The COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of employees to work from home. That brought challenges but many businesses saw the benefits of remote working including a boost to productivity, enhanced employee wellbeing, and cost savings.
With lockdown restrictions now removed, firms across the world have continued to operate a model of having staff in multiple locations. Hybrid working, fully-remote, and hub and spoke models became more commonplace, with many jobseekers looking specifically for roles that allow them to work closer to home. Modern technology allows you to employ staff from around the world and access talent to help your business compete in the global economy.
Managing a dispersed team isn’t without its difficulties though, so see below for tips on how to do it successfully.
Effective communication is vital for all businesses but it’s particularly important for dispersed teams. All staff should be able to easily stay in touch with colleagues and know how they can share questions and concerns.
Think about processes too. Quick daily standups where team members share what they are working on are a good way to maintain effective communication.
Communication is also vital for employee wellbeing. It can be hard to know how staff are feeling if they are in a different location to you so make sure they feel able to raise mental health concerns, and understand the routes to do so. Give staff regular opportunities to touch base with their manager and discuss their wellbeing.
Make time for creativity
Your dispersed team should be involved in creative and innovative thinking.
Encourage a culture of creativity with a virtual suggestion box using which staff can share ideas. Run regular online brainstorming sessions that focus on particular areas of your business or problems that need solving. Remember that some employees may not feel confident to share ideas with the whole group so create smaller groups in break out rooms using Zoom and other video conferencing tools to encourage everyone to contribute.
For day-to-day creative thinking, suggest that employees go for regular walks in the open air. Studies have shown that walking boosts creativity and productivity.
Working remotely from home has many benefits but in-person meetups are still powerful. A change of working environment can reduce stress, improve wellbeing and boost productivity, while get-togethers can help employees to bond.
You could run monthly, quarterly or annual face-to-face catch-ups as well as away days and company socials. Innovation hubs like Plus X give you access to inspiring spaces for meetings and coworking so you can get the team together on an ad hoc or regular basis. Having a workspace where team members can drop in flexibly can help keep costs down while retaining a physical home for the company.
If face-to-get meetings aren’t possible for all staff, you could run social events on Zoom such as virtual cocktail tasting and murder mystery parties. You can also create a section on collaboration tools like Teams and Slack where employees can have non-work conversations.
Being supported by their colleagues helps to ensure a dispersed team stays productive, connected and motivated. Encourage senior employees to mentor more junior staff and a system of onboarding ‘buddies’ for new members of staff has many benefits.
Set up working groups within the business to focus on particular issues and make sure employees who attend training communicate their learnings with the rest of the team. Lunch and learn sessions, when employees get together virtually at lunchtime, are a good way for staff to share knowledge with their colleagues.
Set Clear KPIs
Just like the staff you work with face-to-face, your dispersed team should have clear key performance indicators (KPIs) so they know what they are working towards and stay motivated.
KPIs are individual employee targets that contribute to your company’s overall goals and for them to be effective, they should be specific. You can achieve this by making sure they are SMART. This means they are:
Stay in touch with team members to ensure they are meeting their KPIs and provide feedback and additional resources if they are not.
Ensure Staff are Well Equipped
You should make sure that all your staff have everything they need to be successful. Employers in the UK have a legal obligation to ensure employees have appropriate equipment and that their working environment is comfortable and safe. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to provide a new laptop or other equipment for staff working from home, but if they don’t have a personal device to use, adequate technology must be available.
To boost productivity and efficiency you might want to give employees a second computer monitor or ergonomic keyboards, chairs, and desks.
Your dispersed team might also need a place to go for face-to-face meetings with customers and colleagues. Membership of a workspace like Plus X gives staff on demand access to meeting rooms, break out areas, and desk space.
As well as your legal responsibilities, it is in your company’s commercial interests to make sure staff are well equipped. If technology is inefficient or they lack a place for meetings, your business could suffer and miss out on opportunities.
Learn to Let Go
If you run a dispersed team, you should avoid micromanagement. You need to trust staff to get the job done without you constantly checking in or organising unnecessary meetings.
Your recruitment strategy comes into play here. Be thorough with your processes to ensure you employ the right people for your business who share your values. Put an effective onboarding process in place so remote staff understand how the business operates and everything about their role.
Ultimately however, your management style may not suit a dispersed team or you’ll need to step back and allow someone else to manage them.
Think About Time Zones and Language
Modern technology and remote working means that your workforce can be anywhere in the world but if you do employ talent from another country, be aware of different time zones and appropriate working hours when it comes to managing a geographically dispersed team.
You shouldn’t expect everyone to be online at all times if the hours are unsociable where they are based. If you require all your team to be available at certain times, consider having core hours and meeting times that are appropriate for everyone. For example, if you have team members in the US, a meeting during the late afternoon UK time might be more appropriate than one first thing in the morning.
You should also be sensitive to language barriers. If you have team members who aren’t native English speakers, make sure everyone speaks clearly during meetings and provide written summaries.
Looking for an inspiring workspace to bring your team together? Book a tour of Plus X innovation hubs in Brighton and West London to see how we can help your business succeed.
Content + Social Media Manager at Plus X Innovation.