At Bolton Remote, we help companies find reliable and self-motivated remote staff. In this post, our guest blogger, Jason Rueger, shares how remote teams can be organized to boost productivity.
Remote workers are no longer the exception in today’s digitally connected environment. At Fit Small Business, this is an everyday reality. Over a third of our team consists of remote workers, not including guest contributors and freelancers. Our editor and publisher have experience managing remote workers, and other writers including myself have experience working remotely.
Based on our combined experiences, here are the key things you need to do to have an organized, productive, and efficient team of remote workers:
1. Have an organized system for managing content and tasks, and educate your team on the process
At any given time, we at Fit Small Business are simultaneously in the process of creating article ideas, doing SEO and keyword research, writing articles, editing articles, posting articles, optimizing articles, and so on. In other words, we have a lot going on at one time. But, every one of us has a clear understanding of our system and the protocol we follow for each article, which allows the craziness to work, at least most of the time.
Our system looks like this:
- Article idea assigned or approved by our Manhattan office
- Article researched and written by myself and other remote writers
- Article edited cooperatively by writer and co-founders
- Finished articles are sent to our marketing manager, who optimizes them
- Finally, articles are sent to our virtual assistant who does our digital design work and posts them to our site
To manage this process effectively, we use Insightly, a Customer Relationship Management System and project management software. Whenever each stage is finished, we simply switch the article, lead, or project to the next stage and change the responsible user within the software. That way, we always know where an article is in the process and whose responsibility it is to move the article forward. CRM and Project Management needs will vary by company, so I encourage checking our full CRM recommendations before settling on any one.
The whole point here is having a specific system in place. If your remote team knows the system and can independently move items (articles, projects, leads, etc) down the pipeline, you are well on your way to having an effective and productive remote team.
2. Make sure expectations, roles, and deadlines are clear and defined.
Once you have a system in place, it is vitally important that every team member knows what you expect of them and where they fit into the system. This is key in any workplace environment, but especially when you have a remote team where face-to-face communication is not an everyday reality.
For example, our editor is very good at making clear what is coming down the pipeline. I know which article is top priority. I know that I need to produce 2-3 points (we rate content by points, 1 for short articles to 3 for in-depth research pieces) of content for each 10 hours or so I am on-the-clock. As I know what is expected of me and what my responsibilities are, I am free to concentrate on my writing and not get distracted by other things, like worrying about what my employer thinks of me or whether I am doing enough.
The clearer you are about responsibilities, expectations, and deadlines, the more focus your remote team members will give to their tasks. They will be less distracted by performance doubts or role confusion.
3. Communicate with each remote team member everyday when possible
This point is really pretty self-explanatory. Remote workers, by definition, are not in the office with you everyday. You don’t bump into them at the espresso machine. This is why you have to be super intentional and schedule regular contact.
This does several things:
- It serves as built-in accountability - I know my editor is going to check in with me everyday and it helps me stay on track and motivated, even though I am working in my living room and could easily get distracted.
- It helps build a relationship - Remote workers are going to work harder for people they respect and relate to. Communicating everyday helps build a relationship that makes it easier for your remote workers to buy into who you are and what you do.
The key is consistent communication. Video chat or messaging is good, because it adds that element of face-to-face interaction. But when you only have time for a quick phone call, go with that. Just touch base and keep the line of communication open.
4. Encourage employee creativity and ownership
This one is huge. The reality is that remote workers have to be extremely self-motivated. That’s why it is so important that your remote team buy into your business and your vision. If you get a remote team that is talented and engaged in your company, you have a killer recipe for business growth.
One of the best ways to encourage this kind of commitment to the business is to give your remote team members some freedom to be creative and innovative. My editor often encourages me to take a little break to think through something or go visit a local business to get some advice. Speaking from personal experience, this kind of freedom to be creative and come up with ideas is what really helps remote workers to buy into a business and change their mindset from “remote worker” to “team member.”
5. Schedule time for remote team members to meet and collaborate together
One of the main negatives about working remotely is that it can be pretty isolating. One of the best ways to deal with this is to encourage remote team members to meet and collaborate together via video chat or messenger. Our team started doing this a month or so ago, and it has accomplished several things.
- An Increased Sense of Team Camaraderie - Meeting bi-weekly with the other employees has definitely made me feel more connected to the team and the business as a whole.
- It Serves as an Idea Filter - With all of us bouncing ideas off of each other, most unproductive or unrealistic ideas get filtered out much quicker than they would if we were trying to work through them on an individual basis and the good ideas are encouraged, expanded, and made even better via team collaboration and differing perspectives.
Remote workers can be a great way to leverage national or even international talent for your small business. Although there are some inherent pitfalls with having a remote team, you will go a long way to navigating and mitigating those pitfalls by following the simple steps above.
Productivity starts when you hire productive employees. We can help you there. Visit our website at www.BoltonRemote.com and we'll help you build an offshore remote team that delivers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jason Rueger is an analyst and staff writer for Fit Small Business, specializing in online and offline storefronts and product reviews. When not helping other small business owners, Jason runs his own small business, Rueger Pottery, where he makes handmade, functional ware that he hopes will lead those who use it to find some meaning and beauty in the everyday moments of life. You can see Jason’s pottery at rueger-pottery.com and reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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