Remote working: The new work order
If we were to be told two decades ago that running a company could be done remotely, we would have probably scratched our heads in utter confusion and dismissed it as the silliest idea ever spoken out loud. But as with most imaginative and untried ideas in this world that sound silly at first, there is, more often than not, some new creative offering or innovation hiding behind them.
And all we need to do is be more open to newer approaches whenever they are suggested. Setting aside that little bit of sermon, it couldn’t have been a more opportune moment than now to build a remote team if you’re planning to start or already have a business.
If there is anything that we've learned from 2020, it is that business and life must go on as usual if we are to make a living. Because it’ll most likely take a long time before the economy recovers from the disruption it has suffered at the hands of COVID-19.
Of course, managing a remote working team is not an easy task and you will face a lot of challenges along the way. But every challenge can be conquered and I’m going to show you how to overcome them and manage your remote team with maximum productivity.
The freelance/part-time trend
In case you had not been paying attention, an increasing number of companies resort to hiring freelancers and part-time professionals through platforms like Fiverr, Upwork and Toptal for their projects these days. One of the most common reasons behind this practice is, as you might have guessed, cost-cutting.
Small and medium-sized companies with a tight leash, simple projects and modest budgets find it their safest bet to hire part-time or freelance workers to save money that they would have normally ended up spending on infrastructure, employee insurance, utility bills, etc. Freelance writers, designers, developers and SEO experts are usually the ones who were frequently sought for such remote roles.
Not to be ignored however, are freelance marketing professionals who are also increasingly sought after in the job market. Business owners across various verticals began to realize that they could actually keep this going as long as they want, run their business smoothly and still manage to save a decent amount of money.
Of course, what is crucial in this exercise is choosing the right worker so you don’t end up with a huge setback because you made some wrong choices in hiring your team. Click here to read how to hire the right freelance writers and marketing professionals for your digital business.
Remote working: Success stories
In fact, several remote first companies with all their employees working remotely have come up over the years and continue to operate that way so far.
Premium subscription staffing company Boldly was established in 2012 and to this day is supported by remote employees in North America and Europe. Surely the company must be doing it right if they have such clients as Asana, Facebook, Grammarly, Nerd Marketing and Zendesk to name a few.
Established in 2016, Gruntwork is another fully distributed firm that offers support to software development companies through its massive collection of over 300,000 reusable infrastructure code written in Terraform, Go, Python and Bash. Although Gruntwork’s remote employees are spread out across three continents, this hasn’t stopped the company from reaching its pinnacle of success.
Kinsta, a managed WordPress hosting provider, was set up in 2013 and operates from London, Los Angeles and Budapest. There are many more companies, medium and large sized, that run fully or almost on remote workers.
As simple as that sounds however, not every business can be deemed ready for a remote work setup. Several challenges stand in the way that need to be addressed before a business can be run by a remote working team.
Benefits of remote working
For those who hear voices/whispers in their heads asking why they should even consider a remote work setup when there are so many challenges in its path, here’s news for you. According to a Global Work-from-Home Experience Survey conducted by Global Workplace Analytics between March 30-April 24, 2020, about 3,000 respondents revealed the following findings:
- 73% respondents claimed to be more successful following this practice
- Work performance at home is the same as work performance in the office
- Even their managers were equally satisfied with the work-from-home performance of their employees
- 86% of those who responded felt very productive at home since they could avoid the 35 minutes of interruption per day that they would normally suffer in their office
And that's not all. Employers would be able to save up to the tune of $11,000 every year if their employees worked half-time a year remotely, considering such factors as zero infrastructure costs, zero workplace rent, turnover drop, etc. Click here to calculate roughly how much you can save if you hire remote workers.
It’s not just the employers though that will end up saving. Remote workers can save up to anything between $2,400 to $4,000 every year, which can go higher if they live in bigger cities but decide to relocate to the suburbs or cheaper neighborhoods.
