The COVID-19 pandemic put remote working on a pedestal for several global companies. While some companies are now embracing the ‘back to work’ and ‘hybrid’ work styles, tech giants such as Twitter, SAP, Fujitsu and Atlassian have shifted to permanently remote working for many roles.
Deloitte’s Global Remote Work Survey shows 80% of organisations allow some level of remote and hybrid working. Another report reveals 50% of surveyed organisations having a flexible or hybrid office post-pandemic.
Numerous statistics show the significant rise of remote work but it also comes with its challenges. Maintaining productivity, employee engagement and necessary compliance for remote teams is a priority for all employers.
This article talks about how to manage a remote team and offers strategies for remote work management.
What is a Remote Team?
A remote team refers to a group of professionals from different locations and skill sets working together on a project. It also consists of individuals who may be working on different projects for the same company.
Remote work enables a flexible working arrangement for a team to work from different locations (including their home) than the company’s main office. The concept of remote teams and remote working has been around but became increasingly popular post COVID-19. Today, a significant section of the global workforce prefers to work remotely.
What Are The Advantages of Having Remote Teams?
Remote working is not only favourable for employees, but also for employers.
Here are some of the biggest benefits of managing a remote workforce:
1. Access to Wider Talent Pool:
Traditional office working environments limit your scope of hiring new employees to the area you are located in and around. Companies can hire remote workers across borders and get access to a larger pool of talented individuals. Businesses can scout and source the best talent from anywhere, regardless of location.
2. Increased Productivity:
Almost 50% of Indian hybrid workers reveal feeling more productive when working remotely. The elimination of daily commute hours and traffic woes gives employees more time to be at their desks and concentrate on the tasks at hand.
Other factors that improve productivity in a remote team are:
- Fewer interruptions
- Comfortable working environment
- More hours dedicated to work
- Improved work-life balance
3. Reduced Cost:
A more significant benefit of managing a team remotely is reduced operational costs. Companies save money on equipment costs, work desks, electricity, air conditioning, among other things. With fewer staff on site, there is a considerable saving on your bills for business security, cleanliness, the cafeteria and supplies. Global Workplace Analysis found that the United States could save over $700 billion a year with telecommuting.
4. Opportunities to Scale Across Borders:
With remote work, companies can also begin by establishing their presence abroad. You do not need to set up an entity to hire remote workers across countries.. In fact, with an employer of record, you can seek help managing a team remotely.
5. Higher Employee Retention:
A survey finds almost 98% of employees would like to work remotely at least some of the time in their careers. Another report reveals two-thirds of the global workforce would consider looking for a new job if their employer asked them to return to the office full-time. Also, half of workers would accept a pay cut in exchange for a better work-life balance.
These numbers highlight the importance of remote work for employees. A flexible work environment guarantees a better rate of retention.
Challenges Faced in Managing Remote Teams
Over 7 in 10 employers are struggling to adapt to remote work. Here are some of the common challenges businesses face when managing remote employees:
1. Finding the Right Tools For Communication:
In a traditional office setting, employers can stay informed and exchange ideas effortlessly, whether through casual encounters or formal meetings. Deliberate virtual meetings replace this spontaneous face-to-face communication in remote settings. Finding a smoother way to communicate is a vital aspect of remote work management. There are several tools and software for managing a team remotely, but they need to be easy and accessible to everyone.
2. Employee Training:
A remote employee has to be trained to adapt to the company culture. Right from the working style to noting attendance or reporting to seniors, everything has to be communicated at the onset of working. Besides, technical issues, software glitches or unstable internet connections can also hamper the training process.
Undertaking synchronous learning and scheduled training sessions can help all remote employees participate together.
3. Cultural Diversity:
If you are managing a remote workforce based across different geographical locations, cultural diversity is another challenge. Being aware of time zones and work schedules is important.
Blending the different styles and skills of remote employees for a common goal is the key. Research suggests personal diversity can negatively affect the team climate and make it less motivating to work together.
Thus, companies must make efforts to foster inclusiveness and encourage cohesion among teams.
4. Tracking Productivity:
How does one know if the employees give their 100% at work and are productive in a remote setting?
Research by Microsoft highlights that about 85% of leaders face productivity paranoia — fearing loss of productivity due to employees not working despite clocking in more working hours.
Implementing effective strategies of remote worker management can help businesses deal with this.
5. Compliance With Labour Laws:
A comprehensive understanding of local labour laws is necessary to ensure strict compliance when hiring remote employees. Providing employee benefits, prioritising data security, addressing taxation and policies to prevent sexual harassment— everything needs to be drawn up to foster a compliant remote work environment.
In India, labour laws vary across the states, so having deep knowledge and expertise of the local regulations is essential for the statutory compliance of your team here.
6. Issues in Payroll Management:
If your remote team comprises both local and international employees, you need to establish a payroll system as a part of managing teams remotely. This unified system should accommodate everyone and guarantee timely payments across borders. You also need to consider the different taxation systems applicable in a distributed workforce.
Best Practices for Effectively Managing Remote Employees
There are various ways to ensure a smooth transition from a traditional office setting to a remote workplace. CBRE report 2023 shows that the hybrid working (three days in office per week) trend is seeing an upswing in India with 96% employees preferring this style of work.
