Working remotely isn’t easy; it has definitely become a trend, but has its own unique challenges. For a team that has worked remotely for the past 9 years, we know that this hasn’t been the easiest thing for us.
At Purple Rain, we manage a team of over 55 people: some work remotely, some from our Bengaluru office, some are full time employees and some are with us on an hourly basis. Yes, we have all kinds of employment type, five great products and a progressive growth graph!
Google’s People Innovation Lab (PiLab) recently revealed the secrets to managing an effective remote team (Google has more than 100,000 workers spread over 5 continents). In the study, they measured the well-being, performance and connectedness of the employees and came up with recommendations on how to manage a productive and happy remote team.
Veronica Gilrane, manager of Google’s People Innovation Lab, said, “ We were happy to find no difference in the effectiveness, performance ratings, or promotions for individuals and teams whose work requires collaboration with colleagues around the world versus Googlers who spend most of their day to day working with colleagues in the same office”.
However, Gilrane also mentioned that it could be a daunting task to work remotely. For example, the Google employees who work remotely found more difficulty in establishing connections with their colleagues.
She added, “The technology itself can also be limiting. Glitchy video or faulty sound makes impromptu conversations that help teammates get to know, and trust each other, seem like more trouble than they’re worth.”
So, how does Google overcome these barriers? The answer lies in a simple, age-old and tried technique – traditional management principles. The Google manager swears by the following three principles:
These are the same principles we follow at Purple Rain as well. Like mentioned, we have a great mix of people across the globe and different working patterns. Keeping such a unique team in sync and satisfied is a tedious job that our CEO, HR, operations manager and project manager do efficiently.
Take a look at how we work:
Getting to know the people
Employees love managers and founders who take an interest in their well being. Jumping straight to the agenda at hand while on a call is something that we don’t do. We take time and make an effort to know our team and understand what’s up with them.
The meetings are scheduled keeping in mind everyone’s convenience and have turned out to be one of the best ways to keep in touch. Our meetings are always video-based, so we can see the face behind the voice and connect effortlessly.
Tools like Slack have become a virtual office for us: we use it to assign tasks, follow up, send and receive gifs, celebrate important milestones and ‘gossip’ to cool down after a day’s fatigue.
Once a year, our CEO ensures that we meet on an awesome retreat and the in-house team goes on lunches/movies regularly to keep the spirits high.
For the remote team, the management ensures that their achievements are also celebrated and sends amazing gifts and hampers.
Setting clear boundaries
Even though norms set clear-cut boundaries on how and what to do for teams, they are mostly assumed by team members which can lead to some serious confusion. Hence, instead of making assumptions or making room for confusion, we do the following:
1 .Do not hesitate to ask for clarification on Slack, Basecamp and over emails
2. Participate in weekly meetings (every Monday) with the CEO, managers and executives to give an update on what tasks are completed and what will be done in the coming weeks
3. Define clear schedules that includes holidays, leaves and “do not disturb” time.
Connecting and building trust with team members is an art and takes effort; even more so when the team is distributed across the time zones. To ensure that we all are connected and on the same page, our team members get on a quick Slack or WhatsApp call every now and then and discuss matters beyond the office walls.
We celebrate festivals, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other joyous occasions. However, there is no replacement to one-to-one interaction, but in our own little ways that we get closer as much as possible to maintain a healthy and balanced work life.
For us, the most efficient way to get the job done is not always the best one, it is the time and energy invested in the human resources that has made us reach this level.