A study by Forester Research predicted that about 63 million people, (43 percent of the U.S workforce) will telecommute this year. This is 29 million more than the figure we had in 2009.
Obviously, most organizations are breaking free from geographical restrictions. They are rather taking advantage of tax and labor costs by hiring staff out of their states and sometimes in different countries.
Working with remote teams however, comes with certain challenges. There is usually the challenge of meeting the same goals at the same time. And most importantly the challenge of having a particular team lagging behind because of the lack of supervision, or maybe because of the time zone difference.
But that doesn’t mean remote teams are not worth having. There are many times when distance between different teams in your organization is inevitable. At such times, how can you manage your team so that they can still remain productive and deliver the expected result?
Below are five ways to help you do that:
1. Foster the bond between your teams.
To be able to work well together and get efficient results, you need to foster a good relationship between your teams. This is because their attitudes will affect their work flow at the end of the day.
Open a chat room and leave it perpetually open. Apps like Slack or HipChat can be used here. Encourage your team members to be in constant communication with each other, both formally and informally. Keep them informed on how the company is doing and make sure everyone is involved in important events and projects.
If you do this, they will have a better working relationship with themselves. They will not feel as if they are working separately either, but are truly a part of your company. This attitude will increase their output at the end of the day.
Related: 4 Ways to Manage Remote Employees
2. Limit the time your team spends on each task.
Parkinson’s law states that, "work expands to fill the time available for its completion". In other words, all your tasks will take the time you allotted for it, no matter how long or short.
Use this law to your advantage. Assign shorter time frames to the accomplishment of each task you give to your remote team.
3. Respect each team’s time zone.
It is not enough to set deadlines, do this smartly. It is easy to get carried away and set deadlines based on your own time zone forgetting that your remote team is in another time zone. Make sure your deadlines are set according to your team’s respective time zones.
To make your team very productive, use complementary work schedules. In the traditional setting, teams work together at the same time and accomplish tasks together. In this case, train your team to work in cycles.
A team staying in a location that is faster by seven hours for instance should not be made to work at odd hours. Having a rigid work schedule will hinder your remote team's productivity.
And when it comes to your virtual meetings or conference calls, always choose an overlapping period. At this period, everyone is supposed to be working no matter their location.
4. Keep proper track of work done.
Having a virtual team with flexible work schedule can make your team members get lazy.
Assuming you pay your team based on number of hours worked, then you need to put up a system to monitor this. In the normal setting, you can see when your staffs get to work and when they leave the office for their lunch break. But in a virtual setting, this is impossible.
Timedoctor comes in handy for situations like this. It will help you know the time your team comes in and leaves. More than that it will show you the applications your team members use, the websites they visit and if a team member is working or chatting with friends on Facebook.
You can equally use project management tools like Basecamp to track your team's progress on important initiatives.
5. Keep communication lines are clear and specific.
To enhance productivity, keep your communication lines open at all times. But apart from that make sure that your messages are very clear, specific and easy to understand.
To make things better, employ video chat apps like Skype for your chats. You should also maximize video conferencing tools like Google Hangouts or GoToMeeting from time to time. This will enable you to read facial expressions and pick up on body language.
Lastly, let your team make it a habit to keep a regular update of the work they have done. They can use documentation tools like Google Docs to make this effective.