The rapid rise in remote work was the world’s adaptive response to the pandemic. Yet, it very shortly became a long-term business model for millions of companies worldwide. This trend has been growing in popularity ever since and is considered the imminent future of work by many.
Indeed, it’s hard not to see why so many businesses are creating remote or hybrid workplaces. The list of benefits is quite overwhelming:
- The vast majority of workers report feeling happier when working remotely, with almost half willing to accept a pay cut in return for at least some days working out of the office.
- Productivity is not only unhindered but actually increased when working from home. While the exact figures vary, numerous credible studies back this up.
- Remote work promotes greater company loyalty, something quite important nowadays when job-hopping is at an all-time peak.
- Businesses can save a huge chunk on their operational costs. Sure, workstations and software cost money, but much less than a nice office space for a hundred employees.
- Another major selling point of remote work is the ability to hire top talents all over the world without being limited to your local candidate pool or worrying about relocations.
Yet, as they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So it goes without saying that there are some challenges with building remote teams, such as limited face-to-face communication, self-reliance on productivity, time difference, and so on.
In this post, we’ll take a look at how businesses can create a 5-star remote team and excel without the traditional office environment.
10 Tips to Create a Top-performing Remote Team
As mentioned above, creating a top-performing remote team is no easy task. There are tons of intricacies involved in creating a productive, efficient, and positive work environment where team members are not physically together.
Luckily, there are also ways to tackle this challenge. Here are some of them – based on our first-hand experience of running a fully remote team for the past 7+ years.
1. Hire the right people
Building a strong remote team is only possible with the right people on board. With all the perks of remote work comes a great deal of responsibility. Remote top performers have to not only be great at their job but also possess certain personal qualities to showcase their skills, grow, and thrive in this environment.
So businesses have to ensure they source the right candidates – highly accountable self-starters, great at time management, and capable of producing top-quality work with little oversight.
The harsh reality is that these qualities are not easy to come by, and it’s close to impossible to ‘teach’ them to someone – you either have them or you don’t. And that’s okay! Some people are simply more productive and motivated when working side-by-side with their colleagues.
But it’s the responsibility of a recruiter or hiring manager to separate those best cut out for remote work from the large pool of applicants. So if you’re hiring remotely, you need to have an eye for the right people – or a proven candidate assessment framework to follow.
Luckily, there are many dedicated tools or even ready-to-use tests that you can rely on when getting started.
2. Provide necessary resources
Now that you’ve assembled a team of remote workers, it’s time to get them up to speed on everything there is to know to make them the top performers. While in an office workspace, new employees can shadow their fellow colleagues and learn everything as they go, remote onboarding is slightly more challenging.
Remote teams should have sufficient online resources ready and available for the smooth onboarding of new hires to help them quickly get in tune with the rest of the team. It’s crucial for newcomers to clearly understand the company structure and hierarchy, their personal and team tasks, and most importantly – their exact role and responsibilities in the company.
For reference, over the past few years, we’ve coined our own onboarding plan for SDRs, where the first week is entirely dedicated to fully understanding their new company and department as well as its operations before jumping into their role:
And it doesn’t end there. Successful remote businesses invest in their team’s development by providing all the necessary resources to grow their knowledge and skills and promote continuous improvement. This can be anything from building a knowledge base to regular training sessions.
Paying for skill development courses, creating updated how-to’s for new processes, and organizing company webinars are just a few of the many ways remote employers can supercharge their remote talents’ performance.
3. Gear up with the right tools
Remote teams may be geographically separated, but they do communicate and collaborate in a virtual office created by the company – the combination of team chat, task management tools, or anything else a specific department may rely on in their daily activities.
And, believe me, if you invest time and research into finding the best solutions for your unique business needs, this virtual office can be just as sufficient as a traditional one. After close to a decade of operating remotely, we’ve identified some clear front-runners that can help any remote business become fully functioning:
- With Slack, we have built seamless and accessible communication using separate chats for departments, projects, and company-wide news, as well as direct messages if needed.
