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Managing a Remote Team – Staying in Control and Productive

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Modern businesses operate in a digital environment. Every company, even those with a local client base and physical goods, needs an online presence for marketing and engaging customers. Some businesses perform many functions online, or operate completely over the internet.
One of these digital needs may be working with remote teams. Virtual employees are becoming common as business managers outsource tasks to specialists. Essential duties like accounting, customer service, and software development may be performed by workers based anywhere in the world.
Hiring virtual teams can save companies money on office space, utilities, and labor while providing a wider pool of talent. However, managing a team that may be thousands of miles away creates some challenges. Monitoring progress and maintaining control will require digital tools that enable careful planning, reliable communication, and sharing information.
Let’s look into some established methods of keeping your remote teams productive.

Base Your Team on Business Needs

Your virtual employees need to be a good fit with the rest of your company, just as you expect from local hires. Before hiring or contracting with any remote team, assess your requirements based on your business model, client base, and the volume of sales in your products and services. Your profitability comes first, and remote teams should be considered only if they provide real value.
Hire the number of virtual employees you need. Too few people may not be able to handle the quantity of work or timeframes you expect, resulting in delays or mistakes from rushed work. Hiring too many may be a waste of money and won’t necessarily reduce problems.

Develop Your Digital Strategy

Many businesses that perform offline services consider their digital operations a secondary priority. But every company can benefit from a digital strategy. To develop it successfully, you need some IT skills and education, plus a good grasp of digital tools and online activity.
A solid digital strategy will incorporate brand promotion, information gathering, customer feedback, social media, and useful apps such as order tracking or mapping software. Internet research is the best resource for understanding your target market, industry, and competitors. Then you can plan more effectively to meet your goals.

Research and Recruit

Putting together the right virtual team is usually the major challenge. You can find qualified workers through job sites, recruitment agencies, and professional organizations. Social media sites can also help you discover additional talent, but not every person is suited to remote work.
A thorough screening process is critical. Remote employees should be able to satisfy objectives, but trusted with access to your network and data. It’s also essential to have remote workers that can communicate clearly with your in-house staff.
Use video chat software to conduct interviews so you can get a better feel for your remote candidates. Ask all the questions or administer the tests you need to in order to verify that they have the skills, character, and experience to be reliable and productive with minimal supervision.
Employ the Right Apps and Online Tools
You’ll find a good selection of apps available that are geared toward virtual teams. Many are capable of tracking and corresponding with remote workers at both team and individual levels. There are some good apps like HipChat or Basecamp that also allow remotely located employees to communicate and share information among themselves.
Open communication allows remote team members to not only collaborate on professional projects, but to build personal relationships. Every employee, no matter where they’re located, will experience stress. A channel for personal conversation helps them to unwind and bond as individuals.

Oversee Projects in Real Time

The management software you choose should allow you to oversee projects in real time, and see the current status at a glance. Team management apps such as Trello make this possible, for example.
You must also be able to reach out to your team easily. Apps with their own built-in connectivity platforms, and easy access to other channels such as email or Skype, provide a more flexible solution.

Track Everything with Reports

In order to stay up-to-date with progress and details, you’ll expect regular reports from your remote team. You may need daily, weekly, or monthly reports to monitor efficiency, productivity, and costs. Make it clear what kind of information and data formats you expect in these reports.
With the right team management app, you can have reports sent or distributed over chat, email, or shared via cloud storage or within the app itself. You can review them according to your own schedule to document progress or perform analysis for business decisions. Accountability through consistent reporting lets you reduce risks, track errors, and increase the overall quality and speed of your remote projects.

Always Stick to Your Schedule

It’s advisable to draw up a plan for your remote operations and stick to it. This should outline daily goals, project phases, deadlines, benchmarking, and more. There are project management apps that allow you to schedule and define tasks that can be shared online.
Setting schedules helps to ensure that productivity is consistent and helps to forecast the likelihood of meeting future requirements in a timely fashion. It can be easier to manage a remote team based on their adherence to a fixed schedule, as well as their quality of work.
In conclusion, you’ll find that remote workers are not difficult to find in today’s digital business landscape, regardless of what your particular needs are. The virtual employees you choose should fit well with your business, but it’s important to develop a digital strategy to understand exactly what you want from them. Research your available options and be sure to recruit reliable workers that can deliver according to your timeframe and guidelines.
You need to integrate remote activity with your own infrastructure by selecting appropriate tools that give you visibility via communication and reports. Tracking progress can be easier with scheduling software that defines a course of action.
No matter what your expectations are from your virtual employees, the right tool will make managing them much easier.

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Josh McAllister

Josh McAllister is a freelance technology journalist with years of experience in the IT sector. He is passionate about helping small business owners understand how technology can save them time and money.@josh8mcallister