We held a great Zoom call session yesterday with our peer support community for agency owners – around 60 agency owners attended. Various perspectives from people who had remote working teams from the start of their agency to those that just shifted everyone from an office to work from home.
There were also different scales from agencies who work with freelancers to an agency, Human Made, that has a remote team of over 80 people around the world.
Top tips for agencies with remote working teams:
Tom mentioned that with a team of 80 people who live in every part of the world it is crucial to document everything. Their rule is, if it’s not documented it doesn’t exist. They build their own system, but there is a WordPress theme called O2 that may solves this out of the box: https://geto2.com/
The 2 biggest de-motivators for remote teams
1. People feeling blocked in their work. Having to wait for the next item
It might be that you need a response from someone to allow you to continue your work. But that person is not around. You can’t just walk up to their desk. You have to wait. You feel like you are not progressing.
Forward planning. Making sure there is always a to do list that is publicised for everyone. Always make sure there is something to look forward to.
Ensuring individuals take ownership, by ensuring they have enough tasks to get on with to avoid idle time.
If your team is global, make sure you consider time zones. It’s harsh to constantly have to go into meetings in the middle of the night.
2. Lack of social connection
Different people have different levels of need for social interaction. You will need to identify this quickly to set up the right kind of environments.
Build in time before meetings officially start to socialise. Use all the silly tools on your communication apps, like stickers, filters etc.
Allow meetings to be longer than what you expect to build in the time to connect socially.
Deadlines are key. But how it’s done is not.
This is probably something you already do anyway, if you empower your team to come up with solutions of their own. However, in a remote environment deadlines are crucial to ensure work gets done.
Clearly communicate to team members that deadlines can not be missed. But when people do it is up to them.
Be mindful of the ‘people need to see that I am doing work’ trap
A lot of people who work remotely for the first time feel an urge to constantly respond to everything. Be seen to be doing work. That will have a major hit on productivity.
Communicate from the start that it’s OK to be idle. That you don’t have to respond to every Teams or Slack message right away.
Box out time when to respond to messages throughout the day. If it’s urgent, it’s a phone call.
Have a ‘I’m currently not working’ time label – if really necessary. And make team members feel it’s OK to have that.
Be more lenient on working hours. The rules of working at home are different.
Trust your team!
This is probably a good time to see who really steps up to the plate and is responsible in the team. You can’t micro manage for ever.
For remote working to work at its best you need to be to simply trust your team. There is no other way.
Analyse during this time who in your team was incredibly unreliable in hitting deadlines or taking ownership of continuing to work on tasks (despite bottle necks). If they are not responsible working from home, it’s highly likely they won’t be working in an office.
Be mindful of overtime.
As a business owners you are probably overjoyed if a team member is happy to go the extra mile. However, when working from home it’s easy to get on the laptop first thing when you wake up and just continue late into the night. There is nothing to break up the day e.g. leaving the house for travel.
Keep an eye out on team members who consistently work overtime and make sure they take time off.
Tom Willmot from Human Made shared his top 3 (but there are plenty of helpful articles that exist now and list tools, no need for us to dive deeper):
- (some people prefer Teams)
- A blog that they built internally to document everything they do
Also Richard Coope from Brightful recommended that you don’t overload your team with tools. Keep it simple. Especially if it’s new to them.
Hope that was useful. We have the video recording of the whole Zoom call available to our members. Give us a shout if you’d like to come on board.