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10 tips for collaborating with remote employees

Hassan Baickdeli
Hassan BaickdeliMobility & Smart Devices Lead Australia & New Zealand
Leading the Strategy for Mobility and Smart across ANZ for Lenovo, it’s pretty safe to say that I LOVE bleeding edge technology, but what I love more than that is leveraging our products and solutions to deliver meaningful outcomes to our customers, alliances and partners. There’s no doubt that compute in all its forms is changing and converging at fast rate and will continue to evolve in only ways we can imagine with the emergence of IoT and AI. I have had the pleasure of delivering key projects such as world firsts in Next-Gen In-flight entertainment, thrilling and immersive experiences connecting brands to broader audiences via VR as well as helping key global organisations change their concept of compute to adapt agility in and out of the office which just a few years ago would have been but a dream.

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While many companies are still struggling to catch up with the new and overwhelmingly digital reality of modern business, digital professionals from accountants to graphic designers have quickly adapted to the fact that their work can be done from literally anywhere with a strong internet connection. Without a doubt, the trend toward working remotely and freelancing is the biggest contributor to the current talent crunch being felt by businesses around the world. Young tech-savvy professionals and the older pros who have quickly adapted to the new digital world order have realised that they don’t have to jump through hoops to get restrictive office jobs when they can outsource to those same offices and work remotely.

 

Getting ahead, hiring remote

Of course, what this means for your business is that with a little forward thinking and flexibility, you could get ahead of the outsourcing game and your competition in a single fell swoop. Even if you’ve never tried it before, businesses who are willing to offer remote positions and manage remote teams are more likely to get on-the-books employees with the skills and talents you need instead of competing with other companies for the shrinking pool of talent willing to come in through the normal channels.

Whether you’re going to dip your toe in the water with a group of freelancers to start with, give your current team permission to work from home, or start building an in and out of office development team, it’s definitely time to adapt to the new remote reality. If you’re ready to try managing your first remote employees but could use a few pointers, Tech Revolution is always ready to offer a few words of advice on the advancing trends and best practices of business tech.

 

 

1) Find the right collaboration software

The first step, one that is absolutely vital to your remote team management success, is having the right collaboration software. Ideally, you’re looking for something that perfectly suits the tasks that need to be performed and has a high-quality communications platform built in, but you may not be able to find everything you need in a single piece of software. The basics break down into video chat, group chatrooms, cloud-based document sharing, and version control. You can do an incredible amount of remote collaboration and work with just these for aspects of collaboration software but you may also want to look into specific products that will better aid the industry you’re in and work your team will be doing.

 

2) Set up video conferencing

The next step is to create one big shared office between half a dozen separate and remote office environments. It’s still best if your team can look at each other’s faces both when they discuss the project and when they socialise together and video conferencing is the best way to achieve this.

When your team can see each other, more information is effectively conveyed with each conversation. Subtext, body language, and even the expressions your team makes while they work are a real part of the collaboration effort and experience that can be easily ported from a live office to a shared live video feed.

 

3) Establish collaboration hours

Among the biggest rookie mistakes a first-time remote team can make is not being able to catch each other. Once known as the phenomenon of ‘phone tag’, absolutely nothing collaborative can get done when no one manages to be online at the same time.

For this reason, you want to establish specific hours in the day when everyone will be at their desk with the same consistency that they would be if they were all in your office together in person. These are work hours in which your team members will be actively available to each other for question answering, asset sharing, and plan confirmations. This ensures that more work is achieved during group work time.

 

4) Coordination is key

Once you’ve got everyone online at the same time, you’ll want to get them all on the same page. This is especially true if you’re working with people who have not been a part of your company for very long. Whatever project is being worked on and whatever goal you’re aiming for, be sure to outline things like the spirit and original purpose of the project and what your goals are by the end of the project.

From here, it will be much easier to start separating and assigning job tasks and keeping track of the unified project progress.

 

5) Set very clear deadlines

If there is one thing that employers are worried about with remote workers that can be a real problem, it’s deadlines. Some remote workers are great about them and always promptly turn in their work right on time while others, usually the same type of mind who always shows up 15 minutes late for work, are always sliding in at the last possible minute clutching their work product. Be very clear about deadlines and reinforce it in the group dynamic. Encourage the team members to remind each other of deadlines and offer to help out with someone else’s workload if theirs is finished early and a deadline is coming up.

 

6) Streamline your project update procedure

Another interesting aspect of remote work is that you can’t just look over an employee’s shoulder to see where they are in terms of project progress and completion. While there is a certain amount of screen sharing possible in most collaborative software platforms, what remote teams really need is fast and easy way to send project update on what they’re working on and the phase it’s in without much hassle or interruption. Depending on the project in question, you may be able to simply define a file type, report format, and cloud-based drop off point so that your remote team always knows exactly how and when to send in an update on their current work.

 

7) Adapt your dress code expectations

When you give an employee or freelancer clearance to work remotely, you have also surrendered control over their location, environment, and dress code. While you can insist that whatever winds up camera is officially ‘safe for work’, you can also expect to see a number of things that certainly wouldn’t be seen in the office. Coffee shops and bookstores are popular places to work so you’re likely to see a few of these but for team members to prefer to work at home, you will eventually see them in their sleeping clothes. Even if the team mostly manages business casual (or just casual) on camera, someone is likely going to wake up late from a night full of family emergencies and forget what they’re wearing before logging into the collaboration platform.

Just remember that for remote workers, comfort clothes are not a sign of disrespect as it might be in the office. Instead, it means that they are finally comfortable enough with the team to not be worried about ridicule or seeming unprofessional before everyone got to know the quality of their work.

 

8) Don’t be surprised when work is finished overnight

Your collaboration hours may be during the day but one distinct aspect of remote workers is that there is a disproportionate number of night owls who prefer to do their best work when the sun is down. This means that depending on your team members, it is entirely possible to wake up to a practically gift-wrapped package of completed work someone did in a work-ecstatic flurry over the previous night. They’re kind of like house brownies that way.

Remote workers are actually more likely to be dedicated workaholics because they can work on their own schedule and when the mood strikes them to get it all done.

 

9) Keep a team chatroom open

There is nothing more important in a group remote project than casual communication. Not just official emails and work updates, but the ability to sit back and chat. A single open chatroom shared between the group will likely see even more chatting than the video channel because it will become a combination of shop talk water-cooler chats, and late night ‘you had to be there’ jokes all in one. Not to mention that the younger generations of professionals grew up in chat rooms and chat programs and feel natively comfortable communicating in this medium.

 

10) Consider arranging a fun in-person event

Finally, as much fun as everyone may be having fun working from wherever suits them, they would all still really enjoy the chance to meet in person. If your remote workers aren’t too far away, consider arranging a special event or even planning a group retreat with some of the money saved on office space. Meeting and recreating in person is a fantastic way to strengthen the bond between your remote team members and is a good choice to make either at the end of a long project to celebrate its completion or if you plan to keep this group on permanently for future projects so their dynamic is worth nurturing.

Being willing to work with remote employees is currently the best way to win the interest and loyalty of the top talent everyone else is scrambling and bending over backward for. All you have to do is step out of the past, into the present, and be alright with occasionally seeing someone’s pyjamas.

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