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Assembling a Remote Team? Here’s How It’s Done

Establishing remote teams, when done well, can create an incredible economic advantage for your company. A remote workforce provides your business with a level of flexibility and scalability that’s hard to replicate with a static number of workers in a set location. Remote teams enable you to architect natural redundancies into your infrastructure to reduce the risks of loss from “acts of God.” Plus, it enables you to hire the best and brightest from a global talent pool, and select team members based on a broad set of skills that don’t include how far someone lives from the office. Finally, working remotely empowers your team members, with each constructing an environment conducive to their success.

The ability to work from home has been a utopian vision that we were promised with the rise of personal computers. No more commuting and battling traffic. However, like exploding smartphones and hoverboards, this vision of the future hasn’t quite worked out as planned.

And it’s not for lack of productivity. A Stanford Economics study reports that work-at-home employees were 13.5% more productive than their office mates. That’s probably because we’re only heading to the bathroom when we need to use it, not to avoid annoying coworkers collecting contributions for their kids’ school. Another survey found that 83% of respondents felt they’d have more loyalty for an employee offering remote work options, and 46% quit or refused a job offer because of a lack of remote options.

For nearly ten years, ModSquad has been living proof that a strong workforce can be assembled outside of traditional office environs. While we have a number of people staffing our operations centers around the world, the vast majority of the ModSquad team work remotely, in several groups:

  • Distributed teams of professionals, from management to staffers. These folks would, in lesser companies, be part of the subspecies known as “office workers.”
  • Work-from-home contractors, typically working on an hourly basis.
  • Team members working from the road, whether to meet with clients, attend trade shows, or track Bigfoot through the wilderness (this is where strong Wi-Fi comes in handy).

Naturally, if we’re offering remote services to our clients, we have to walk the walk. Since our inception, ModSquad has been committed to establishing a far-reaching workforce that solves problems globally, not locally. It’s one thing to promote top-tier remote teams; ModSquad brings that vision to life every day for our clients.

So, how do we go about creating these powerhouse teams? Some of it is pure common sense. The obvious basics include identifying self-motivated workers with good communications skills. Of course, they’ll have to have an appropriate workspace, free of distractions, with a secure internet connection and up-to-date hardware. But what comes next is vital.

1. Incorporate your remote environment into the interview process.

You’d be surprised at how many people use tried-and-true recruiting methods without making the adjustments to hire remote workers. You want to find out how your candidate will perform in this virtual environment. Our sales team, for example, mimics the way they work remotely with one another during the interview process. They screen and interview candidates using online communications tools, send chats between rounds of interviews to gauge responsiveness (hint, hint), and finally solve real-world scenarios collaboratively during videoconferences. Interviewing in this manner gives ModSquad insight into how each candidate communicates with the team over various channels, and gives us a glimpse into how it would be to collaborate with that person.

2. Choose the best communications tools for your company.

To work remotely, your candidates should demonstrate more than a basic aptitude for tools like Skype, GoToMeeting, WebEx, or Slack, and know how to use them in a secure manner. After all, they’ll be the lifeblood of your everyday interactions. Keep your entire group on the same platforms to maintain consistency. Share files in secure cloud servers; collaborate on shared documents, and keep track of your tasks with robust enterprise-level software. When your tools are primarily housed online, it affords you the ability to work anywhere, not just from your home office. Whether you’re housebound or living the on-the-go life of the road warrior, all you need is a laptop or phone.

3. Communication is not just for work, it defines your culture.

ModSquad uses Skype for our everyday internal conversations, as its global reach is unparalleled. Email is still essential, but the ability to talk real-time, whether via text or video, is critical. A group or video chat is a great way to create your company’s office vibe. It’s the virtual water cooler around which you all gather to generally TCB, but sometimes just to shoot the breeze. Think about traditional workplace settings; they always have their own inside jokes and cultures. Create your own company vibe through online community tools; share memes with others in your groups, create separate chat threads to help blow off steam, and don’t turn your nose up at animated gifs and emojis. ☺ They’re very effective in showing emotions that sometimes aren’t obvious through the written word. <duh> And make sure to take advantage of status features, which will also let others know when you’ve got your head down and are crankin’.

4. Incorporate virtual rewards and SWAG.

One of the perks of some jobs is the free swag you can hoard from the office kitchen— samples of wares or promo items that are meant to entice you into a partnership. (Admit it, you’ve accepted some freebies that you had no idea what to do with, just because.) Virtual teams don’t have that luxury, so you have to get creative. Set up your own Etsy store for branded material; establish a gamification system to reward workers for various accomplishments; or set up a dedicated social network site like Ning. Bring some incentives and swag into your team’s environment so they can be proud of and show their pride in the company.

It’s not easy, but when you’ve got remote teams going, the benefits to both internal teams and client teams are unparalleled. A true win-win.

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