Executive Education

Things I learned helping a startup set up their remote team

As a early stage startup founders, you must have heard that if you want to hire the most talented employees, you need to relocate to a bigger, better city like New York, Bangalore, Munich, or San Francisco.

Well, this is simply is not true. Instead, you just need to know where and how to look for all the untapped talent hidden around the globe.

Personally, I have always had a bent towards location independent business models, which allows me the freedom to travel and move to different places.

My current company has 5 full-time employees and 15 part-time contractors, all of whom work remotely. Our team is based both stateside and internationally, with members living in Portland, Chile, Manhattan and other far off places.

Should a start-up build a remote team?

One of the big advantages of a small business setup is their ability to form a team of people from all over the world. Building a remote team gives you maximum access to talent that would otherwise be completely out of reach. However, the proceeding does not come without costs.

The success of a remote team is rarely based on ‘processes’. You simply cannot start hiring all over the world by throwing in a few tools and expect things to work magically. It is something that needs to be ingrained in the company culture, requiring intentional efforts to make it prosper. The business-crucial question, ‘should I build a remote team?’, therefore, becomes important quite early on.

As a small company owner myself, I did learn a few things while helping another startup build their remote team. Here’s what I learned;

  1. Not everyone can work remotely

First things first; there are all sorts of steps you should take to build and manage your remote team. And all your effort will be in vain if you hire people who are bad at working remotely. It is not a knock on their potential. For all you know, they could be amazing at their craft while simultaneously bringing the whole team down because they are not used to functioning in a remote setting.

Some people can easily thrive in a distant setup, others cannot. So, if you really want your team to function, it is imperative that you find individuals that fit the remote-working environment.

  1. Be intentional about work-life balance

It is much more difficult to leave your files at the home office when you work from home. Before setting up a concrete team of workers, make sure to set a culture of healthy work/life balance yourself.

Make a rule against working on the weekends or all hours of the night, unless that is what you want for your team (I’m sure, you don’t). Encourage sufficient time off, analogue hobbies that get you and your team away from the desk for a few hours every week. Better work-life balance for your remote team means they will be much more happy working with you, and you will see a massive improvement in their work quality and productivity levels.

  1. Communication is essential

You might have hired an exceptionally skilled remote team, but if you don’t take communication seriously, your company may implode.

Communication tactics are less about tools and more about purpose and intent. There is more thought that goes behind every interaction. You must keep your team in the loop, so they are not left in the dark. You’re writing so that others know what work needs to be done.

What you say and how you say it, matters, and in most cases it will become the deciding factor of what you expect from your employees. Therefore, have regular meetings with your team. They could be daily, weekly or bi-monthly. Find out about their challenges, give them regular feedback about their work and so forth.

  1. Low structure cost

The startup I dealt with was a bootstrapped business with very limited resources to work with. The company attributed their survival and success, in part, to the fact that they were able to build a remote workforce.

By hiring skilled contractors, you too can lower your payroll taxes, insurance costs and general overhead costs, like office space and décor.

  1. Fostering a remote philosophy

To an extent, forming a remote work team means giving up control. Many small-to-big business owners are dependent on their ‘office presence’ – and their ability to drop in on employee’s desks unannounced – as a motivating factor to keep workers productive. That isn’t possible, obviously, when your team is spread throughout the country or the world.

Instead of being a hovering boss, hire the right talent by seeking employees who are motivated to perform well at work. It might be time consuming at start but finding this type of employee is definitely worth the effort.

  • Greater accountability

For many remote teams, accountability can also be an issue. As mentioned earlier, staying motivated may be difficult when a manager is not physically checking on you.

In the past, I have struggled with getting employees to adopt certain project management systems that allowed me to stay updated with their progress. In a remote work culture, adopting an effective project management system is, therefore, something you must gravely commit to.

  1. Make self-care a priority

Under a remote group framework, every individual can, undoubtedly, unintentionally, turn into a compulsive worker and get totally devoured by the corporate business. Thus, making sure everyone in your company takes care of themselves is more important than all the tips and tools in the world for remote-working.

Here are a few self-care tips for you and your team that will prevent burnout, making everyone more productive, and happy.

  • Keep your body moving regularly, even if it’s just a walk around the block. You will have more energy and feel better at the end of the day.
  • Almost every study has proved that sitting all day, every day, can kill you sooner, even if you exercise. On the flip side, standing for long hours can also have negative impact on the body. Alternate between standing up and sitting down by using something like a GeekDesk.
  • Have set work boundaries and adhere to them. Without limits, you are more likely to work all the time and get less done.
  • Consuming caffeine and sugary snacks all day can result in a major crash in the late afternoon. Eat well by keeping your working area stocked with healthy snacks like nuts and baked goodies.

Any start-up can make it work

At this point, I can’t imagine running my business any other way but via the remote approach. Hiring and managing a strong team of remote workers can, no doubt, be challenging. However, with the number of technological innovations and enabling tools available in the market, geographically disparate teams can easily communicate via chatting software and update each other on work progress. There is absolutely no reason why most businesses can’t make this model work.

Written by: Kamil Riaz Kara is working in writing industry since 5 years. Currently, he is writing on business, marketing, management and fitness.

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