- Video conferencing software like Zoom or Meet facilitate seamless face-to-face communication both team- and company-wide.
- For async communication, there’s nothing like Loom. It will come in handy for teams working from different time zones, like ours.
- We use ClickUp as our key management tool that streamlines tasks across all departments, allowing us to easily collaborate, share files, and stay on top of deadlines.
- Apploye is the go-to time management tool for growth-centric, remote companies to manage and increase their team’s productivity.
These tools can lay a solid foundation for efficient communication and collaboration within the team. But it’s also important to invest in the best role-specific software stacks for your industry for maximum efficiency.
For example, your sales team will definitely need some tools to find and engage with potential customers and collaborate on those opportunities. At the same time, marketing or engineering stacks will be somewhat different, helping with very specific tasks and processes.
As mentioned earlier, there are many other great options out there, but with these tools, any business can create a powerful, top-performing virtual office.
4. Create clear communication and collaboration
Communication is the backbone of team productivity, and remote teams are no exception. For remote companies to reach their full potential, communication among team members and departments should be easily accessible and encouraged.
While constant video meetings may be disruptive and real-time-wasters, they should definitely occur weekly or biweekly in remote workplaces. Video conferencing allows remote workers to sync up on the progress of all ongoing projects and goals in a more personal manner.
Naturally, if any questions arise that several employees need to discuss in detail – this should only be encouraged. For most inquiries, a chat will get the job done.
Daily or weekly check-ins are another great way to efficiently stay updated on each other’s tasks. Slack, for instance, has a customizable GeekBot that facilitates this check-in with short automated questions:
We can vouch for it. Geekbot handles our marketing department's weekly check-ins with customized questions similar to these above and also appears before scheduled team meetings asking what everyone would like to discuss to have a ready agenda.
Yet, excessive communication can be just as bad for your productivity as its lack. Remote workspaces too can get noisy at times. For this reason, we have a “silent” day every Friday when each of us can focus on getting the job done with no distractions.
5. Promote informal/personal communication
Non-work-related communication is just as important to a healthy corporate climate, and that goes double for remote teams who don’t have the luxury of being physically present together.
When you come to an office, you greet everyone, catch up over a cup of coffee, and have constant social interactions with your colleagues. With remote teams, it gets more tricky.
Humans are very social beings, and with rare exceptions, we always work better as part of a team. One of the best ways of building camaraderie in the workplace is to promote and nurture informal, personal communication and relationships among team members. Without it, remote workers can easily feel isolated and alienated, which are well-known performance killers.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways employers and team leaders can prevent this from ever happening by creating separate chats and organizing informal events, department- or company-wide.
Your remote workers will be much more comfortable and motivated to work with people they have connected with on a personal level, even if just virtually.
6. Create a work environment built on trust
With remote work, there is a great deal of autonomy and trust granted to the employees, since ultimately, they have little to no direct oversight. But as we all know, trust is a two-way street.
Team leaders have to strike that perfect balance between ensuring everyone is doing their job and not micromanaging, which is detrimental to remote workers as they will feel untrusted.
Instead, all top-performing remote work environments are built on the foundation of trust and promoting autonomy. In return, companies receive better quality work and much greater employee loyalty and retainment.
I’m personally a big believer in working smarter, not harder (which is one of our corporate values). So, if it takes a team member 2 hours to complete a task that usually takes 5 hours, they are free to use those extra 3 hours as they see fit.
Going back to our first point, this is why it’s so crucial to hire the right people from the start when building a strong remote team. Remote top performers will appreciate the trust and repay with their hard work and effort, whereas the wrong hires could easily take advantage of this gift.
7. Track progress
Creating a work environment built on trust is a necessity, but it does not substitute the need for managing and tracking employees’ progress. Regular one-on-ones and performance reviews are critical to the long-term success of every remote team.
