Boris Johnson seems to believe that if employees are not in the same office, then they are less creative, motivated, and trustworthy. Our research suggests that over 80% of employees believe that being in the office doesn’t mean that they’re going to be more trustworthy than working from home. It all comes down to work ethic, not location.
In this article, we’ll analyze some of the top 3 strategies I’ve learned as a manager of international remote teams. I’ll cover everything from asynchronous communication to red flags you should look out for when managing a remote team.
1. Schedule regular, weekly video calls
You should be able to see your remote team at least once or twice a week. These online video calls can serve multiple purposes. Here are a few to keep in mind:
If you have an idea that you want to bounce off of someone and you can’t easily explain it in a simple email, then have a video call with your employee to discuss your ideas. This doesn’t have to be pre-planned, you could simply say, “let’s have a quick call in 30 minutes.” When you do this, keep it brief! 10-15 minutes is the sweet spot for impromptu video calls, but they can be really great when you’re having a creative moment and need to brainstorm with someone.
We use Friday as our day for weekly team meetings where people from every department come together and learn about what’s going on company-wide, have a bit of chit chat, and a brief overview of the week’s progress. These are great for welcoming new recruits, announcing company changes, and getting to know more members of the team. One thing that our founder, Deepak Shukla, always recommends is having a “camera on, mic on” policy to improve the overall video call experience.
When an employee is making consistent errors in their work, sometimes it’s best to just have a video call where they share their screens so you can watch their process. This helps you pinpoint what they could improve on to avoid future mishaps. When I first started out, Deepak Shukla would ask for these types of meetings and I ended up learning so much about how I could optimize my computer, improve my processes, and ultimately be more productive.
These are the three main types of weekly video calls you can have with your employees to build trust, accountability, and transparency.
Red flag: when an employee refuses to be on video calls, never turns on their cameras, and is uninterested in interacting with you except over email. This person simply isn’t compatible with remote work.
2. Use Project Management Tools Religiously
If I could become a brand ambassador for Nifty or Monday.com, I’d do it for free! That’s how much I love these project management tools. In PR, we often have dozens of clients that we’re managing at the same time and it can be nearly impossible to keep track of everything that needs to be done without these tools.
My current favorite is Nifty, where I have a separate portfolio for each client, and I can assign tasks to the team whenever there is a new task to complete. They receive these tasks in their emails and can get started whenever their workday starts (we live in different time zones and often work asynchronously).
This has made us very efficient because at the beginning of each week, there are goals we aim to achieve and the managers can easily know who is being unproductive or not by the level of output and the results at the end of the week/month.
These tools are essential for international, remote teams that are also based in different time zones. Tools like Nifty and Monday have made management easier, and accountability easier as well.
3. Set Clear, Achievable Goals & Follow Up
Gone are the days when we would clock in and out of work-obsessed with watching the clock till it hits 5:00 pm. Now, our focus is shifting toward achieving collective goals. Let me give you an example, when you have a team of content writers and your goal is for them to write 5,000 words per week, then communicate that goal clearly at the beginning. Then, observe and analyze which one of your content writers met or exceeded this goal.
This is a much better way to measure productivity than counting how many hours they were working. If someone writes 5,000 words in 10 hours and another person writes the same number of words in 30 hours – then the one who takes a shorter time to do it is more productive. Sometimes we are obsessed with the idea of people working long hours without realizing that technology and innovation are meant to make things easier, quicker, and more efficient.
When you set clear, achievable goals, then your team has something to work towards that you can follow up on and measure their progress that way. This is much better than wanting to be in an office complex hovering over them all day.