Businesses have quickly adapted to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many continuing to encourage staff to work from home in line with lockdowns, restrictions, and public health precautions. With these measures preceded by a huge 44% growth in remote work over the past 5 years, it’s safe to say that being able to manage a remote workforce is key for businesses to remain competitive.

Work-from-home opportunities are also among the most highly valued benefits sought by staff, with most remote workers reporting higher levels of job satisfaction. So, it’s worth considering whether a permanent remote work strategy is right for your business, and developing strategies and skills for building and managing a remote and possibly even international workforce.

Why build a remote team?

There are some common misconceptions about the risks of making the switch to remote work, with many employers concerned about a loss in productivity or business performance. Introducing a remote work model does take some adjustment for existing workers and your business, yet, if managed well, it can offer unique benefits for both your company and your team, such as increased job satisfaction, increased productivity, attracting a more skilled and diverse pool of talent, and reduced operating costs.

How to build a remote team

Where to find remote talent

New remote employees or independent contractors can be found through a number of means, including regular job listings, utilising extended networks, advertising through your company’s social media channels, or reaching out to potential candidates via conferences and events. One of the greatest advantages of building a remote team is the access to a much wider range of talent that you gain by removing geographical barriers.

Onboarding remote team members

Whether your team will be made up of employees that work close to your offices, or of internationally-based workers, you must ensure your hiring and onboarding processes are compliant with relevant local or international employment regulations.

Managing employment legislation between multiple countries is challenging. By enlisting the help of a contractor management system to onboard independent contractors, you can avoid the headache and remove any risk of fines and penalties related to compliance breaches. This also has the advantage of enabling new team members to begin working right away.

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How to manage a remote team

While you can expect to adapt your approach as you grow and develop your team, there are steps you can take towards effective management of a remote team before you even begin your search for talent. A remote team culture is built either by design or neglect, and it’s best to go forth with a purpose for how to engage, motivate, and manage your team effectively so that they deliver the best results for your business.

Develop a remote work strategy

A comprehensive remote work strategy sets up policies and plans around such things as communication, engagement, IT security, and performance. Outline your expectations and share them with your team so that each employee understands how their productivity will be measured, how information will be shared, which tools and processes will be used in different situations, and procedures for effective management of IT security. Review and update your strategy as you go.

Communication

Maintaining effective communication can pose significant challenges for remote and international teams. Set your team up with appropriate tools and channels for all kinds of communication, and provide training to ensure their effective use.

Consider the benefits of email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and audio calling, and determine which is best for which type of information sharing. Let your teams know which channels to use for which kind of information sharing, and don’t forget to allow for social communication.

For international teams across multiple time zones, it’s considered best practice to incorporate a platform that allows for asynchronous communication. This allows people to share information and collaborate regardless of their availability or schedule.

Fostering engagement and remote workplace culture

One of the biggest challenges for businesses moving to remote workplaces is keeping workers engaged, and fostering a productive and positive workplace culture.

While digital communication is no substitute for in-person team member interaction, there are ways to keep international remote workers engaged and feeling valued. As with any workplace culture, these initiatives will require leading by example, so make sure your management teams are motivated to participate.

  • Establish routines for checking in with remote workers, ask and listen to how they’re feeling
  • Encourage movement breaks
  • Allow for social, non-work interaction
  • Recognise and reward great work
  • Encourage discussions about mental health and issues of loneliness or isolation
  • Discuss boundaries and availability, encouraging workers to “switch off” outside of work hours

IT and security 

Ensure your remote employees have access to the equipment they need to do their work. Consult with IT security specialists to ensure all software and equipment used is secure enough to protect data and information and to develop an IT security policy that ensures internet connections are secure. Consider providing anti-virus software to all workers, and using encryption software and two-factor authentication.

Tracking performance 

Decide early on how you will track performance and productivity. Set very clear expectations as to how the quality and output of work will be measured and ensure these expectations are communicated effectively to each team member. Consider focusing on performance over productivity. Without the possibility to keep an eye on staff and monitor the hours spent working on specific tasks, employers new to remote work concepts can often feel a lack of control. Taking the approach of trusting your employees and measuring their performance based on the work done rather than the input of time empowers them to manage their workload and time effectively.

You may need to allow for adjustment periods and fluctuations in productivity as your teams adapt to the unique experience of working from home rather than on-site. Make yourself available to answer questions, provide support, and give and receive feedback so that you and your team can make the most of remote work arrangements.

Start building your remote international team today

Lano makes onboarding and managing remote international workplaces simple. If you’re looking to build a remote team of employees or independent contractors, our management system provides solutions to compliance risk, workload management and payments. Lano also integrates seamlessly with most project management systems and other software.