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Tips for Managing Remote Teams

You have a great team. It's now scattered across the country, or globe. How do you keep your team working effectively? How do we handle the workforce of the future?

You have a great team. It’s now scattered across the country, or worse, globe. How do you keep your team working effectively?

COVID-19 has occupied the headlines for over a year at this point. With the worst of the pandemic of a lifetime now beginning to fade, at least in the United States, we as business leaders are starting to see the shape of what lies beyond, from a team management perspective.

What is clear is the workforce of the future will not be what it was in 2019. Employees and executives alike have gotten a taste of working from home, and by and large, they like it. Companies are talking about reducing their office space by 30%, adopting flex time, rotating employees into offices to make them feel more spacious.

All of these practices means it will be more important than ever to adopt remote-friendly practices. With those remote teams comes the potential for further disruptions to traditional team structures. If half the team is remote, how do you get everyone in the same room, virtual or not? Do you move all meetings to Zoom, even for those within the office? Do you get better AV systems?

These are the trends I’m seeing so far.

Ensure internet quality

Everyone, no matter where they’re working from, now has as a baseline requirement an internet connection with enough upload speed to handle video calls during the workday. This is a major shift for a country that still largely has DSL and cable internet with anemic upload speeds as the norm.

How can you help here? Provide an internet allowance, if you don’t already, for your workforce. Make sure that your team has the tools they need to succeed, be heard, and be seen.

Adopt the right tools

We are lucky to live in a world full of incredibly rich tools that work for remote teams, like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, JIRA, Trello, ClickUp, Asana, Discord, and many more. Pick a subset of those tools and standardize on them. Ensure that your teams are effectively communicating in all the ways that they’re used to, to the best of your abilities. Consider the price of these tools to be the replacement of your weekly coffee allowance when you were all in the office.

Video calls are necessary

We humans are very social creatures. Developers are humans, too. Your team needs to see one another, see the funny expressions, see the frustration, and talk to one another like they would if they were face-to-face. Your team needs to mesh in the same ways a face-to-face team would in order to maximize their productivity, happiness, and sense of well-being. Happy teams mean a wealthy company.

So is asynchronous chat

Sometimes you need a quick answer, and email is just a little too stilted. This is where Teams, Slack and more come into play. Shooting off a quick message that the recipient can answer on their own timeline in an equally efficient manner is necessary for ensuring speed of communication and a lack of roadblocks.

Schedule daily standups

In the agile development world, which we are steeped in here at Provided, team members are used to the concept of a daily standup. These meetings are short, 5- to 15-minute meetings where your team checks in, talks about what they did yesterday, what they’re blocked on, if anything, and what they’ll be working on that day. This ensures that any problems that normally might be surfaced by walking across the hall is still exposed on a daily cadence, and nothing festers that would otherwise drag down your team’s performance.

Make time for your team

One-on-ones might feel more forced virtually, but they’re just as important as they ever were. I would argue that checking in regularly with each member of your team is more important than ever when your team is remote, as you won’t get the daily in-person non-verbal cues that you’re used to. Your team might start to feel isolated, even if they asked to work remotely, and life’s problems don’t stop just because you’re not in the office. Take some extra time to take care of your team. They deserve it.

Keep time zones and languages consistent

You might think the new remote-first methodology is carte-blanche to hire people in India, Portugal, Brazil, the US, Ukraine and more. Wherever you find the talent, for the least amount of money, is good, right? The problem is this. Your team is still a team. That means that they have to talk to one another.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t augment with offshore teams. The best teams I’ve ever worked with have had members in different countries (I love the Polish teams that we primarily use here at Provided, due to their native-speaker levels of English, compatible work ethic and incredibly high levels of development skill). It does mean, however, that if you start adding several different time zones together (Poland with, say, India, San Francisco and New York with overlapping duties), you might find that communication starts to suffer.

Keep in mind when you’re hiring new remote team members when you will be able to meet together. Poland, again, works well for me, as I prefer morning meetings, and that catches Polish developers at the end of the work day. It’s an easy handoff from team to team, while keeping it largely in a 9-5 style timeframe for the time zone range of your team.

What else?

We’ve only scratched the surface of how to manage remote teams, offshore resources, and distributed companies as the future of work continues to unfold. Keep an eye out for additional content in our management series, as we anticipate the needs of the workforce of our present and future.

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