With internet and cloud access almost everywhere, pulling an excellent team together from every corner of the known universe has become more than just a far-off dream. This is reality—and that means that everything comes with a price. Figuring out how to best deal with the pitfalls working remotely falls to both coordinators and team members . . . luckily, we have some advice for you. Here are some things you should watch out for.
Lack of Cohesive Culture
“Company Culture” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but having an understanding of protocol, values, and the general vibe can be invaluable to making sure everyone works in harmony. Culture is easy enough to build when you’re face-to-face for hours everyday, but it becomes exponentially harder over e-mails and chat.
The Solution: Maybe you’re separated by miles, but video and voice chat can help take away some of that feeling of distance. Having a video chat session once or twice a week can help you view each other as people, rather than as just text on a screen. If it’s possible, trying to set up an in-person meeting at least once a year—even if you’re just going on a vacation together—can also go a long way. Make your goals and expectations for the team environment as clear as possible.
Sometimes, even a team that works in the same building misses passing important information to each other; when you’re dealing with different time zones and schedules, it can be even worse.
The Solution: A good team-management software goes a long way. Applications such as Slack or Trello form a solid hub where your team members can find all the information they need in one convenient place. Find what fits your work style the best, and take a little time to set it up. As mentioned in the previous point, a sync-up meeting every week to see where everyone is at will help keep everyone on the same page.
Let’s be honest: working from home may be a dream come true, but it comes with its own set of problems if you’re trying to be efficient. Even the most responsible person can find themselves slacking off in a distracting home environment.
The Solution: Different individuals will find different ways to overcome this. A tried-and-true recommendation is to make sure you work from a place conductive to focus. This can be a home office, a library, or a café. Co-working spaces have also popped up in response to the work-from-home problem and tend to be equipped with everything you need. From a project manager’s standpoint, making sure to thoroughly outline expectations can help them set daily goals. If sticking to a specific deadline is important, you can also set times when all members should be accessible for communication via messenger or the cloud.
Working remotely is convenient because it lets people schedule their work around their lives (as opposed to vice versa), but that can mean they end up dedicating less time to the project. This is particularly relevant to team members who work an extra job in addition. And of course, if your teammate is 12 hours ahead of you, it can be hard to link up when you’re both awake.
The Solution: Be open. Talk to your team about their availability and figure out a schedule based on that—though remember to stick to your guns. A deadline is a deadline, and all team members should be prepared to haul into overdrive if needed. As a member, try to be communicative about availability (including changes in availability), as well as when you think deliverables will be ready.
If everyone’s in the office, you can be assured they’re all using the same tech, with machines that can handle the demands. Once you take them out, weaker computers and poor internet are just some of the problems that can crop up.
The Solution: Some people may choose to find another place to work with a better internet connection, while others may go ahead and buy a more powerful work computer. Make sure that you stay on top of any tech issues, and know who can potentially handle an additional workload, in case they have better resources.
For the developer who wants to keep information under wraps, working remotely can pose a problem. This is particularly true if your people are getting out of the house to get rid of distractions
The Solution: Spending a bit more for a reliable VPN can be entirely worth it: your team will be able to access a secure route to your connection. For the dev with a lot of tools, a password-management system lets members log into multiple applications with a single password, which can then be changed easily as needed (for example, when a member leaves the team). Are you the one working in public? Make a habit of locking your device whenever you get up or move.
Money is important, but it also complicates things—particularly if team members are in different countries.
The Solution: This is an issue where putting in the time and legwork for research, as well as the (you guessed it!) money for adequate management technology can go far. Many freelancers and contractors use PayPal nowadays, which, in turn, integrates with most contractor-management software. Investing in QuickBooks, TurboTax, and other financial management systems will allow you to keep track of tax laws, budgeting, and royalties for the entire team.
Working remotely doesn’t have to be troublesome. All it takes is organization, communication, and a willingness to work together despite being a world apart (plus a couple of handy tools!)
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