With the unprecedented rise in remote working in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, a forecast by Global Workplace Analytics suggests that about 25-30% of the American workforce will be working from home most days in a week by the end of 2021. As confidence and productivity climb higher, we might even see remote working as a new normal in the near future.
Challenges in setting & managing a remote work business
At the risk of sounding like a joykill, in spite of the many benefits that remote working could bring in its wake, you must know that it could throw quite a few challenges your way as well. According to the 2020 State of Remote Work report compiled by Buffer, the biggest challenges in working remotely are:
1. Collaboration and communication
Remote working can quite easily pose as a major challenge to collaboration and communication between members of the same team, especially when the team is big and so is the project. Sitting in the same room with their team members, your employees can discuss, share feedback and fix issues promptly.
But when the same team is spread out across different parts of the world, a distinct gap can be observed in their collaboration and communication. This may threaten to cause delays in project deliveries and thereby mar your reputation.
2. Loneliness / staying motivated
A lot of the remote workers who responded to the survey confessed that one of the biggest struggles they face is staying motivated. The reason behind this, as some of you may have guessed, is the absence of some supervisor and their colleagues.
This apparent loneliness can lead to a slag in the work pace of the remote worker and missed deadlines.
3. Unplugging after work
This one can be a frustrating experience, especially when a remote worker is not able to unplug after work even after finishing their tasks for the day. Of course, this situation arises only when the completion of their task depends on another team member for approval, or when two or more people are working on the same task and at least one of them is slower than the other/s in finishing the task.
4. Distractions at work
Distraction is something that probably almost every remote worker would admit to facing. It could be anything from noisy children in the house, demanding pets (if you live alone), pesky neighbors, loud music to plain lack of concentration.
5. Clashing time zones of colleagues
Employing remote workers from different parts of the world means hiring specific skills from a country that are more prevalent there, e.g. software programmers from India. However, that can be as big a challenge as it can be an opportunity.
Working from different time zones means different working hours for your remote employees, which can make it really hard to manage your team. Then there will always be those who prefer working during certain hours of the day/night. This can push back deadlines if not managed smartly.
Overcoming the challenges to remote working
No matter how discouraging these challenges can be, you can overcome each of them with the right plan and marketing strategy. Let's take it from the top then.
1. Collaboration & communication tools to the rescue
Project management in the face of an evident gap in collaboration and communication can be really challenging, especially when a big and complex project is involved. Running a business is a huge responsibility and everyone involved in a project need to be in sync for the project to run smoothly and multilaterally.
Thankfully, there are some highly effective project management and communication tools that can help you get everyone on board and facilitate collaboration between all the team members. Here are some of the most popular project management and communication tools used by marketers today:
- Monday.com - This platform is currently used by over 100k teams globally and is a great way to manage all your projects under one roof. With Monday.com, you can keep track of the workflow of each of your projects, automate repetitive work and visualize work in the format you want from multiple options like calendar, timeline, kanban, etc.
Setup is easy and it can be integrated with a lot of tools that you may already be using. Its 14-day free trial should convince you to try it before you decide if it works for you.
- Asana – From planning, easy visualization of work, progress reports, work automation, milestones and over 100 tool integrations to choose from, Asana is one of the easiest and most effective platforms to manage projects and meet deadlines.
But don’t take our word for it. Try Asana for free and be the judge for yourself.
- Trello – If there there’s one project management platform that has fun written all over it, then it has to be Trello. With over a million teams using Trello globally, it doesn’t need much convincing to turn you into a patron.
Trello’s boards, lists and cards let team members collaborate smoothly, organize projects, prioritize tasks and remain in sync even on the move for increased productivity.
- Slack – Did you ever wish there was a communication tool through which you could discuss multiple projects by simply pulling them from a list on the messenger itself? Or which could let you organize task-based calls and chats through work channels.
And then, of course, there would be the usual direct messaging, calling and file sharing too. If you’re still wishing for one, then surely you haven’t heard of Slack.
Quite literally, Slack is one of the best platforms for teams to communicate, manage tasks and improve productivity, for any business size. Plus, it can be integrated with over 2000 apps and tools.
