To say that the people who work for Netguru are scattered the length and breadth of the country still wouldn’t give you the full picture. Now, it’s true that we have 7 offices in Poland, but our employees aren’t obliged to actually go there to work. As a result, you can meet Netgureans in Cyprus, Buenos Aires, Budapest, Tel Aviv or even Kuwait. How I make sure that our workflow goes smoothly and manage my team if it’s a hundreds miles away? Simple - by sticking to the 10 rules of running a remote team, which I would like to share with you now.
Working without goals is like driving without direction. In order to work efficiently you have to know what you’re aiming at. I find it critical to establish both short and long-term goals. The former help us keep our work in check and makes it easy to see what the next steps should be. The latter, on the other hand, enable us to put our activities into a broader perspective, and delineate the directions we want to follow.
In today’s rapid-fire world you cannot rely solely on your mind, pencil and a piece of paper, especially while running a software development company. Choosing the right tools that will help you control your company’s workflow, organize communication channels and enable consistent project management is definitely worth giving a thought to before the outset. At Netguru, we cannot even imagine how our day would look without our set of favourite tools at our disposal. We use Jira for project management, Slack for communication, Trello for tasks, Salesforce for tracking sales, HubSpot for marketing activities and many, many others.
A lot of people working on many projects simultaneously can spell chaos. But this doesn’t have to be the case when you make sure that every procedure has been unified and everyone follows it in the same way. How do we manage that at Netguru? By creating checklists and sticking to them. Checklists allow you to maintain good practices and consistency. They also help to build collaboration and assist in delegation, as they ensure that you’re not the only person that can solve a given task.
Communication is the crux in every company, not only those working remotely. However, in the case of such a company it becomes even more important. There is only one rule here - responsiveness, and it applies both to me as the CEO and all other employees as well. It’s really this simple: you all have to know that you’re there (wherever it is) working towards the same goal together even though you might be physically apart. Maintaining communication flow and responding relatively quickly is essential as it helps the team avoid misunderstanding and keeps everything rolling forward. A transparent communication scheme also comes in handy: if you CC all your emails and have conversations in open Slack channels, it will be easier for everybody to stay up-to-date with all the details.
The rule is simple: all 10 people work remotely even if 9 of them are in the same room and only one is in another place. Of course, it may be easier to solve some issues during a quick face-to-face chat around the coffee machine. But also consider how easy it will be to explain the outcome of that chat to the absent person later. Efficient remote working means remembering not to exclude anyone from the communication flow. That’s why it should take place over some digital channels accessible by all parties involved — not just the workers, but the clients too.
Tracking the progress of projects can pay out a host of benefits. Firstly, it keeps you constantly up-to-date with all the various issues and helps you set realistic deadlines. Secondly, progress reports are invaluable for the client. Moreover, progress tracking enables you to set clear short-term goals for your team. I’ve been a remote CEO and co-founder for over 8 years now and I’m confident that our devs are doing their best to provide clients with code of the highest possible quality. When the team achieves the goal, you can reward them as suggested in the next point.
It’s essential for your team to maintain a high level of motivation in order to be effective. Unhappy employees translate into an unprofitable company. Given that, it makes sense to do your best so that your employees really enjoy what they’re doing. Avoid micromanagement, support your people, plan and prioritize tasks well in advance. Hire only the people you find reliable and cherish them by respecting their work-life balance. And it will pay off big time.
The bond between your co-workers is important and you shouldn’t underestimate its value. That’s why it’s useful to organize team retreats from time to time. You can also encourage people to stay in touch together via communication channels open to everybody or Facebook groups used as a water-cooler experience. It’s always nicer to think that behind a name on Slack there’s a real person with whom you might have something in common.
Give honest feedback to your employees and ask them to do the same both between themselves and directly to you. Simply by being open to negative opinions, you can now foster a culture in which everybody is constantly learning at no cost. Encourage people to share their knowledge and reward them for that. This culture of mutual feedback and knowledge exchange facilitates the project flow while also helping employees evolve and better their performance during projects.
At Netguru, we provide our employees with comfortable offices which promote an atmosphere of creative collaboration, but showing up at the office is their individual choice. All Netgureans can work remotely as long as they have the proper conditions for such a style of work, and this means a decent Internet connection and a peaceful atmosphere that wouldn’t prevent them from being available for frequent and productive video calls.
The things I’ve listed above come from my personal experience as a remote co-founder. I hope you’ll find them as useful as I would have found them, if I had came across such an article 8 years ago. If you have any thoughts on working with remote teams, feel invited to share them in the comments below.