Set Yourself up for Success Managing a Remote Team

Show of hands: who loves working remote?

Now, another show of hands: who loves working with remote team members?

We all love the flexibility of being able to work wherever we want – whether that’s to travel, spend more time with our families, or skip an insane commute – but when it comes to working with a remote team, there’s definitely some hurdles that can give the whole remote relationship a bad rap.

We know #agencylife moves fast and loose, and in a world where more and more work is being done with freelance teams, we’ve compiled a few of our tried-and-true tips for managing offsite talent.

#1 – “Measure twice, cut once” is good advice, whether you’re in a woodshop or at an advertising agency. Solid project planning helps your remote team get up to speed quickly, produce what you need, and keep timelines on track. A proper project brief will outline the background of the client, the project goals, the specific deliverables you need, the budget you have to allocate towards the work, and an outline of the timing involved. This will help give your remote team a clear understanding of why they’re involved in the first place, and what they can do to help. When it comes to talent rates and negotiation, it’s generally a waste of time to play the “first to name a number loses” game. When you can give freelancers a clear idea of the workload, budget, and timing needs, they’ll be able to quickly accept or pass on the project, which will get you to kickoff that much sooner.

#2 – Set office hours where everyone on the project team is available for check-ins. There is no reason why this window needs to be 8 hours long – a single hour of shared availability is more than enough to communicate with a talent team you trust (in which case, see #4). During these “office hours”, everyone on the team should agree to be available for video calls, Slack messages, and email. This means they’re not on a train, in a place with spotty WiFi, or double-booked with other client meetings. Managing our own expectations of “seeing butts in seats” is something we have to overcome if we truly want to work with the best talent available; setting these “office hours” are as much for the remote team as they are for the remote team manager!

#3 – Optimize your “office”. Whether you’re working in an open-concept agency office or your favorite coffee shop, there’s some basic upgrades you can make that will improve your own experience of working with a remote team. We’ve all been on static-filled phone calls, and the frustration of poor A/V quality can quickly spiral into frustration with the overall experience of working with offsite talent. It simply doesn’t need to be that way!

Video is your best friend, so you need a place where you can take video calls and give them the same respect you’d give to a 1:1 conversation. Tapping into remote talent is a business opportunity for every modern agency, and the minimal cost of designating “video zones” (through phone booths, sound-dampening wall panels, or cozy corner spaces, to name a few) is hugely valuable. For anyone in a noisy environment, a quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones with a good microphone can do wonders for your listening and presentation abilities.

#4 – Trust your team. It’s (almost) that simple. You go through plenty of work to find, vet and manage freelance talent, and if you find yourself not trusting them when you can’t see them… you need to ask “Why?”. Professional freelancers’ success is entirely dependent on being trustworthy – delivering work on time, on budget, and with a good attitude – so they’re inherently motivated to do right by their clients. In many ways, freelancers are even more motivated to do great work for you than salaried employees, because their income and job security is significantly less predictable and word-of-mouth referrals impact their immediate future.

Working with a remote team isn’t for everyone – it’s a relatively new way of working for many of us – but the business benefits of tapping into the remote talent pool easily outweigh the learning curve that we’re faced with when scaling a team. Our team at Sandy has spent years working remote and managing global talent teams, and we’ve built our business on taking these types of hurdles out of the way so your business can keep running at full speed no matter where your team is.