As remote work has become a must rather than a choice, we thought it may be useful to share a few things that helped us in managing remote teams. We have had a few hiccups along the way, but we have learned valuable lessons and today we are operating a business, able to fully adapt to and sustain remote work.
Even before the recent office bans due to Covid-19, today many tech companies have been using remote teams (a.k.a. nearshore or extended development teams) to enhance their team’s capabilities. You get to hire highly competent Software Developers with the skill sets you need, at a lower, transparent cost and with flexibility to scale up or down. With all recruitment and admin responsibilities taken care of, you get to get to focus on what’s important – building a great product.
Nonetheless, as with any team, managing remote teams has its own challenges. You need to support your remote teams effectively to make it a success. Here are some top tips for being a rockstar remote team manager.
Don’t set things up and forget
When it comes to remote or nearshore teams, out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind. For maximum success, you need to first work at fully integrating the team into your business. To do this, it’s important to get the right channels of communication in place before you’ve even uttered the word go. This means implementing not only the right tools, but also the right behaviours between you, your in-house and your remote teams.
Meet face to face
This one is tougher to implement right now, but it’s important to remember, for the times the world goes back to it’s normal pace.
Whether it’s working together or letting your hair down as a team (or ideally both), there’s nothing quite like face to face time for building rapport. Pure and simple. And onboarding is a great place to start. Getting the team together, ideally at HQ, is a great way to make the remote team feel part of the company and fast-track the development of positive working relationships.
Thereafter it’s ideal to meet regularly, face to face. For some teams it can be as little as once or twice a year and for others it might be monthly or quarterly – ultimately you should find the right level for your team.
Get your daily communication tools and behavior sorted
There are countless communication apps and channels out there. The important thing is to choose the right tools for your situation and don’t overcomplicate it. The right balance between instant chat, email, voice and video calls is important, along with whatever file sharing and productivity tools are right for you. Tools like Google Hangouts, Messenger, Zoom and Slack are a good starting point.
A good rule to keep in mind; if it takes more than three lines of text to communicate, then pick up the phone or jump on a video call! You’ll save time in the long run, avoid misunderstandings and make everyone’s life easier.
Define success, set goals
It’s important to set clear expectations with the team. Focus on outputs and don’t confuse presence (or time online) with productivity. Give the team ownership over their work and let them get on with it. The human side of managing people you can’t see is possibly the single most important factor in managing a remote team.
Get the whole company on board
Being open and transparent from day one about the reasons for setting up a remote team will help to secure buy-in from the whole company. This ultimately avoids any fear among existing teams that they are being replaced or undervalued. This will also help the remote team build good relationships, integrate successfully and ultimately be more productive.
Spend time setting a remote work culture
In an ideal situation, you want your remote team to capture the best bits of the company culture and augment and adopt the best elements of their local culture, merging the two. Any differences should be embraced rather than resisted! Allowing the remote team the freedom to express themselves and welcoming their local culture goes a long way.
Talk about it
The key to any healthy business partnership or working relation is transparency. This is even more relevant in the case of working with remote teams. Check in regularly with the team both individually and as a group and discuss any challenges and/or anticipated challenges.
For more ideas about managing remote teams, check out these tips in Putting a Byte back in the Big Apple with Extended Development Teams in Europe and How to Work with a Distributed Software Team.
The Zartis CTO, Angel Benito and Tech Leads, Michal and Antonio, discuss “How to Manage Remote Engineering Teams” efficiently. From comms and processes, to setting the right mindset, our Engineering Leaders share their insights :