For years the IT sector was a leader in employing remote specialists in areas such as software development. Now remote teams are a way of life across the business world.
The pandemic social distancing restrictions meant for a significant period of time businesses had no choice but to manage their staff remotely. The effect of this is that now staff especially like to work away from the office and many businesses have an ongoing challenge in managing their workforce in remote locations.
In this article Rubyroid Labs project managers, Dmitry and Alexander, talk about the challenges of managing remote collaboration. Here you will discover valuable tips on successfully managing remote staff.
Remote Team Manager Responsibilities
We asked our project managers about their direction of software developers and if they could describe how it is different when the team is not physically working in one office.
“Ensure that the project reaches its goals,” says Dmitry, “Monitoring developers’ results, risks, and the budget. You need to set and support efficient contact. If communication fails, you will not finish the project on time and within budget, which is critical for remote teams who are not working face to face.”
According to Dmitry remote collaboration requires project managers to trust their team. This trust takes significantly more time to develop than it does with on-site teams in a bricks-and-mortar, doing things like monitoring programmers’ screens, an approach that can harm team morale.
When you need a remote-based project completed quickly, you would do well to hire a team where trust is already established. Our teams work efficiently and successfully on trust.
We asked Alexander about the stages of every project. What are the differences between working on-site and managing remote staff?
“Project management includes initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closing,” explains Alexander, “They are the same when managing remote collaboration, and the only difference is what tools you use.”
The Challenges of Remote Team Building
If you are a business that is expanding or even a startup, you may need to think about building a remote team from scratch.
In practice, when you are building a remote team that can work on trust, you face a number of challenges.
Dmitry has managed both remote and on-site teams. He explains the main challenges of managing a distributed team—as compared to on-site:
- Lack of real-life face time with and between members.
- The building of shared values is challenging
- Team members’ values are hard-earned.
- Informal communication, like lunchroom chats (which affects team morale), doesn’t happen.
- Team-building takes longer.
- Developing trust is more slowly as interpersonal information is less available.
Switching from On-Site to Off-Site
Alexander says that moving staff from the office must include a transition period. You need to give the team some time to adapt to the new type of work, which can take a few months.
Working from home may not initially prove as productive. “Watch the shift in productivity across the team at the beginning. Most people will adapt to the new conditions, while some others just won’t. Set yourself a deadline for when to decide which team members stay working remotely and who will be better back in the office,” suggests Alexander.
Monitoring doesn’t necessarily mean looking after your team’s screens all day. Applying that kind of surveillance approach can damage the trust and morale of the team. When staff feels micromanaged, they may decide not to do their best.
Staff are already feeling more isolated from the WFH model and will not appreciate the pressure and lack of privacy from constant monitoring. You could even experience very negative effects on your project from this kind of monitoring approach.
Best Practices in Monitoring Remote Teams
Monitoring, which is, of course, necessary in managing remote teams, should first begin by articulating the main factors contributing to a successful project.
We advise considering team capacity, velocity, and cost per issue — the quality and quantity issues. “Monitor schedule compliance — how much of the project has been done and how the project budget spends. Investigate the reason for anything falling outside the schedule.”
Track work using the client’s specifications to estimate the timeline and costings, set internal deadlines, and check them. There are two crucial remote team management tools for reviewing the project status: direct communication and progress tracking software.
Progress Monitoring Techniques to Stay in Touch with your Team and Project Status
Here are our suggestions:
1. Daily stand-up meetings
Book 15 minutes per working day for everyone to tell you:
- what they have done within the past 24 hours,
- what’s driving the project to finish,
- what everyone is planning to complete within the next 24 hours,
- what blockers there might be.
2. Daily or weekly reports
Add to these 15 minutes a brief report if your team extends to more than nine members. Team members can report in any form.
3. Informal conversations
Casual communication builds trust and helps people shed anxiety about sharing job-related information. You can organize one-on-one calls and conference calls where everyone can chat about anything.
4. Sync-up calls with the client
Daily or weekly discussions between the team and the client are usually good communication on the project.
5 Sins of Remote Team Managers
Dmitry and Alexander offer tips on six common mistakes you can avoid to guide your management::
1. Describing the project and the staff’s roles too vaguely
Descriptions of tasks should always be clear and exact so as not to engender confusion which is a risk in remote team management where communication is key. You can’t just sing out a question across the office if you are a bit confused about a task.
2. Monitoring progress in an informal manner
If your company climate is friendly and casual you might say things like, “How is it all going, folks?”. Avoid that too – casual approach and properly formalize the communication framework for monitoring. Use words like “feedback” and “reporting” and maintain a sensible and focused manner—as well as including fun, informality, and friendliness.
3. Failing to create and support a communication culture
Your communication style may be casual or quite formal, it is your choice as the team leader. What’s important is to set up a distinct and willing culture of communication and persist with it, as well as encourage and reward it.
4. Hiring people that don’t work out
Some people don’t work to satisfactory standards in the WFH environment, with some staff having distractions at home that can affect the success of their contribution. You need to hire people that indicate reliability at the recruitment stage.
5. Failing to consider risks to the project’s schedule and cost
This is true for both on-site and remote teams, where off-site work just poses a slightly higher level of risk as you have a little less control over things.
Tools to Use in Managing a Remote Team
Project managers use various tools. Here are the top picks and recommendations on using them.
1. Communication Tools
There are two primary kinds of communication software:
- Messaging apps for daily communication (Slack, Microsoft Teams)
- Video and audio call apps to share your screen for online meetings with the client (Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Slack)
2. Software to Manage and Track Progress
It is vital to select the tools that suit you best for task management and tracking. Make sure that the entire team uses them. All project information should be added to the system for all team members to access.
Choose one of these tools based on your business necessities – Jira, Github, Redmine, Trello, YouTrack, Jira, Microsoft Project.
You can set up a successful remote team by integrating these proven communication strategies, a thoughtful strategy to task tracking, and the proper apps.
Hire people on your team who have proved they can work without face-to-face supervision. Create a willing and healthy culture of communication. Always try to make the tasks clear to your staff. Outline the indicators of success. Monitor progress as you go. Do this, and you will build a successful remote team making a booming product.
If that all sounds beyond your business capability consult us. We will advise you on how to manage your off-site team effectively and ensure the successful completion of your project and the growth of your business. You will be saving office rent with a remote team!