Technology has made it possible for companies to easily manage teams that are either in town or are working remotely – companies like us! Telecommuting can offer many advantages such as access to skilled and talented workers, and provides more hiring options with a greater possibility of finding the right fit. Having employees that work remotely can also be a more cost-effective option and can help business owners improve their cash flow.
However, this type of arrangement also has its own set of challenges. In my personal experience of working remotely with VA Partners (a Toronto based company) from Manila, I have learned that there are many tools and strategies that help our team make this set-up work well.
Understand What is Expected of You
If your manager has allowed you to work remotely, this signals that the management trusts you to complete tasks and deliverables with minimal supervision. It is important that you understand what is expected of you from the beginning. Usually remote workers are evaluated based on performance and not on hourly tasks but do confirm how long certain tasks typically take so that you can meet expectations. Be accountable and strive to work more efficiently.
Ask your supervisors about the pace of communication exchanges and how quickly they expect you to respond via messaging apps or emails. Some allowance may be necessary if you are working in a different time zone from the rest of the group. Plan your calendar according to how often check-in calls will be scheduled and get to know the process of following up on tasks. Learn to write brief, focused and clear messages so that your point is easily understood.
One benefit that attracts many workers to telecommuting is the ability to have a flexible schedule. However, you must set certain hours during the day when the team can reach you so that communications can run smoothly and in real time.
If you are planning to go on vacation, tell your team well in advance so that concerns can be dealt with and minor developments discussed. When working with remote teams, members lose the ability to simply walk to another colleague’s desk to quickly resolve issues, so reaction time is often delayed.
Be mindful of keeping all your files private and secure and make sure you use effective anti-virus software. Protect the confidentiality of your documents. Data protection is imperative especially if you have access to sensitive information about the company or its clients.
Don’t hesitate to ask your manager questions and voice concerns well before a problem becomes too big. Get feedback and suggestions on how the work can be done better.
Make Use of Communications Tools
There is a plethora of platforms that can help your organization communicate smoothly. But more is not necessarily better. Using too many tools can be confusing and time consuming. Effective tools may cost extra money, but they will be worth it.
Skype lets workers from different locations participate in meetings as if they were physically in a room together. Discussions can be made more visual by allowing different members to share their computer screen one at a time. It also has a messaging tool, so participants can chat and quickly share documents. It is often said that people communicate not only through words but also with non-verbal cues. This includes facial expressions, tone of voice and hand gestures. Skype video calls help build rapport and allows the team to see each other’s reactions and feeling at that moment. It also prevents communication lags that could lead to misunderstandings.
While many people are used to communicating via email because it is straightforward and easy to use, it also has several disadvantages as a communication platform. Email threads are hard to manage especially if there are already a lot of message exchanges under one subject.
Slack makes it possible to streamline communications in one place. Messages can be organized by topic by creating Channels and assigning them to the people concerned. Another great benefit is the ability to search any content from one search box. So even if a previously sent message or link is buried deep in message threads you can still easily find it.
The platform is also handy when sending quick comments or short messages without interrupting coworkers.
A platform that can store huge amounts of data such as videos, photos and documents in an organized manner is a must for any organization. It is unwise to rely on email alone to store and share files because email providers only allow limited data space and they can easily get lost. It is also difficult to keep track of the latest version of specific files especially if there are many people working on it at the same time. Dropbox is a very reliable data storage service that gets rid of these problems. You can sign up for a free account which gives a decent amount of space and can be upgraded as needed.
Make a Schedule and Track Progress
A flexible schedule can be a boon for many workers and allows them to maintain a good work-life balance. However, without proper structure, you may easily lose track of time. Developing a routine that works for you will keep you on track. Prioritize tasks by urgency and create a weekly schedule. If your co-workers are waiting on you to complete a task before they can move forward, make sure that your timetable is in sync with the rest of the team.
It can be challenging to stay on top of different projects happening simultaneously. Luckily technology can help. Tick is a time management tool that lets you plan and budget time per client and per activity. It aids in tracking productivity and assessing progress. It also allows business owners to pay their remote staff accurately.
Don’t forget to factor in breaks to clear your head. This can boost creativity and increase energy levels.
Working remotely can be challenging, but with proper planning and the effective use of technology, you can be a valuable and productive member of your team by helping your company achieve its goals.
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