If you are planning to set up a remote team in India, here are some effective ways of remote worker management:
1. Focus on Smooth Onboarding:
A well-defined introduction to the company’s culture, vision, workstyle and hierarchical structure will give your employees a headstart into the organisation. Since remote employees are not physically present with in-office staff, they cannot pick up the organisational culture. Employee retention is a key performance indicator used to evaluate effective onboarding programs worldwide, thus showing a direct correlation between the two.
Here are some quick tips to ensure smooth onboarding for managing remote workers:
- Tailor the process for every role.
- Be very clear about the job role and description.
- Conduct video interviews.
- Give proper orientation of company culture.
- Have team interactions.
- Keep the process going after the new employee joins.
2. Establish Clear Communication:
The easiest way to tackle your doubts on how to manage a remote team is by having a clear communication strategy with your employees. When employees are placed in different parts of the globe, the basic thing that connects them is communication.
Regular communication between leaders and employees can go a long way. 34% of remote workers worldwide revealed that more transparency from leadership enabled them to feel more connected at work. As senior management , it is your responsibility to ensure all team heads are communicating with their respective remote team members.
Select the appropriate communication channels in effectively managing remote teams. Don’t use a lot of tools and channels that can result in crucial messages being overlooked. Instead, plan a unified communication platform like Slack that includes multiple communication streams, collaboration and information sharing.
3. Make Good Use of Technology:
Several tools, apps and software packages help to stay connected with remote workforce and make the workflow smoother. Use these cutting-edge remote technologies to ensure your team stays seamlessly connected, well-organised, and secure.
Some of the tools for remote work, especially in the IT sector, are given below:
- Video conferencing: Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype
- Cloud computing: Azure, Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services
- Storage tools: Google Drive, Dropbox
- Project management: Jira, GitHub, Asana
Ensure the tools you choose are easy to learn and accessible to all employees, irrespective of their designation or location.
4. Have a Flexible Approach:
40% of global candidates consider flexibility among the top three factors while choosing their careers.
Flexibility could be in terms of job location, working hours and work style. In a flexible remote worker management, focus on the finished tasks and results rather than insisting on strict work hours.
Establish a clear path of communication to duly report on task completion within specified deadlines so no work is hampered despite employees following flexible schedules.
5. Schedule Regular Meetings:
A significant part of remote employee management is being connected to them and having interactive discussions. Schedule bi-weekly or bi-monthly meetings with your remote workers so they feel connected to the organisation. It could be team meetings or one-on-one calls but understanding your team’s needs and expectations is just as important as communicating yours. It will also give your team members a feeling of being connected with the organisation despite being located far away from each other.
Other than the workflow, the other agenda of your remote employee management meetings should be to:
- understand if the employee is doing well overall
- discuss plans for professional development
- identify and solve the challenges they face
- provide feedback.
6. Organise Remote Team Building Activities:
Managing a remote team involves keeping them happy and connected even if they are far away from one another. Although remote work is a popular choice among many, most employees end up feeling lonely and disconnected from their workplace. This can hamper their motivation to work and productivity.
It is necessary to foster team spirit and belongingness towards the team and the company at large. Holding virtual activities and games can help enhance team bonding, improve communication and boost the morale of your remote workers.
Here are some virtual activities you can incorporate to manage remote employees and keep them engaged:
- Online lunch date
- Ice-breaker QnA
- Jam sessions
- Online mini-game competitions
- Virtual classes (art, dance, yoga)
Highly-engaged teams promise a better performance with 21% higher profitability, as per Gallup research.
7. Integrate Your HR Tasks in One Platform:
For smooth management of a remote workforce, have an all-in-one integrated platform for your HR related tasks. This includes designing contracts, reporting work hours, managing leaves, tracking performance, seeing payslips, conducting in-office surveys etc. Sophisticated systems will also improve efficiency in payroll management.
You can simplify this by partnering with an EOR platform like Rapid in India. From providing best-in-class, customised benefits to running payroll, you can handle HR functions within a few clicks.
8. Offer Localised Benefits:
When hiring Indian professionals, consider the local laws to give your remote employees the best localised benefits. Spend some time researching the statutory and supplemental employee benefits that Indian employees will appreciate. From regulatory insurance to cultural holidays, consider the different types of employee benefits you could offer.
Use Rapid for Remote Work Management
If you are still not confident about how to manage a team remotely, it is best to seek expertise with an EOR service. An experienced employer of record like Rapid can help navigate the challenges of remote employee management.
Along with a deep knowledge of the local legal landscape in India, it also has an integrated platform that looks after your HR functions and payroll management. Rapid’s trusted expertise can help you understand local benefits and taxation policies so you are compliant with the laws.
Rapid has also partnered with trusted vendors to offer customised best-in-class health benefits and background verification services. It has a services marketplace to cater to diverse needs such as renting workspace, visa processing, filing taxes and more.
Rapid will help you manage teams remotely so you can focus on developing your growth strategies.
Click here to schedule a 30-minute demo with Rapid.