Reasons Remote Teams Succeed or Fail

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In recent times, large corporations like IBM have shut down a large part of their remote workforce while companies like Automattic have gone completely remote with an annual turnover of $1 billion. So what has made IBM’s remote teams fail while Automattic has succeeded? In this post, we will be looking at the three main factors that make remote teams fail or excel: remote-specific management, the right people, and communication.

1. Remote-specific Management

In order to enjoy the full benefits of working with a remote workforce such as lower overhead costs, increased productivity, happy workers, and access to talent in all parts of the world, management styles must be adapted to enhance the remote culture. These are the three main factors that enhance remote management:

Trust: Managers must trust their team members and believe that they are working even though they can’t see them in person. For this reason, micromanagement and the manager control complex must be avoided. Micromanagement destroys efficiency and causes remote teams to fail.

Few Managers: Remote teams function better with a smaller management structure. As long as workers are trusted, they need more decision-making power and the resources to handle problems as they occur. In fact, one manager may be able to manage multiple teams since the workers have greater autonomy.

Process Orientation: With remote work, bureaucratic red tape must be avoided. For instance, if one employee works from New York and the manager resides in Seattle, what will happen when a problem occurs at 7:15 a.m. EST? Successful teams will allow the worker to make a decision without consulting a supervisor, but a process must have been put in place to guide the decision-making process. This can only happen when the right type of employee was recruited in the first place.

2. The Right People

Teams that are fully remote tend to do better than those that have both remote and local teams. The latter employs people with the right mindset from the beginning. The following characteristics are vital for success in remote teams:

Enthusiasm for Work: Workers who truly love what they do will deliver high-quality work on schedule even with the distractions at home.

Trust: Again, working from home requires employees to be trustworthy and work with little or no supervision. Managers must also trust that work is being done whether they can see the proof or not.

Communication Skills: This is an absolute necessity with remote work. No remote organization can work without people who have excellent communication skills.

3. Communication

Communication is the glue that binds remote employees and team managers together. Once communication fails, the entire team will fail. Here are some of the software tools that remote teams use to build effective communication systems:

Slack: This is the industry standard for team communication. It allows the use of text, GIFs and voice calls. You can use this for conference calls, video chats with many people, for internal screen sharing and a lot more.
Google Docs and Sheets: This is the standard for documentation. All documents and spreadsheets are easy to create, edit and share.
Trello: Project management software like Trello is essential for keeping track of projects and to enhance communication until the project is successfully completed.

Companies like Automattic, Zapier and Basecamp hire the best candidates for remote work. They manage them correctly and enhance effective communication. As long as the three main factors listed above are well managed you can enjoy the full benefits of a remote workforce as well.

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