The key component here is meaningful feedback, both positive and negative. Top performers should be praised and/or rewarded for their good work and achievements, which motivates them to keep going that extra mile.
At the same time, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so it's equally important to help and guide under-performers back on track the moment an issue arises.
There are dedicated tools that offer a consistent, streamlined view of your remote workers’ progress to eliminate the guesswork, identify top performers, and anticipate any decrease in productivity.
Whatever metrics or framework (KPIs or OKRs) you choose to track your performance, make the results measurable and realistic. Without clear objectives, it’s impossible to track remote teams’ progress. It is the responsibility of the business heads to set attainable yet stimulating goals – personal, departmental, and company-wide.
8. Accommodate the unique needs of remote workers
Most remote workers have different needs and expectations from their company compared to traditional workers. For a majority of them, their responsibilities and availability do not allow for a strict, fixed work schedule.
For most people I know, the greatest perk of remote work is the ability to manage your work-life balance according to your liking. So if you want to attract and retain top-performing remote workers, you have to provide and encourage this flexibility.
This means it should be completely acceptable if someone can’t respond right away, as long as they continuously show up to scheduled meetings and stay on top of all their tasks and communications.
Similarly, their work should be judged on its final quality within the given deadlines rather than the number of consecutive hours spent in a fixed schedule.
Remote employees have been shown to work more hours across multiple studies, which also speeds up the inevitable burnout. For this reason, we always encourage our remote employees to communicate potential burnout coming and take time off when in need of a break. We’ve even introduced the 4-day workweeks in summer to give our employees some extra time to enjoy some extra time off (no, it didn’t affect our overall performance).
9. Keep your remote team motivated
In an office, people work side-by-side with their colleagues and team leaders, which is a great daily motivator. With remote work – you’re on your own, and it’s solely on you to find the motivation within to get work done.
There are ways remote companies can virtually ignite their workers’ motivation, and it doesn’t take too much effort.
One of the greatest motivators for top performers across the board is knowing that their hard work is valued and has a purpose in the overall success of the company. Luckily, there are many ways to recognize your employees’ work and push them to keep excelling and crushing their targets.
Whether it’s the team leader, HR representative, or CEO (for smaller companies), it’s important to have regular check-ins with every remote worker individually. This way, you can ensure they are doing well and identify any opportunities to make their work more pleasurable.
Such personal, two-way communication will instill a feeling of assurance that they are valued as an employee and human beings, which is crucial for most people to be genuinely happy and productive at work.
10. Inspire, encourage innovation
Since they can’t be physically present to lead the firm, remote team leaders need to go the extra mile to bring out the best in their top performers.
The best remote leaders encourage and welcome creativity and innovation from all their workers. There should be a safe environment for sharing unique ideas and solutions, even if most of them never make it to the surface. Different workers from diverse countries, cultures, and educational backgrounds have different critical thinking skills and views, and this should be leveraged.
We started with hiring the right people, but the closing component of a top-performing remote team is the right leader – one that inspires their team and leads them forward. To make up for being geographically separated, remote leaders should show a great deal of commitment to the firm and empathy for their workers.
By inspiring them and connecting on a human level, business leaders will bring out the best in their remote workers, who will then grow their passion and inspiration to help the company achieve new levels of success.
Plus, you never know - you could be one little push away from a golden team with million-dollar ideas right by your side!
Some people love remote work, some people don’t. But the one thing for sure is that more and more companies will be offering this type of employment as we all move towards a more digitized and virtual world, both in business and our personal lives.
Following through on all of the above-mentioned steps, every business can create a top-performing remote team with the best talents from all over the world. With modern technology and software, companies can grow and thrive without ever seeing each other in person, except for that annual company retreat we mentioned earlier.
Author Bio: Oleg Bilozor, CEO & Founder at Reply.io, an AI-driven sales engagement platform.