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In light of increasing globalisation, building and managing a remote business has far surpassed being just a ‘possibility’. Today, increasing numbers of businesses thrive entirely on remote work. Technology means that sitting in an office all day is just no longer a  necessity. 

The Global Mobile Workforce Forecast Update estimates that 1.87 billion employees  (over 40% of the world’s working population) will be mobile by 2022. In highly developed countries like the US, the figures could soon reach 75% (International Data Council (IDC)). In this blog, we address the following questions:

  • Why has remote work become so popular?
  • Why are remote teams so effective 
  • How to manage remote businesses effectively
  • How do we manage cultural and time differences when freelancers are based in different locations? 
  • What software and tech is available to ensure that remote businesses thrive? 
  • What are the top tips, tricks, and tools for working productively remotely? 

Why has remote work become so popular?

It is not just freelancers ditching the 9 to 5 office job. Increasing numbers of companies that have traditionally required consistent office presence from their employees are beginning to embrace remote work. 

Remote work allows for the following benefits:

Personal Freedom

  • Flexibility 
  • Ability to travel 
  • Overall better work-life balance
  • Ability to maintain a family life
  • Ability to maintain healthier relationships

Financial Advantages

  • Reduced office costs
  • Reduced travel costs
  • Reduced costs of employee care
  • Eliminate office rental costs, office supplies, connectivity, and IT support 

Wider Available Talent Pool

  • The best talent is not always on your doorstep – hire from anywhere globally
  • Employee satisfaction is higher, therefore turnover is lower
  • Happy employees are more effective employees
  • Sure, you might have to juggle time zones, but you will have access to the best and brightest, which is a massive advantage for any business.

A more productive team

  • Just by eliminating commuting time, office distractions and unnecessary meetings, remote team members see a marked increase in productivity. In other words, remote teams get things done.

Higher efficiency

  • online meetings and conference calls tend to be short and sweet.
  • Your team is incentivised to work well to maintain flexibility 
  • Team members love the flexibility that remote work brings, and they will be determined to keep it. 

Why Remote Teams are so Effective

Data shows that over 80% of remote workers feel less stress and than millennials and expect to be allowed to work remotely and flexibly. Productivity and efficiency are also believed to increase with remote work. This was was shown in a 2-year study conducted by Google. The study included more than 5,000 of its employees. 

Google’s People Innovation Lab Remote Work-Study (PiLab)

Well-being, performance, and connectedness were measured, as were some other variables. Below are 2 excerpts taken from the report:

“We were happy to find no difference in the effectiveness, performance ratings, or promotions for individuals and teams whose work requires collaboration with colleagues around the world versus Googlers who spend most of their day to day working with colleagues in the same office.” 

“Googlers or teams who work virtually find ways to prioritize a steady work-life balance by prioritizing important rituals like a healthy night’s sleep and exercise just as non-distributed team members do.”

In conclusion, remote teams can help your recruiting efforts and help build a healthier, more efficient, more productive workforce. This contributes to a lower turnover rate, which is far better for business, as your staff gains extensive knowledge of the company and what is required to run it efficiently. 

Top Tips for Managing Remote Teams

  1. Make time for small talk – get to know your people

A crucial part of management is building rapport with every member of your team. You can do this by using technology that allows for video calls and hosting regular one on ones.

Speaking about work is not enough, get to know the freelancer as a complete person. Ask them questions about their personal lives, their hobbies or family. Not only do these discussions build rapport, but they contribute to the company’s culture.

    2. Manage time zones and cultural differences

Different time zones can be one of the biggest challenges when managing remote teams. If the members of your team work in different time zones, assign an overlapping period where everyone is available to meet. Remember that regular meetings can trigger purposeful engagement and strong work culture. If you are unable to set up daily meetings, one correspondence day in the week helps to establish a virtual workplace.

It’s important to be aware of cultural differences and communication styles. For example, in some countries, people avoid eye-contact during a conversation while others insist on using formal business language. Educate your team about the different cultural practices before the meeting in order to avoid conflict or misinterpretation.

Top 9 Tools and Apps for Remote Team Management

1. Google

Google does it again. 

  1. Google Docs
  2. Google Drive 
  3. Google Hangouts 

These free mobile apps give you remote access to your team’s documents, so you can edit, collaborate and store them with ease. You can also ‘hang out’, chat and message your team. It’s a flexible, convenient, secure and easy way to stay in touch.

2. SharePoint

Fast becoming a favourite office ‘intranet’ site, SharePoint is cloud-based service, hosted by Microsoft, for businesses of all sizes.

SharePoint allows you to design your own internal intranet for employees and customers alike, and it supports document storage, file sharing, and real-time collaboration.

3. Skype

Skype, the world’s most established online communication platform, is available on any mobile device (computers, tablets, mobile phones, even Xbox One) and offers everything you need for day-to-day communication in a remote team: chat, voice conferences, file sharing, and phone calls.

For a business just starting out remote team structures, Skype is simple to use, and everyone benefits from a Skype address.

4. Hubstaff

Hubstaff allows you to track where and how your employees are spending their time.

