Have you ever taken an online course for college? It can be a tough environment to work in, and as instructors routinely warn people who take such a course, it’s not for everyone. All of a student’s assignments, deadlines, and discussions are completely up to that individual to monitor and complete. When you employ a remote team, you are sort of a moderator of a big “online course”. There are many benefits to utilizing a remote team, including a larger pool of applicants to choose from, a potentially more efficient workforce, and an excuse to use some really fun telecommunication tools. There is definitely a learning curve if you’re new to it, though, so it’s good to be honest with yourself in deciding whether you can adjust to this kind of working environment.
Can You Manage a Remote Team?
There are benefits and disadvantages to having either type of team, but managing remote employees can be tricky. Choosing the right people is probably the most important point, and once you have people who you know are comfortable working this way, a business owner also has to understand how to regulate workflow without actually being in the same building as the people who are creating the work.
More Work for Managers
Whether you want a staff that is 30 percent remote, or 100 percent, this section of your team will demand a large portion of your managerial energy; it lays more responsibility on a manager’s shoulders. Remote employees must regulate themselves for the most part; but, whomever is leading them has to pay closer attention to productivity, as well as their rapport with the rest of the team because it isn’t possible to physically watch how much work is being done in person.
No More Faking It
This can be an advantage because remote employees cannot hide behind the appearance of staying busy, but instead it will be clear how productive your team is simply by what they are getting done. A manager is able to focus on exactly what is being produced without the distraction of judging workflow by watching someone work.
Can Everything be Transmitted, Over the Airwaves?
You can get anything, any piece of information, any idea sent to someone, pretty much anywhere in the world. The question is: Is it practical to do so? If, for example, your business requires a member of staff to physically hold a product in his hands to do his job, then shipping costs to send new product to this person every week may not be feasible. Maybe you’re an art dealer who needs an adjuster or analyst to be hands-on with art pieces for careful examination. Does the nature of your business dictate that you and your team need to regularly be in the same room together, to really get a feel for things? In those specific cases, working remotely may not be a good option for your business; the key is finding out if the advantages outweigh the potential drawbacks.
The Search for Self-Motivators
If you peruse the classified ads in your daily newspaper, you will be sure to find multiple job offers that call for “self-motivated” applicants only. This is a necessary quality for pretty much any job on the planet; however, staff members working from home must take self-motivation to a whole new level. Your remote staff are essentially running their own sole proprietorships because they very much have to manage themselves, their time, and their part in your company.
Building the House as a Team
It’s like a big housing project with various subcontractors. The project manager keeps an eye on how things are working together, of course, but each contractor is solely responsible for being where it needs to be and completing all tasks on time. If anybody drops the ball, then the entire project suffers, which is something very important to keep in mind when managing a remote team.
With the increasing ease of transmitting information online and the benefits to employing this kind of team comes an increase in the number of business owners who are willing to work with employees remotely. Deciding whether or not a remote team will be a good fit for your business means you will have to take into account all the trade-offs of doing so. So goes the old adage, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.