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What you should know about successful remote-work teams

Pedro Reis Silva

Introduction

Tribe has a different relationship with remote work than most companies. While many companies were forced into the world of remote work due to lockdowns and restrictions – we have been a fully remote-work company from the start.

Throughout the years we have had the chance to experiment, iterate and optimize our processes, where others did not. So, when Covid-19 hit, our day-to-day didn’t change much. 

For a lot of companies, remote work is still a puzzle. Some still resist home-working out of concern and fear, while others have just never been exposed to high-functioning and productive remote teams and environments.

However, with great powers comes great responsibility. In this article, we discuss different areas that decision-makers should consider when implementing and managing remote work.

Understand there is a Learning Curve to Remote-Work

“How remote work affects productivity” is an ongoing subject of debate and study. Where there is no shortage of studies that demonstrate increases in specific contexts, we encourage looking at remote work in your organization as a learning process. 

This applies to both the organization level but also for individuals. For instance, one of these studies showed that workers who were already working remotely prior to Covid, were 18 percentual points more productive than new adopters while working from home. 

Instead of implementing remote work blindly, companies can benefit from taking a structured approach. As a company, consider:

  • Running experiments with a small team. This is also a time to quickly experiment and iterate processes. keep track of KPIs and data available to the team that allows for discussions.
  • Have open conversations with your team members. Seek to understand how your team actually feels and how they imagine remote work working for them – seek to get their commitment. This might tell you which processes might be counterproductive. 
  • Keep your work methodologies flexible. If your team isn’t running a variation of Scrum, Agile, or Waterfall, consider adopting them, and if they already are, seek to adapt them to the new context.

Address self-leadership and accountability

Different factors can affect how productive, so we’ll tackle the elephant in the room – how can you ensure your teams will keep working when they are not in the office?

Some employers are highly supervised and their work is regulated by a manager. Needless to say, it’s easier to implement remote work in teams that are already comfortable in self-motivating, organizing their days, and setting up goals, and rewards. 

  • Train your employees in self-leadership practices. If micromanaging is replaced with successful self-management, teams undergrow tremendous growth. 
  • Check if your team has the work environment *they* need. Assure your remote workers have the space and hardware needed in order to feel productive
  • Ask them to manage the expectations of the people around them. – in a way that allows them to focus. Eg. working hours, response times.

Set clear expectations for communication and progressions

When you send a message on Slack or MS Teams, are you expecting your colleagues to respond right away?

It’s normal to not be productive if you are interrupted all the time – high performers know this. Often employees might need the time to focus on a task and opt for silent notifications. 

Not aligning on topics like this might lead to serious misunderstandings. Managers might feel ignored or feel their team is slacking off.

Many candidates we encountered have expressed feelings of being discriminated against while in remote work. A study found that while remote workers were better performers and experienced less turnover, they were less likely to be promoted than onsite staff. 

In order to mitigate this, make sure managers and team members have regular 1:1 meetings and lack of face-time interaction is a bias you must be aware of for performance reviews.

Build up your Remote Culture

“A cool trendy office in the heart of the city” has been a perk of many tech companies, for a few years. It’s now the time to raise the question: how cool and trendy is your “virtual office” and culture? 

When it comes to managing remote workers and building up a Remote Culture:

  • Record training sessions and meetings for more flexibility.
  • Encourage coffee times between the team.
  • Seek to implement flexible working hours.
  • Organize online events for team building. 
  • Make sure you have a friendly technological ecosystem.
  • Get together in person at least a few times a year!

Commit to the right goal

Companies that don’t have a clear commitment toward the direction of remote options make it hard for employees to stay loyal and focused. 

A survey by Zapier showed that 32% of respondents quit their job because it didn’t allow them to work remotely and 61% would quit their current job for a fully remote opportunity. In fact, most would even prefer working remotely over a promotion.

It’s not only that remote work is a demand from the talent market, it represents a culture shift in how work can be integrated more seamlessly into personal lives.

For us, it was part of a conscious decision about a lifestyle. This has not only allowed us a better work-life balance – it has allowed us to attract and connect with like-minded talent and clients.

This being said, remote-work shouldn’t be viewed as a solution to an existing problem. In order to carry on through, leadership and managers need to be committed to making it work. 

Conclusion

Remote work has changed (and improved) our lifestyles – but it’s easy to fall into pit traps if you have the right vision for remote work in your organization.

It requires trust from managers and conscious communication, as well as some work on letting go of old habits and looking at routines and processes in a new light. 

With the right plan and know-how, we’re confident you and your company will reap the true benefits of a remote-work organization soon enough!

Pedro Reis Silva

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