Hubstaff actually runs software on the virtual employee’s desktop, which means you can keep a close eye on productivity. True to its name, it’s an online hub that includes project management and timelines, online timesheets, employee scheduling, screen recording, employee monitoring, payroll software, GPS tracking, online invoicing, project budgeting and so much more.

5. Loom

Loom is an easy to use tool that can record your screen, voice, and face and instantly share your video. Seriously though, according to Muse, individuals who are in upper management, or own a company spend up to 50% of their time in meetings.

With our first top tool, Loom, you could probably halve that. Instead of hopping on a Skype call, or trying to brief your Virtual assistant over email, just send them a loom.

6. Slack

Slack’s paid version is ideal for working with remote teams, ensuring all work rolls out correctly and on time.

Use shared channels and guest accounts to work directly with people outside of your immediate team such as a Virtual assistant.

You can use Slack as a centralised hub, because of its ability to integrate with other apps and tools such as Google Drive and Trello.

Slack also offers free voice and video calling plus screen sharing, making it easy to communicate with people from all over the world as long as you both have a decent internet connection

7. Trello

Like lists? Trello is the ultimate list-making tool. Boards, lists, and cards allow you to organize and prioritize your projects in an enjoyable, manageable, and satisfying way.

You can set up a collaborative board for any purpose as it’s fully customizable. For instance, say you are using one of AVirtual’s Virtual Assistants for writing tasks. All you have to do is create a board called Content Writing and add lists for each day of the week. You can add cards to the list which enables you to add briefs, attach any file, set due dates, allocate time and so much more.

The paid version of Trello even comes with a bot named Butler. Butler can be used for automation tasks such as removing cards once the deadline is met.

8. LastPass

In a world that is rife with cyber-crime, we can’t stress enough how important it is to secure your data and passwords. Most of our work is conducted online now, and unfortunately, with that, comes some risk. When working with any remote employee, you will need to share your passwords with them. This is so they can access things like your social media, Office 365, Google Analytics and more.

Lastpass stores your website login information, address information, Wi-Fi passwords, and credit card details, which you can sync with all your devices. Ok, that’s awesome, but how does it protect my passwords? Your data is secured with fingerprint login, mobile pin app unlock, and two-factor authentication and something called your Master Password. LastPass allows you to add, delete and manage all of your passwords for any website or social media platform. 

You no longer have to type out your information into online forms manually either. Its automatic form-fill feature fills in whichever website’s form fields with whatever details it asks you to provide, such as your name, address, credit card number and zip code.

Top tips for effective remote work

Working remotely is not without its challenges. The procrastination opportunities are endless and a high degree of self-motivation is required. Here are our top tips for establishing a properly productive routine:

1. Establish proper working hours

Discipline is key. Set an alarm for a certain time every morning. Don’t snooze, get up, have coffee and get going.

2. Get up and get dressed

Never, never try to work from bed, or in your pajamas. Research has shown that setting and clothing have a huge impact on the mindset and thus, the ability to work. If you are up, dressed and sitting in your workspace (which should not be your bedroom), your productivity will be excellent.

3. Schedule breaks

Schedule in when you take breaks during the working day. This way you work productively in shorter bursts, rather than unproductively in longer slogs

4. Avoid social media

Do not go anywhere near social media when trying to work. It is the number one distraction from productivity.

5. Turn off your phone

Turn off your personal phone whilst working. 

6. Set specific goals

Each day, set a group of specific, measurable goals of which you can tick off a list. 

7. Plan your hours

After setting your goals for the day, allocate specific, realistic time frames in which to complete the necessary work. 

Top Apps for effective remote work

1. Forest

Best for: procrastinators

Forest is our number one app for tackling procrastination. For every user that makes it through their timer without distraction, Forest has pledged to plant a tree. Sponsored by Trees for the Future, Forest has planted over 145 million trees. 

How it works: 

After downloading the app, you set a timer for however long you would like to concentrate. Once that timer starts, a ‘seed is planted’ in a forest (on your screen). The tree gradually grows on-screen as time progresses. If you click out of the app, for example, to check another message, the plant dies and you have to start over again.

2. Self Control

Best for: Social Media addicted individuals. 

How it works:

Download the app onto your computer. It then allows the creation of a ‘blacklist’, a list of websites which the user wishes to temporarily block. After creating this list, select the number of minutes that you wish to not be able to access these apps for. Perfect!

3. Pomodoro Keepers

Best for: time management, procrastination and distractions.

How it works:

However many hours you are aiming to work for, this app splits them into manageable chunks. For example, the prospect of working productively for 4 hours solidly is too much for most individuals. Pomodoro will split this into 8, 25-minute bursts. A 5-minute break is scheduled for the first 3 ‘Pomodoros’. A 15-minute break would be scheduled in for the fourth. The break lengths are aligned with psychological research as to how long it is actually possible to concentrate. Excellent for remote work and efficient time management.

Conclusion

Ultimately, there is no reason whatsoever that teams cannot be as productive, if not more when working remotely. Furthermore, research is available which supports this. What is important for those individuals wanting to work remotely is the establishment of a specific routine and workspace, as well as a high degree of self-discipline. 

Finally, an abundance of apps have been established which make managing remote businesses and remote teams easy. It is possible to create a remote team that is high functioning, effective and cohesive.

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