reminders to remember about the important day of each team member and to come up with greetings. As long as you have a small team you can pay enough attention to each member of your crew.
Of course, there are a lot of such activities which will help you to solve this virtual team challenge, and we will definitely write about it in a more detailed article. They are an essential part of the healthy culture of the team, which includes everything related to the interaction and communication of team members.
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I will call you yesterday
Or timezones problem as another virtual team challenge. Well, let’s say you found the perfect sailors on your virtual ship, but the time gap violates virtual team communication reducing the ability to call/chat during the day. In some cases, you will have to initially look for an employee to work at your night time, which means a time difference of 10-12 hours because the position involves working in shifts, but 24/7.
This time gap reduces the ability to call/chat during the day, so you need to allocate a couple of hours to call and give as much detail on the daily tasks for the employee to prevent possible questions to you. And that the employee is not confused in dozens of tasks, use the Follow-up in Slack by Standuply for timely reminders. Select a message you’d like to follow up later while you will be asleep and choose ‘Add follow up’ from the list of actions in Slack. Standuply bot will reach out to your colleague and remind him about the task.
Make your team independent of time zones now! Add Standuply to Slack.
It is hardly possible to single out a special motivation for remote employees, as for a separate type of employees. If the employee is not motivated enough and doesn’t see the goals, whatever they may be, you shouldn’t expect a good job done.
Each person’s motivation is individual, regardless of whether it is a remote or office employee. And it is important to focus on the person, analyze and to think, what is important for each one. The difference is that it’s much more difficult to understand the values and aspirations of the employee, whom you don’t see daily in the office.
Normally, it’s a set of needs, for example, an interesting area, a convenient schedule, and a decent salary. If the person is attracted only by the format of remote work or a good salary, but absolutely do not care about work itself, then it is unlikely to achieve good results.
Your sincere interest and praise even for the simplest tasks are very important for the employee’s good motivation. Did a newbie just solved a simple problem or came up with a new idea? Tell that person is doing great and you never would have come up with that yourself.
Just let the employee know that he/she is important and much in the project depends. And then the person will do very best not to let you down.
Remote team building tools
You will need the right tools to solve all these virtual team challenges, the most automated operation, and correct processes resolution during remote team building. Fortunately now on the market, you can find a lot of cool programs-assistants both paid and free and even choose by the price/functionality ratio.
– Tasks trackers
Notebooks in the past! Use task trackers to not keep all your plans, ideas and tasks in mind. In our opinion, Asana, Trello or Jira are the most convenient ways to plan your workflow as in a diary. All tasks can be painted on the urgent or not, and forget something very difficult because everything is before my eyes. Actually, the most difficult thing is to teach each team member to use task trackers and systematically mark each step.
– Time Helper
It’s not so easy to find common work time and schedule calls with employees scattered around the world. If team members are in different time zones, you’ll need the World Clock program for Mac. In other cases, Every Time Zone or World Time Buddy will help you with time planning.
– Cloud Storage
So, in a big team, you can not deal without a storage solution which extends to cover network drives. And in that case, for us, Google Drive has no equal. It will not only free up space on your hard drive but also make it easier to communicate with your team. It is much more convenient to share a link to a document and give access to editing instead sending the same file to each other for the sake of one little edit. In addition, if your computer suddenly breaks down, you can be sure that your documents are safe in the network.
– Remote Screen Control
“Ahh! I clicked something and it’s all gone! Devs please do something!” Huh, familiar words from employees who are far from coding, aren’t they? In such a situation, it is easier to do yourself than to explain what button to press. For remote support and screen sharing, you can use a wonderful TeamViewer that allows you to control someone else’s computer and solve the problem with your own hands. Also, this program is used for remote technical support of users.
Among messengers, as indispensable virtual team communication tools, we prefer Slack. Our Standuply bot daily helps hundreds of teams to organize processes in Slack and to establish communication channels. Here you can read more about how to run standup meetings in Slack via Standuply. For us, this messenger is like an office: logging in Slack means coming to work.
Update your team communication to the next level. Add Standuply to Slack now!
Still, of course, we use Telegram and Skype. The first is more convenient for chatting, the second one is useful for calls.
Instead of conclusion
If you follow these uneasy rules (who said that remote team building is an easy thing?), you can assemble a remote dream team. Because the opportunities for this become more and more widespread every day. New developments are emerging, the interest of remote employees is growing, and the owners of companies are finding more and more benefits of such a solution. Remember, it is not enough to find and organize really valuable employees. They need to be interested and motivated for the best result — and this rule is applicable for any type of teams.
So good luck and may the wind be in your jib!