Remote work is quickly becoming the new norm for the 3.9 million Americans who work from home at least half the week. Remote workers report experiencing less stress, which increases their overall productivity. Employers save money on overhead. What’s not to love?
Managers report that remote workers are more productive than in-office workers, with two-thirds of employers sharing this sentiment in a recent study. Another report found that over half (53%) of US companies are using “flexible talent,” another word for remote freelancers and work-from-home employees.
Overall, building a remote team is easier and more commonplace than ever. If you are looking to build a remote team, check out the ultimate guide below to learn everything you need to know to get started.
Make a Plan
As the President of ChamberofCommerce.com, I directly oversee an in-house team of 15 people, and another 10 who work remotely from all over the world. Before building my remote team, I first created an outline of the roles and responsibilities of each team member I was looking to recruit.
Consider if the work you need done is suitable for a project-based freelancer, or if it requires the dedication and full-time attention of a W-2 employee. In addition, you’ll need to calculate your budget for paying remote workers. The benefit of hiring freelancers is that there is no long-term commitment, and you can use them on an as-needed basis.
Since your team is remote, you’ll have a much larger pool of potential applicants than you would with a traditional office job. This makes it possible to recruit the best people for the position and not have to worry about trying to relocate them to a new city. Be certain that any postings you make on job boards clearly reflect that you are hiring for a remote or telecommute position.
When you are ready to start onboarding members of your team, it's important to provide a clear vision of what the company does, its roadmap for the future, and a detailed description of what each team member does. These documents will ensure that every person who joins the team is on the same page and has a shared understanding of the company’s values, goals, and targets.
Start Small and Scale as Needed
Without the constraints of office space, your workforce can grow or shrink as your business demands. The good news is that with freelancers, you can hire or scale back to fit your needs and budget.
If you are just launching a new startup, hiring freelancers as you go is an excellent strategy, as it does not require the same capital commitment that hiring a full-time employee does. As your business grows, you may consider hiring full-time remote workers.
There are a variety of platforms to help connect companies with a network of freelancers in every field, including writing, editing, photography, accounting, design, software engineering, customer support, and so on. As an added benefit, most platforms handle freelancer payments, drawing the funds from your account and holding them in escrow until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
Tools to use: Upwork, Toptal, Freelancer
Once you have developed your remote team, it is absolutely essential to maintain regular contact. You may need to establish protocol for preferred communication methods to ensure wires do not get crossed. Choose a primary channel for communication, which in most cases will be email. Secondary channels may include messaging platforms like Slack or Google Hangouts. Response times will vary with remote teams, so it is important to provide your team with your expectations.
Beyond day-to-day communication, you will want to schedule ongoing video conferences with any direct reports that you hire. These weekly one-on-ones will be foundational for establishing a trusting and collaborative working relationship. These relationships are easier to form when you are working side-by-side in a shared physical space day after day.
A remote team requires a little bit of extra effort, but it is possible thanks to advances in video communication. Group video conferences are also essential and give your remote employees a chance to get to know each other on a more intimate basis.
Tools to use: Gmail, Slack, Google Docs, Zoom.us
If remote teams have one downside, it is probably this: they are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data leaks. When you have a workforce based in a physical office, you have more control over information security. With a remote team, there is a greater chance that your employees will connect to an insecure wifi access point like public wifi at a coffee shop.
There are several strategies of defense that may be used to defend against adversarial cyber-attacks. They include some common sense practices, as well of some things you may not of heard of before, and that’s ok. The list includes:
- Proper Password Management: A good password manager program will generate a secure password and store it for you.
- Use Multifactor Authentication (MFA): While many websites require a password, more are now requiring extra, such as specialized hardware or a sensor on your phone. This ensures that a password compromise will not endanger an existing account.
- Constant Vigilance: No matter how secure you believe your current system of security to be, a healthy amount of suspicion is not a bad thing. If someone asks you to reset your password, asking them to prove their identity is a good thing. No one can fault you for being cautious.
While it might take some effort, it is entirely possible, and completely liberating, to protect your privacy online. While you must remember that nothing is foolproof, there are many steps you may take to ensure that your data remains safe from the daily threats of cyber-attacks in your busy work life.
Have a Plan For Handling Customer Feedback
Many businesses may not have an entirely remote team, but instead have some departments in-house and some remote. One popular field for remote teams is in the area of customer support.
At ChamberofCommerce.com, we use a mix of in-house and remote customer support teams to help field customer inquiries across different time zones and multiple communication channels.
Modern technology can easily route calls, emails, and social media messages to the right customer support person wherever they are located—eliminating the need for having your support staff located in a centralized call center location. You, of course, will need to track and encourage their performance via metrics like CSAT score and number of tickets closed per shift, and so on.
Tools to use: Avoxi, Zendesk, Twilio
The one thing about having a remote team is you never really see them working. So how do you know they are?
It is important that every remote worker on your team has clearly outlined expectations, deliverables, and deadlines. With team product management software, you can see the status of every task that your remote team has been assigned. Many of the project management tools provide gantt charts broken down by project or team members so managers can easily see what tasks are in progress along with the expected time of completion. This provides clarity on assignments that may be past due or if a project is ahead of schedule due to specific team member’s efforts.
Work with your remote team to establish tasks, schedules, and duties to make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to.
Tools to use: JIRA, Asana, Airtable, Basecamp
With all of the pieces in place, your remote team is finally assembled. Keep up with all of the strategies above, and your remote team will function without a hitch. Remember that communication is of the utmost importance when working with a remote team.