Companies have been thrown into managing a fully remote team during the pandemic, many for the first time and without any sort of game plan. Within a typical team setting, it’s quite an adjustment – not only for those working remotely, but also those managing them.
It’s strange to think: Just last month we wrote about how to work well from home temporarily, to show your boss it’s possible long-term. A few weeks later and aside from essential public workers, the entire workforce is still working from home and will be for at least a couple more weeks, if not months.
My company, Semplice.com, has been fully remote since my co-founder and I launched from Germany & NYC more than five years ago. And while I can’t say we have all the answers, our little team – from NYC to Munich to Austin to Berlin to Nashville to Palermo, Sicily – has been productive and profitable the whole way through. So I thought I’d share little tips that have helped me and my team along the way.
Value results over "performance"
The length of time someone’s little green light is on in Slack should not be an indication of their performance, nor should the amount of emails they send or meetings they attend. In fact, remote working should ideally reveal how much time we unnecessarily waste in meetings, stand-ups, huddles, etc.
It shouldn’t matter what time a person clocks in or out, or whether they are working the same exact hours as you or not (some overlap is ideal, but a fully synchronized team isn’t necessary). What matters is that they get their work done. If they choose to do it at 7 a.m. or 2 a.m. doesn’t make a difference, as long as they meet their deadlines.
Measuring your employees by the amount of time they’re online only encourages a false sense of productivity and empty measure of success. Create an environment where work gets done, not performed.
Trust your team
This goes hand in hand with the above. If you’ve created an expectation that work gets done, no matter the time and the place, you should have no reason to virtually hover over your team and micromanage them. Set up proactive systems that keep your team accountable and allow them to work independently without you breathing down their neck.
For us, the Daily Update is our only recurring check-in (we describe this more here and I highly recommend it – we've been doing it for years). Planning calls are scheduled as needed; we rarely have status calls or “stand-ups” because we expect everyone on our team to be personally responsible without someone constantly nudging them along.
Monitoring your team too closely is usually a sign of mistrust, and if that's the case you know something bigger is broken that you need to fix. Personal responsibility is a must here. It means the works gets done and everyone on the team has enough freedom to be their own boss.
Be willing to adapt & find a new process
Agencies especially worship “the process” and have a collective panic attack when it’s not followed. If remote working is new for your team, you can expect your process to be thrown off, and you may need to adjust it entirely moving forward.
Be willing to adjust, to hear people out, to try new ways of doing things and have patience while doing so. Think about how many companies never considered doing remote work at all before this, and now, without any preparation, are doing it. You’ve already proven you can adapt. Keep going and you may come out better than before.
The beauty of working remotely is that it will sort the talkers from the doers. The silver lining of getting thrown into this new challenging environment is that it will give your organization a beautiful reset and a fresh evaluation of productivity.
And don't forget: In the end, it always comes down to people. You can have as many documents with rules and processes as you want, but people are still at the core of it. Some are great at managing their time, some aren't. Some need the structure of a physical office, and for some it is destructive. Pay attention to your people, set up the right environment for them and let them fly.
Maybe most importantly: communication
We wrote a whole article on this so I won’t get too deep into it here, but a team will fall apart fast without good communication. As you well know, Slacking and joining Zoom calls all day does not equal success. In fact, I’d guess nearly half the conference calls companies are having right now are not helping people be more productive, as much as they may boost spirits and reassure nervous managers.
The right amount and type of communication will look differently for each team and even each member of that team. So long as it’s intentional, in regards to time and purpose (read: not an empty obligation), you’re already off to a good start.