This year has seen a momentous change in the working lives of many Australians, with the morning commute being replaced with a walk across the hallway. For some this was a welcome change, but for others — especially business owner / operators and managers — it has been nothing short of a baptism of fire.
While this is a new work / life experience for the majority of office workers, there are some businesses that adopted WFH years ago. As Managing Director at Finty.com, I have been operating a fully remote team for 10+ years. These are my top tips for running a remote team successfully.
#1. Don’t expect immediate answers to everything. Unlike in an office, you can’t see what someone is doing at that exact moment in time. Your question might come at an inopportune time. In these cases, it’s best to wait patiently, or better yet, take this as a learning opportunity and find the answer yourself.
#2. Slack is great, but it can be a curse. Chat is good for certain things, but planning should not take place in Slack. There are several reasons for this:
- Messages get lost in the Slack feed and you can’t rely on search because free subscriptions don’t offer full historical search.
- Even if you are on a paid plan, there’s no guarantee you’ll find what you are looking for.
- Planning things over chat can open many opportunities for a distraction, and before you know it, you’ve wasted an hour doing nothing.
#3. Set a regular standup meeting, and get your team together at least once a week to address any issues from the previous week. You can also use this time to let everyone know what’s coming up, update them on news, celebrate wins, or encourage them through tough times.
#4. Have weekly sprints and plan the week ahead. Be realistic about what you can get done in a week and commit to doing it. This means you build velocity and momentum in the business since seeing things get done — and getting done right — is a huge motivator for most people.
#5. Systematise and document everything you can. It sounds boring — and it really is — but people need a framework to work within. It also helps to keep everything in check and to keep everyone’s work looking uniform.
#6. Delegate with trust, but hold team members accountable. Keep your team busy, congratulate them when there’s a win, and give kudos where it is due, but always hold people accountable for their work. Check their progress and find out why they are behind if they are not hitting milestones on time, then fix it.
#7. Improve iteratively. Don’t stop learning just because you (think you) know it all. No one ever died because they kept becoming better versions of themselves. Always be thirsty for knowledge because there’s always something you can do better!
#8. Everything depends on trust. Deliver on your commitments, so you can be sure that someone will deliver on your expectations. Also, building trust is a two-way street, so if you want people to value you, make it a point to show them that they’re more than just a number or a name on a screen.
#9. Be flexible and considerate of your team’s needs. A lot can happen in any given day, especially for team members working at home who may have children being home schooled. While this isn’t an excuse for not getting things done, it is a reason to reconsider what productivity means. Not everyone can follow regular work hours anymore, so give them the flexibility that allows them to be productive at a time that is better aligned with their schedule and trust them to get their work done. And be forgiving if you can hear kids in the background on your next conference call.
#10. Don’t rely on tracking software. You’re doing it all wrong if you want to use software to spy on your employees. Most people will see this as a breech of their privacy and will install the software begrudgingly… right after you’ve lost their trust.