- Confluence – Confluence is an extremely versatile workspace for remote workers to collaborate and contribute. Developed by Australian software firm Atlassian, Confluence is a web-based collaboration software written in Java that has been designed for knowledge management and project collaboration.
The novelty of this tool is the ability to create intuitive structures in spaces and pages that it offers to its users. Spaces are the sections that house pages for team members, teams and the projects they work on, while pages are actually documents that team members create, edit and comment on.
The best part of Confluence is that it allows easy and seamless integration with other tools like Jira and Trello in the Atlassian suite, thus expanding the possibilities in handling complex projects. With customization and scaling up options, Confluence is a great enterprise-level solution that can lift the weight of any organizational size.
2. Beating loneliness & staying motivated
Staying motivated to work when none of the team members are physically around can give way to a feeling of loneliness. This highly common affliction can, however, be easily overcome with a healthy dose of regular communication and pep talk from both supervisors and team members.
Words of encouragement, no matter how much it may prick one’s ego to ask for some, can be super effective in keeping them focused on prioritized tasks and meeting deadlines. You can help beat loneliness in your team by arranging regular calls (2-3 times a week).
Ask everyone to be available whenever and wherever for one another and by generally building a healthy and respectable work environment for your remote workers. Read this article to know how to stay motivated when working from home.
3. Day’s work over? Time to unplug
The simplest way to unplug after finishing work is to do just that – switch off the computer/laptop after the day’s work has been completed. I believe all the project management tools today provide the option to display one’s availability status.
Make sure your team members keep their availability status updated to avoid miscommunication. While it’s understandable that it’s not professional to expect a remote worker to work outside of their work hours, it would help everyone for the sake of clarity if the status is assigned to available or unavailable.
Setting small targets for each day makes them more achievable and leads to increased productivity. Not to mention, your team will appreciate the fact that they managed to achieve their goal and met the deadlines.
4. Brushing off distractions like a boss
One unannounced challenge that can easily derail a remote worker’s concentration and the workflow is distraction. There are just so many ways to be distracted when working from home that there’s no room for surprises anymore.
But there’s a way to beat distractions and a simple one at that. First of all, anything that can be potentially distracting has to be blocked out of the work area. It's best if the work area has a minimalistic appearance with an organized workstation containing just the essentials.
Any source of entertainment, including TV, music system, game consoles and musical instruments should be an absolute no-no in the work room. And when it’s work hours, none should be allowed into the work area.
Of course, the last detail, which is staying away from social media during work hours, depends entirely on the remote worker. Read more on how to avoid distractions while working from home by following these simple steps.
5. Managing workers in different time zones
Working with remote workers from different parts of the world will test your management skills to its limit. This is more of a learning on the go phase where you and your team will be improvising constantly, all in a bid to keep your employees motivated and satisfied while ensuring productivity doesn’t take a hit.
Communication needs to be very clear, so everyone is aware of their responsibilities, deadlines and availability. To that end, communication tools like Slack and Calendar can be really useful to see who’s available and what tasks are in the pipeline so you can set up a team meeting at a time when it’s convenient for all team members to be available.
Of course, in most likelihood, that would require a little bit of adjustment from at least one or more team member, including the project manager.
Even as the whole world is coming to terms with the profoundly disastrous effects that COVID-19 had on socio-economic lives globally, the need of the hour is to make the most of opportunities that are available before us. If anything, this is just the right moment to find solutions in the face of adversity, and one solution that can save businesses and provide scattered employment opportunities is remote working.
For marketers, this is really the right time to set up a remote working team and capitalize on the resources available in the market today. Striking the right balance between work and personal life should be the key, and we have provided enough guidelines in this blog for you to be able to achieve that.
Remember – this is the perfect opportunity for you to be part of a future that is most likely to stay. So, pull up your socks, put your entrepreneurial hat on and give it your best shot. At 0707 Inc, we have highly experienced marketers who would be more than willing to share their knowledge if you reach out to them.