Among the many changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition to remote work introduced a variety of challenges to businesses big and small.
Love it or hate it, remote work is here to stay for the foreseeable future — and permanently, for a lot of us. That means that if you’re collaborating with others to keep your business running, you need to ensure that your team develops a sense of “remote agility.”
Whether you’re outsourcing some of your work to contractors or on-boarding full-time employees for the first time, your collaborators’ ability to successfully navigate the remote work lifestyle can make all the difference for you and your clients.
Of course, as the boss, it’s up to you to get things rolling in the right direction.
Set clear-cut guidelines and expectations for all involved parties
As far too many elementary school teachers found out last year when they tried to run classrooms over Zoom, failing to set clear guidelines and expectations upfront can quickly lead to disaster. You have to get this right the first time around. Trying to fix things as you go is only going to lead to failure.
This starts with on-boarding talent. Target self-disciplined individuals who know how to manage their time and have a knack for communication. Self-starters are the best equipped to deal with the potential distractions and shortcomings of remote work.
Of course, you’ll need to communicate your expectations to get the best results out of any hire. Make sure they understand when attendance and participation are required for different meetings or calls. Establish your workflow with deadlines and clearly explained processes.
If anybody or anything needs to be “babysat,” things aren’t going to work out. You have too many other responsibilities on your plate to virtually hold someone’s hand every step of the way. If you don’t fix it quick, all your hard work is going to come to a screeching halt.
Make communication a continual thing (and put the right tools in place for it)
Whether you prefer to communicate with your collaborators via email, Zoom or another web tool, communication must be constant and effective if you want to keep projects flowing smoothly. As part of setting expectations, you should also establish your communication guidelines with your team to ensure that no one gets overlooked in a remote environment.
Figure out things like how often you’ll check in, as well as what topics you need to discuss and even how long you’ll need to talk about them. I recently had the chance to speak about this with Chandresh Patel, CEO of Bacancy Technology.
He explained, “The right tools are essential for managing your team’s communication needs. It’s all too easy for important messages to slip through the cracks if everyone is just using their personal e-mails. Using a tool that is dedicated to your business and its workflows does more than keep people from missing your messages. It can be used to automatically send notifications and reminders for deadlines and meetings, or be adapted for other purposes to keep everyone on the same page.”
Constant and consistent communication keeps everyone feeling like part of a team, even if they’re thousands of miles apart. Helping team members feel connected can actually improve retention because it will make them feel like you are truly invested in them.
This way, you’ll hang on to the top talent that really allows you to grow.
Create a culture of accountability right from the get-go
Remember those dreaded “group projects” in high school and college, where you’d always have at least one group member who was basically dead weight? That person just mooched off the rest of the group, yet in the end still managed to get the same grade as everyone else.
It wasn’t fair then, and now that you’re running your own business, you don’t have the time (or budget) to deal with those kinds of hangers-on. People who won’t pull their own weight need to be let go — and quickly.
Accountability is the glue that keeps everything together as your business grows. When everyone is held accountable for their output right from the beginning, it motivates them to give their best effort.
When measuring success, you obviously need to consider ROI-boosting results. After all, your business needs to make money! But it’s good to go beyond ROI and look at individual output, as well. By looking at what each team member is truly contributing, you can determine who is making an actual difference and who is taking on the role of the lazy group project person.
Accountability applies to founders, too. At the end of the day, your business’s success or failure ultimately falls on you. Hold yourself accountable and set meaningful goals so you can stay on track and be a true leader for your team.
Remote is the future (and it’s time to catch the wave)
As many freelancers could tell you, working remotely comes with a lot of perks. But it also comes with its fair share of challenges, especially when working in a team.
By proactively addressing any issues that could trip up your workflow with employees or contractors, you’ll become more agile so you can keep things running smoothly even when your team is spread across the country.