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While the work from home decree has completely changed the working life of many companies and their teams, companies that always operated remotely are just hitting their stride. Many of the common concerns about working remotely include holding the team members accountable, creating a sense of company culture, and the lack of ease of communication. But, there are ways to circumvent all of those concerns and create a thriving company that hits on all the major deliverables: great performance, teamwork, transparent communication, honesty, and trust.
We reached out to Ricardo Jorge Pereira De Sousa Coelho who is running a very successful e-commerce company with a completely virtual and remote team of engineers and technicians, and have learned a few valuable strategies to keep the team motivated, incentivized, and excited to be a part of the work that they do. Here are the tips that he shares that he has implemented into his business plan that can help your company and team as the world continues to work from home.
1. Incentivize the employees with a Christmas or end of the year bonus.
If your budget permits it, see how you can incentivize employees with end of the year bonuses. The reason for this rests partly in accountability. Because remote work provides a great deal of flexibility, this works as an incentive to encourage each team member to give their best work, even though they aren’t physically present with management at the office. We structure the bonuses differently based on how long the team member has been with us. If they’ve only worked for us for a month, we’ll give a 10% bonus for Christmas. If they’ve been with us for a while, we give up to as much as they earned in the month of November. We believe that investing in our team members in this generous way also builds teamwork and a strong work dynamic.
2. Implement strategies for accountability.
It’s true, accountability can be hard to track. How can you know when your team is actually logged on and working? Freelance platforms have their own tracking tools for this. Our team uses Hubstaff.com, which is a time tracker that shows everything you need to know – how long each team member was online, when they logged in, and more. We show them how to use the platform during onboarding, then check in frequently at the beginning.
However, acknowledge that it’s easy to cheat the system. It’s possible that someone can log in and leave the time tracker running while they aren’t working. That’s why it’s best to use the first few months of a team member’s work with you (or, the first few months of your team’s shift to virtual) to check in on the platform frequently, and then also ask about key deliverables. We use some other technologies to track progress on these goals which helps with accountability, too. For the most part, we’ve found that team members are inspired and committed to giving their best work thanks to the combination of these strategies.
3. Host yearly get-togethers.
Team building is usually overlooked on solely virtual teams, but we know the power of relationships and getting to know one another. Strong relationships at work actually motivate team members to work a company longer, even if they have a better offer elsewhere. We host these yearly get-togethers as trips in the south of Europe, and pay for all accomodations for the team members to join us – their flight tickets and lodging. Then, we host a team dinner and some other activities for the whole team, but also give them time to explore the location on their own. This isn’t tremendously expensive as we go in the winter, when it’s warm in the south and accommodations are less expensive because of the down season.
This is a great time for new team members to feel like they’re part of the family, and to strengthen relationships with long time employees, too. There’s something different about being together in-person as opposed to relying on video calls. And, when the trip is over, everyone feels rejuvenated and more excited about working together moving forward- even though everyone works remotely.
4. Prioritize transparent communication.
Finally, we also prioritize constant communication. Without it, the lines can easily get crossed, accountability can weaken, and goals can become confusing. We rely on two main tools for this: messaging app Slack and goal tracker app Trello. Slack is the easiest way to communicate with the team and small sub-teams without checking your phone or opening your email, so you can stay on track. And, Trello is another great way to check on progress and make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them day to day and week to week.
We tell our team members to use the Trello cards as their “white boards” to brainstorm ideas, get feedback, and keep the team in the loop on what they’re working on. The combination of these two tools with Hubstaff keeps accountability and transparency relatively easy to manage even remotely, and I recommend them to everyone.
Working remotely is a big shift in many ways, but luckily, there are many technologies that make it easier. Your team can both work remotely and work effectively – and, even strengthen a team bond. Make sure to add ways to incentivize and keep communication a top priority.