Here at WebDevStudios (WDS), we are passionate about WordPress, the success of our clients, and remote work. Being a completely distributed company, we have the opportunity to hire the best of the best regardless of location because we work from home. While distributed employees are the future, a company has to be open to new policies, processes and tools in order to make the effort successful. Below is my advice for leading a remote work team and maintaining effective productivity throughout the workweek from home.
In a corporate office, far, far away…
Cubicles debuted in corporate offices during the 1960s and are now present in every high rise office across the world. I worked in a cubicle right out of college then moved to a nice corner office until about six years ago when I started at WDS.
Working remotely was completely new to me, but I quickly fell in love with this way of working. Now, I don’t think I could ever go back to a cubicle. Is it time for companies to change their thinking about how teams can work effectively and still be productive? The answer is yes! Our corporate world has had the ability to work from outside of an office for a few decades, yet working remotely is only now becoming an option in certain industries.
Could you do your job from anywhere and still be productive and successful? If so, then you should probably be on the lookout for a remote position. The concept of being on a remote work team is a massive shift in mindset of the typical workweek. Most folks get up at the crack of dawn, get ready, commute to an office, where they have an assigned cubicle or office, and are productive from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a short 30-minute break at noon for lunch. Then they get back in their car, sit in traffic the entire way home, and make it just in time for dinner. This traditional work life from the 1960s to the early 2000s is dying. There is no work-life balance, and our generation will not stand for it. We want the freedom to work when and where we want—in places where we can be most productive and successful in our work.
So how does WDS lead a remote team to success?
Our company culture is flexible.
Our employees are spread across four countries, and 20 states in the US. The flexibility to hire the best person for the job regardless of location is pretty amazing. Although our typical working hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, that is not a hard requirement. We offer flexible working hours to all employees based on location or personal preference. Additionally, we have a flex policy in place that allows anyone to adjust those hours daily as needed. So if you need to take your dog to the vet at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday, you don’t have to take vacation time to do it. You just go take care of your pup and work those few hours you needed at your convenience. This type of flexibility allows employees to truly embrace the work-life balance everyone desires.
We trust the people we employ.
Flexibility and trust go hand-in-hand. If you are a manager reading this blog post and just cannot comprehend how your team could ever get the work done in a remote environment, then you may not have the best team employed. Here, we have full trust in our employees. We have solid processes, tools, and policies in place that benefit the employee. We provide everyone with what they need to get the work done successfully, while providing all team members with ownership of their work. Not everyone can be successful in a remote position. You have to be a team player who is responsible, and has a sense of integrity over your own work.
We encourage wellness and professional growth.
Can you imagine if you didn’t have to sit in traffic while commuting to work? Instead, you got to wake up and work in your pajamas all day, if you wanted to. The stress of going into work is completely removed from my day at WDS. I now have the choice to work from home, the coffee shop, or next to the pool. I can wear what I want, when I want, with the only goal of being productive and getting my tasks done for the day/week. I personally love that I can have breakfast with my kids before they get on the bus to school. Then, I’m right at the bus stop after work when they come home from school. Instead of having one to two hours with them at night, I have about four hours. So, I have time to do so much more after work. There are many working parents that have to pay for before and after school care because of the typical work day hours, plus time to commute. Remote work not only saves time for parents, but it saves money, too.
Additionally, we’ve found that people interested in professional growth are able to take college courses or online professional courses without missing work deliverables. If an employee is thinking about going back to school to get their master’s degree, time is not something that stands in their way as a remote employee.
So what are the challenges with managing remote teams?
Remote work is not for everyone. These are some of the challenges.
If you are an employer, your communication policies and tools need to be fully thought through before going remote. Communication is absolutely key across remote teams, from management to production. Teams need to understand expectations around communication during the work day and on-task deliverables.
If you are an employee, you have to be able to communicate effectively in written and verbal form. Understanding how you are being communicated to, how you will communicate, and expectations around timing to communicate is crucial. If you are not great at communication, remote work may not be a right fit for you.
If you are an employer, setting policies around expected work hours is essential. If you expect your remote teams to be available during certain hours of the day, that should be part of your company policy. A flexible company culture will prove to be beneficial, if employees understand what the expectations are around being available. This will set you and your business up for success.
If you are an employee, you must be able to manage your time effectively. If you cannot manage your time during the day to be productive and get your tasks done in a timely manner, then you will feel like you have to always be on and may experience burnout. Additionally, you need to communicate what your working hours are so that team members understand when you will be communicating, versus when you may not be available. For instance, if you take a one-hour yoga class every Monday at 2 p.m., block that time out on your work calendar and in your direct communication tool, so that your team knows you are unavailable during that block of time. Remote teams have to be 100% responsible for their own time, which means you have to be great at time management.
If you are an employer, set those productivity goals for your remote teams so that it is clear what you expect during the work week from each employee. If you are an employee, it’s imperative that you can self-manage your time and be productive during the work day. Meeting productivity goals, deliverable dates on tasks, and communicating limitations and/or challenges to your managers and leaders are imperative to being a dependable remote worker.
7 tips for leading a remote work team:
- Require a direct communication tool for all employees, such as Slack. I cannot say enough about how crucial this tool is. It essentially replaces all the short back and forth emails internally.
- Ensure your company has solid process documentation in place for all employees to follow. The process guidelines should be reviewed during onboarding to set expectations around communication, processes, and tools required during the workday.
- Be flexible, but set boundaries. Ensure employees understand the company goals, their role and responsibilities. Ultimately, every employee does have a job to do during the workweek and it’s up to them to get that job done.
- Trust your employees and avoid micromanagement, by setting clear expectations.
- Have a set of project management tools that work for your company. We utilize Jira and Confluence for the management of projects, tasks, and documentation. This helps everyone to understand the status of a project and review documentation anytime from anywhere.
- Don’t forget about company culture. We have various activities and events throughout the year that we do together remotely as a team. For example, the last Friday of every month we come together to do Five for the Future. This allows employees to collaborate on something together from across states or countries.
- Managers should schedule monthly one-on-one meetings with team members. Talking to the people you work with remotely is pivotal. This helps to encourage employee engagement, performance and professional growth.
Taking advantage of working with and leading remote teams has truly changed my career goals and work lifestyle. There are so many benefits that outweigh any challenges, and most challenges can be overcome with the right tools, processes, or policies. If you enjoy flexibility, and can do your job remotely, why wouldn’t you? Apply these tips and it is absolutely possible!
Interested in joining a remote team? We’re hiring!