We have entered the era of Digital Nomads. But it’s not only rogue twenty-something backpackers who are making a living working at coffee shops and beach sides with WiFi, working remotely has now become a part of mainstream work culture.
With almost 50 percent of managers in the U.S., UK and Germany allowed to work remotely, according to Future HR Trends’ 2015 Report, Profile of the Global Workforce: Present and Future, more and more companies are choosing to employ virtual teams. Another survey by The Nemertes Research Group estimates an 800 percent increase in virtual workers from 2008-2013.
Although a remote workforce may help increase productivity by having teams work around the clock, inspire more creativity, reduce costs and give businesses an edge in the global market, managing teams remotely comes with its own challenges.
From battling time zone differences to communication headaches, to organizing work and setting clear deadlines, managing virtual teams can be a juggling act. But with the right plan and tools in place, you will ace it in no time.
The business experts at Entrepreneur suggest project management software, like Taskworld, is one of the best tools you can employ for managing virtual teams with success. And here at Taskworld, we have our own virtual team finding the best ways to solve these challenges.
Here’s how you can manage your virtual team using Taskworld:
MEET OUR VIRTUAL TEAM
Shiv - Zenmaster and Head of Content. He’s the ringleader in our little circus. Hailing from Delhi, he prefers the city life and works at our Taskworld headquarters in a slick little office downtown.
Jessica - That’s me. Thanks to our flexible and awesome company, I get to work from the nature lover’s paradise of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. On my porch after yoga. Or a mountain, tethering Wifi from my mobile phone.
Thibault - Our French compatriot and former intern turned freelancer. He spends his days working on his Master’s degree and and his nights being a university student. And his other days hacking our Social Media - because we all know university students have unlimited amounts of energy.
ORGANIZE AND DISTRIBUTE WORK EASILY
One of the biggest challenges teams face when managing work remotely, is the distribution of work, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
Between Shiv, Thibault and I, we are responsible for all of the content and social media for Taskworld, everything from blogging to updating the user guide, to interacting with other businesses on Twitter and Linkedin, to creating marketing reports and more.
With Taskworld, we use drag and drop Kanban boards to assign work to each team member, since we have a small team. (You can also use Kanban Boards inside of Taskworld for sprint planning, or by department for larger teams)
Shiv can assign tasks to myself or Thibault, or we can create tasks for ourselves, so every team member, whether in France or Thailand, knows what to work on. We can also assign due dates so the deadlines are clear.
Every status change is recorded and transparent so there is no cheating on deadlines.
If we have a small question about a task, we can ask in the comments section.
If we have a bigger conversation about an overall project, questions about our duties or we just want to ask how Shiv’s weekend was, we can move to Taskworld chat (see the next section).
STAYING IN COMMUNICATION
Communication is also a key challenge, according to many managers working with virtual teams. Getting the answers you need to keep working can be difficult in different cities or time zones.
While Thibault is just waking up, we are winding down for the day in Thailand, but using Taskworld chat, we can keep each other up to date on what’s happening.
Taskworld chat has three main areas - Public Channels, Private Groups and Direct Messages.
Public channels are where our virtual team can stay in touch with the mothership (the rest of the company) and follow the big news there. Private Groups are where departments can chat. For example, myself, Shiv and Thibault have a channel where the three of us chat, creatively named the “JTS Channel.” Direct messages are for one on one conversations, for example if I want to ask only Shiv a question.
Another important part of staying in communication is the ability to share files. In tasks and chat, you can also upload files to get instant feedback on things you are working on.
And although we can get most of our work done virtually with task comments, chat and sharing files, the HR experts say it’s still important to have face time with your remote colleagues. Shiv, Thibault and I have a meeting once a week on Skype to catch up, plan the week and discuss any issues or questions that come up.
(Sorry Thibault, that’s the best screengrab I could get of all of us.)
IT’S OKAY, GO MOBILE
The beauty of being a virtual worker is of course, the flexibility. But as work is no longer nine to five and rather the time between deadlines, that whole work-life balance thing becomes a lot more blurred.
Sometimes, I run into town to do errands at 2 p.m., but Shiv needs something urgent that just came up. With Taskworld’s mobile app and smart notifications, I get the message on my mobile phone.
Then, on-the-go, I can send Shiv what he needs, or send him a quick message on Taskworld chat telling him that I will get to it in an hour when I get home.
If I have a new assignment for Thibault, I assign him a task on our Kanban and he will have a notification waiting for him when he logs in.
With Taskworld, our workspace is always in our pockets. We can assign tasks, exchange instant feedback and get notified if something changes, making managing a virtual team not only seamless, but fun!
Are you working with a virtual team? What are your biggest challenges and how do you meet them? Reply in the comments section below or Tweet us @Taskworld