During the past few years, there has been a major shift away from working onsite to working remotely. There are a number of benefits that come with having a team that works remotely. First, this allows the company to expand the array of people they can hire, because they are not limited by geography. Second, this leads to happier employees who get the privilege of enjoying a flexible work schedule. Finally, companies might also be able to reduce their overhead costs by shedding unneeded office space. This frees up more money that can be pumped into other areas of the business.
At the same time, working remotely presents one major challenge: The members of the team are no longer working in close physical proximity to each other. This can lead to major challenges for companies that are not prepared. When this discussion turns to handling a global remote team, the barriers become magnified.
Fortunately, there are a few tips that everyone can follow to place teams in a position to succeed even while working remotely. This includes global remote teams as well.
Ensure that all priorities and expectations are crystal clear.
When business leaders cannot see what their employees are working on, trust is critical. Even in a physical workplace, trust is important, because this provides employees with more autonomy. When it comes to working remotely, trust is even more important. It is impossible to check-in on employees without them knowing they are being checked in on. Of course, excessively checking in on employees will make them feel like they are not being trusted.
In order to get around this barrier, make all priorities and expectations as clear as possible. It doesn't matter how employees deliver, as long as they actually deliver on time. Moreover, companies will provide their employees and team members with the gifts of independence and freedom. Just make sure to let them know this freedom comes with higher levels of accountability and responsibility. As long as employees meet these expectations, they should know that they are going to be fine.
Prioritize proactive projects.
Many businesses are worried that if they give their employees the freedom to work remotely, they will not be as productive. In reality, the opposite is true. Numbers that were recently published by Stanford University showed that employees were 13% more productive when they worked from home. Therefore, remote employees appear to be more productive even though they (presumably) have more free time without a commute to work in the morning. Clearly, it is time to prioritize proactive projects.
Many global companies have a lot of proactive projects that might have been hanging out on the back-burner. Therefore, talk to employees and see where their interests lie. Then, review the list of projects that need to be completed and divide up the projects accordingly. This is the perfect way to leverage the freedom that remote employees have in a positive way. Make sure they check in regularly and see how far they have gotten. If there are any roadblocks that need to be addressed, help them handle these issues. This provides workers with the trust and freedom they need to be as productive as possible.
Ensure that any and all language barriers are addressed.
One of the biggest issues that global teams face, particularly when working remotely, is language barriers. When global teams meet in person, there are usually translators and interpreters that are there, on-site, handling translation in real-time. When these language issues are put through the phone, this becomes a major hurdle. On top of this, there might not be interpreters who are there to address these language barriers.
This is why all global remote teams need to invest in technology that can handle these language issues for them. There are lots of apps out there that can help companies translate content that might be addressed in remote meetings. At the same time, some apps are better in some languages than others. Check around and see what apps work well with which languages. Then, take a look at where the global teams and located and which languages are being spoken. Finally, come up with a plan to integrate these apps into meetings. This will make them as productive as possible.
Develop a structured schedule to synchronize workflow.
There are some issues that are going to be common across on-site teams and remote teams. One of them is a work schedule. There is no need for companies to come up with creative or eclectic schedules. When possible, try to encourage employees to stick to normal business hours. This is the easiest way to structure the day. Furthermore, if there are meetings that have to take place, it is easiest to get them done during the workday. This ensures that employees will be able to synchronize their workflows, schedule their meetings and collaborate on major projects that might not be totally independent.
Now, it might not be possible for everyone in the company to work on the same schedule. In this manner, it is important to make sure that there are large blocks of time that still overlap. This allows employees to coordinate their work as much as possible, helping everyone in the company stay up to date on what might be happening with various projects.
Discuss disparate time zones.
Following the scheduling issues discussed above, global remote teams are going to have to grapple with disparate time zones. Depending on how global the team is, there might be total night and day shifts. For example, teams in Hong Kong are 12 hours off from teams in New York City (depending on daylight saving time). This could make it nearly impossible for these teams to coordinate effectively.
In this manner, prioritize these issues. If there are teams that are truly on opposite parts of the world, it is best to handle these meetings between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. (accordingly) or 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. That way, teams can still stay on the same page.
Make sure all employees maintain a solid work-life balance.
When employees are working remotely, they often feel obligated to take on more than they can handle. They do this to show that they are still working hard even if they aren't physically in the office. Let employees know that they are not obligated to prove this. Ensure they maintain a healthy work-life balance.
The problem with employees trying to work as much as possible is that this is going to impact the quality of their work. There are circumstances that necessitate employees take breaks and spend time with their family members and friends. Managers have an obligation to make sure that employees are taking time for themselves. This will improve the quality of the work they produce for the company when they have the energy to sit down and focus on their projects.
Ensure success for global remote teams.
These are a few of the most important tips that all managers need to follow if they want to find success with global remote teams. While this might sound like a major hurdle, a little proactive planning can go a long way.