It’s been more than 20 months since our team started working remotely.
Before the lockdowns, a few team members were already working remotely.
Those working from the office only did so three days a week – Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, everyone worked from home.
In the last 12 months, our team has grown by more than 40%.
We now have team members in 8 countries spanning across 3 continents: North America, Europe, and Africa.
The growth of our team members also means an increase in the number of clients we have. Our client load has also increased by 30% in the last 6 months.
If you’re now wondering how we managed to drive business growth while working remotely, you’re reading the right article.
This article will let you know how we’ve managed to increase productivity and efficiency in the last 20 months.
But before we do that, let’s start by taking a look at what working remotely means.
What is a remote team?
A remote team is a group of employees who work and live in different physical locations but still fulfill a shared business objective and purpose for the employer.
The concept of remote teams is not new. It’s been around for a long time. But, in recent times, it took on an increasingly important role because of tech companies that use digital tools and ecosystems.
Having said that, now let’s look at different ways you can manage a remote team to drive business growth.
Use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)
The challenges faced by remote teams are well-documented. They hit you from the very moment you decide to work remotely. You don’t see each other. And that means you won’t have an overview of what’s going on.
Fortunately, OKRs can help you overcome such challenges.
OKRs are a popular approach for goal-setting, and they help teams focus on what needs to be done and improved at team and company levels.
Sometime last year, our team started using Zokri to set quarterly OKRs. And they have been helpful when it comes to:
- Understanding goals clearly.
- Improving collaboration among team members.
- Tracking progress.
- Goal alignment and prioritization.
So, how can you implement OKRs while working remotely?
If you have too many teams within your organization, you can start by implementing OKRs in one or two teams as a pilot to see how best you can set them. But if you have a small group, you can onboard the whole company at the same time.
There are various ways to set OKRs. You can take a top-down approach and have your department or CEO come up with some OKR ideas for the whole team. Or you can either brainstorm OKR ideas as a team. We usually take the latter approach.
Run Standup Updates and Meetings
When everyone is working from an office, there might be no need for any structured meetings.
You’re always close to your team members. You’re constantly communicating. You probably go out for lunch together. The rhythm of information flows naturally.
But when people are spread out all over the world, and they work asynchronously, you have to find ways to stay connected.
For us, Standuply is one of those tools that keeps everyone in the loop. This scrum tool runs our daily standups and reports, and it can easily be integrated with Slack.
Sidenote: Like many distributed teams, we use tactics from scrum methodology and agile development and many more.
We’ve two structured daily team updates:
The first one is a Slack post. This beginning of day update is a quick, short snippet that notes what you did the previous day and what you’re working on today:
The second update we do is a short (15 mins at most) daily standup meeting. A group call. Each team member gives a brief summary of:
- What they did yesterday,
- What their priorities are today,
- And if they need help from other team members.
Although these updates are brief, they keep everyone aligned and on track.
Host Company Offsite Events
This we do at least once a year. And it’s even more important to do when your team is distributed.
Okay. Before you ask – no, you don’t have to fly people to one location.
Team members in the same country can gather at a local restaurant of their choice, and the company can sponsor the event.
At least that’s how we do it. Tell you what, the value of an offsite isn’t lost no matter how you do it; what matters is that you do it.
There’s something powerful about spending time together in person in a different environment. People tend to feel natural permission to share on a more personal level and to be more vulnerable, intentionally, in a way that fosters connections that are very difficult to create when working remotely or in an office environment.
It’s all about building positive relationships as this tends to facilitate productivity and overall job satisfaction.
Focus on what really matters
As a general rule, nobody at Invesp micromanages anyone – we’ve always worked like this as long as I can remember.
With people collaborating over several time zones, our managers care about three things:
- Time spent on a task,
- And results.
Our clients are billed based on time spent on projects, so it’s vital to hit deadlines and produce results.
It doesn’t matter how a team member designs their work schedule. We know that people’s productive times are different.
Some of our team members do their best work at night. And some are more productive during the day. As long as they track their time, hit deadlines, and produce results, anything else doesn’t really matter.
Use Collaboration Software
Having a huge remote team doesn’t mean working at a slow pace.
As your team grows, you want to create a structure to collaborate and drive business growth as a unit.
And that can be as simple as using the right software such as collaboration tools. These tools are a great way to get your team on the same page.
They allow you to work together through documents, spreadsheets, and presentations that can be accessed from anywhere at any time. And as a bonus, they can help you save time by cutting out hours of back-and-forth emails!
Let’s just take the marketing team as an example.
To make sure that everyone on the marketing team has a clear understanding of what’s happening, the collaboration software they use indicates every task in different lists: to-do, doing, blocked/waiting, ready to review, done, and backlog:
Here’s what their Trello board looks like:
The above Trello board indicates every workload that the marketing team had to do in that quarter. Because of that one board, every marketing team member is on the same page.
They clearly understand what their workload looks like, what everyone else is working on, what needs to be reviewed, what’s blocked, and what’s done.
Although the idea is still the same, the Trello board for our CRO team looks a bit different:
Knowing how to use collaborative tools properly will help you achieve your team goals while still maintaining an efficient workflow.
Conduct One-on-One Meetings With Your Team
This is something we recently started doing.
According to Elizabeth Grace Saunders, the author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money:
“One-on-ones are one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager, they are where you can ask strategic questions such as, are we focused on the right things? And from a rapport point of view, they are how you show employees that you value them and care about them.”
Our one-on-ones are not about direct reports between a manager and a team member. They are also not performance reviews or anything like that. According to Hamid Maruf, Invesp’s Executive Assistant:
“The idea behind the one-on-one sessions is to guide the team on how they can excel in their careers. We talk about their aspirations, motivations, and what team members want to grow into.”
So how often do we conduct these one-on-one sessions?
Well, we have a small but mighty team – about 30 full-time remote employees in total. So, our Human Resources and Project Managers can conduct one-on-one sessions once every month.
But, you don’t have to do it monthly. In fact, the frequency with which you have one-on-one sessions should be determined by how big or small your company is, the size of your teams, and the experience level of your employees.
But if you can have a company policy where you regularly check in with each of your team members, it will make your employees feel like you care about their well-being. And when you make your employees feel invested in your company’s goals and are more compelled to produce results.
We all know that working remotely can have some benefits, but it also has its drawbacks. As a remote worker myself, I’ve learned how to work with the advantages and disadvantages of this style of employment in order to get more done while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you want your remote team to be productive and efficiently drive business growth, implement the tips mentioned above.