Remote working is hot. It began as something that startups and tech firms toyed around with to boost employee creativity and productivity – as well as keeping them happy. For today’s 21st century workforce, working with global teams has become the new normal. As with everything though, working with a remote team is not all fun and games. Here are 3 things you should know about working with global teams.
First things first. Why do companies consider working with remote teams? Well, because whether you are a budding startup, or a well-established company seeking to grow your operations, domestic in-house expansion can become problematic at some point. There are several reasons for this, think for instance of a highly competitive business sector, a lack of skilled individuals, demanding employee standards or unfavourable labour laws.
These – and many other factors – can make it difficult for a company to continue its growth. Or worse; sometimes it may even lead to the end of the business. A remote team can prevent this from happening. Thanks to a better technological infrastructure our world has become a lot smaller and communication is easier than ever before. Combined with the rise of great workflow management and tracking systems, this has made remote working far more convenient than it was in the early days.
Now, if you’re considering a remote work system for your business, there are roughly 3 ways to go about it. There is the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) model that hands over the operations and responsibilities of a specific part of the business to a third-party service provider. A good example of this are customer service centers. Then there is the so-called remote department model which we’ve adopted here at Gapstars – more about that later – and the distributed resource model. The latter brings workers together digitally as they work from home in a flexible environment.
Once you’ve decided to ‘go remote’ there literally is this whole new world that opens up to you. And with that comes a whole new code of conduct too. Let’s have a look at some key chapters.
Improvements in technology have led countries like Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia to grow into hotbeds for talented, qualified individuals in highly skilled engineering and IT fields. The cost of living in these countries is lower than it is in the West and there are a lot more options for low cost office space and the purchase of equipment. Not to mention the progressive laws for foreign firms to set up shop and increase job opportunities as well as the interesting concessions on tax and company registrations.
All of this combined makes working with remote teams an extremely compelling option for companies in the West looking to expand without going bankrupt. It is however crucial to stay on top of the latest local (labour & tax) laws when you work with remote employees.
How do you keep in touch with a remote team? Well, luckily we live in the 21st century, so we have apps and tools for that. Every penny you save in physical assets and infrastructure can be spent in providing robust communication and work management tools. Your (remote) workforce can use these tool to connect with each other seamlessly and monitor the projects and tasks.
A few tools worth checking out include, but are not limited to the following: Trello, Process Street, Pipefy and Restya for work management. Hip Chat, Slack, Gitter and Google Hangouts for work communications. And last, but not least Team Drive, Sales Force and Microsoft Office 365 for email and cloud related activities.
All of the above tools either have a free or a trial version available. You can test them to see which ones fit your flow and processes best. Some of them are even customizable.
As with any process or organizational structure, remote working does have its challenges (but then again, what doesn’t?). One of the main issues is the fact that most people are still used to working in an office environment. So even though they have a wealth of experience and skills in the field, they may not be able to handle working on their own from home or remotely ungoverned.
This is one of the reasons Gapstars works with a centralized remote office. Staff can work from here, having the same benefits and facilities as the international home office. For employees that are used to a more conventional work process or environment this means they can meet, work and collaborate as usual. This kind of remote department model has another advantage; it doesn’t limit your talent pool because you give people the exact structure and professional environment they need to be at their best.
3. Clear Expectations
Communication, no matter how good the tool, will always face hurdles. Even more so when you’re dealing with a remote team. Different time zones, cultural barriers, working styles and local labour laws will all play a role in the cohesion, flexibility and timeliness of your remote employees.
That’s why it’s important to set clear guidelines and to structure your expectations. Establish contingencies and standard operating procedures to ensure your employees are prepared for any event (as far as possible of course). Make clear what you require from your remote staff. Think of the employees’ goals for the following week, the amount of weekly work that you expect to be completed and whom they can go to with issues. Communicate your availability – as well as theirs – in case people need to reach you.
Lastly, as your company will be working on a distributed model, ensure that security and backups are updated daily. This way, services or work won’t get interrupted if there is a technical failure and most importantly; your customers won’t experience any inconvenience.
On a Final Note
21st century technology and online communication tools have made working with global teams a serious option if you want to boost your company’s growth. It has literally opened up a whole world of highly talented and available experts, ready to help your business propel to the next level. If you do make the decision to go remote, make sure you know how to work with a remote team first. The 3 best practices in this post aren’t exhaustive, but they’ll definitely get you started.