At BlueSky, we have been managing remote teams for the last 15 years. Over that time, we have observed that there are certainly challenges when managing teams operating in different regions. However, with advancements in technology, it’s now easier than ever to overcome these obstacles. Making the most of technology has helped us reap the benefits of our remote teams.
The main challenge of managing remote teams involves communication, both verbal and written. As the internet has evolved, online collaboration has become a true asset for project management. But what if you’re working with teams separated by language barriers and time zone differences? In some occasions, companies are leveraging international teams, creating situations where teams are literally working on opposite schedules. At BlueSky, we use several tools to keep us headed in the right direction.
Many have often cited numbers to show that remote workers are more productive. A ConnectSolutions study shows that 77 percent of workers get more done in fewer hours when working remotely. There are many more sources out there touting the benefits of remote working. But, while this may be the case, it’s important to have the right tools in place. According to Forbes, “there’s clear evidence that it [remote working] can have major advantages in the right applications and with the right workers.” The article also stated that, productivity “is tied to the way the program is executed, and the specific needs of the organization, the individual, and the circumstances.” In other words, remote teams can be extremely advantageous when set up for success.
Tools of the remote team trade
At BlueSky, a large part of the success of our remote teams has been due to the tools we have adopted. We suggest these types of tools to help you keep remote teams on track:
- Document management tools: Document management tools allow for team members to work from a single source, contributing to one document without having to pass around multiple copies. Good tools often include a versioning system so that you can track who made what changes and fix problems when necessary. Document management tools include Microsoft Sharepoint, Atlassian Confluence, and DocuWare Cloud.
- Task management tools: These tools are helpful for assigning tasks to individual team members so that everyone stays on track. Often, task management tools have dashboards which provide additional work details for projects and make it easy for team members to seek assistance from coworkers. These tools include software such as Wrike, JIRA, and Smartsheet.
- Real-time messaging: Ever since the days of chat rooms, we have been accustomed to the possibilities of messenger platforms. However, it’s important to use one that offers persistent chatting on a secure network. You could opt for a tool such as Slack or HipChat.
- Screen sharing tools: When team members work in separate locations, it’s often important to bring workers together for group collaboration. Secure screen sharing is important when you want to reap the benefits of the collective brain. Screen sharing tools such as TeamViewer and Skype are great for bringing teams together.
Even with the best of tools, it’s important to identify any gaps in processes. At BlueSky, we do that with real communication, not of the digital variety. Yes, we mean actually speaking to team members.
Improving how we work with remote teams
Although these tools make remote team management immensely easier, real communication is still necessary. The downside of a robust digital toolset is that people want to talk on the phone less and less. To eliminate any gaps that might develop as a result, it’s important to have a daily touchpoint. The real communication is so important, even down to the small talk. Real conversations are a big part of our process.
Remote teams are useful because they allow companies to be cost-conscious while still getting the quality work needed for smooth business operations:
- The environmental impact makes remote work appealing for companies monitoring their carbon footprint: According to WebEx, if people with remote-compatible jobs worked from home just 50 percent of the time, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons and could save $20 million in global gas savings.
- Remote workers feel they are more productive: A survey by FlexJobs found that 66 percent of remote workers felt they were more productive at home.
- Employee retention improves with remote work: The same survey found that 79 percent of employees would be more loyal to their employer if offered flexible work options.
The benefits are many but staying connected is essential for success.
BlueSky Technology Partners is a certified Atlassian Expert. We utilize the Atlassian toolset in our daily operations, and because we recognize the value of these tools, we highly recommend them for remote team management. BlueSky can implement Atlassian tools in your business and configure it to meet any unique needs you may have.
For a definitive guide to leading remote teams, get The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership by Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel.
About the Author
Gary Vincent serves as VP of Operations for BlueSky Technology Partners, where he leverages his 20 years of IT Management experience to oversee company operations and consulting services delivery. Gary joined BlueSky in 2009 and has been actively involved in eCommerce consulting across several diverse industries, including automotive, retail, manufacturing, distribution, entertainment, government, and education. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and holds a BS in Computer Technology from Purdue University.