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Remote Work Management - Top Agency Tips (Series 3 of 3)

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Written by Houston
Founder & CEO, BAMF Media
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Make sure you check out our second entry here, before jumping into this one. The second part you can find it here.

We thought we'd end the year with a bang and give you the final part of our three-part series on remote work management.

Remember.

Remote work management has three main ingredients.

The team, the tools and the process.

In our previous chapters, we've discussed the process of managing a remote team and migrating your existing processes to a remote workforce.

(If you've missed out on our previous guides you can check them out in the links above.)

Team

This is the most important ingredient.

And, it's the most difficult to build.

Let's break it down for you.

Not everyone is comfortable (or willing) to work remotely.

This is why it is critical that your team is both capable and motivated to make the long-distance setup work. 

For that, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Hire doers: Doers know the art of doing - even from a secluded island. You don’t have to constantly follow up with them to know if things are in order - you’ll automatically know.

    Having said that, as a manager, you’ll still have to provide guidance and direction around the most essential requirements to bring them on the same page.
  • Once that is in place, you’ll see doers getting to work and excelling at it in no time. 

Skills Assessment for Remote Hires and Freelancers

  • Hire trustworthy people: Without trust, a remote working setup cannot sustain. Remote work can grind to a halt the moment you can’t trust the person on the other side.

    If you find yourself worrying about what the person is doing, or worse, they're sitting idle, you are spending your mental bandwidth on something you shouldn’t.


Trust is the key.  

  • Trust the hired bunch: The thing about trust is that it works both ways.

    You need to trust your people and they need to trust you.
  • Hire people who are textually expressive: In a co-located system, information can be shared in person. You can pretty much walk up to people and ask them what's up.

    In a remote setup, however, things are a bit different.

    Textual communication is a must. This is why tools such as Slack, Skype, Teams, etc. are some that you can't live without.
  • Select people comfortable without a workplace: Even with a remote team, socializing is important, but the truth is - it is required far less than it is for co-located teams.

    You won't be able to support them physically, so pick people that are comfortable with long distance relationships. A history or remote work is a good bet.

Tools

Where would we be without tools?

Here is a list of categories of tools that you can look into. We’ve mentioned one free tool per category.

While the exact tools aren't important, it's about using them to their fullest.

It's not about choosing the best tools in the industry, but the best tools for their usage.

1. For smooth communication - Slack

Slack, in essence, is truly a virtual office.

If you’re on Slack, it means you’re in the office. 

Group chat rooms in Slack can be used as a tool to build team spirit and even perform team-building activities.

On the management front, Slack allows you to create different channels.

According to your requirements, you can create channels per project, or per sub-projects, or per tasks.

There, you can add required members and communicate with them in real-time while sharing files. 

remote work management, Remote Work Management - Top Agency Tips (Series 3 of 3)

You can also use this space to ease off work-related tension.

You can create fun channels for exchanging jokes, trivia, or anything to keep your team motivated, involved and included.

Who said you can't have water cooler discussions remotely? 😛

2. For password management - LastPass

Want a pro tip?

Get LastPass.

It makes handling passwords easier.

With so many projects and so many password-protected assets per client, it makes sense to use a tool that serves as both a manager and a repository for all these passwords.

Otherwise, there will be a tendency to:

  • Have passwords buried so deep in chats
  • Compromise client - and internal - security
  • Mess up passwords and get locked out - and, yes, this happens more often than you think

3. For video conferencing and check-ins -  Zoom

There are other video conferencing tools, too, like Hangouts, Skype, GoToMeeting, and more.

But somehow, Zoom has found its way to become the favorite, and that is why it is on our list.

You can sync these tools with your and your team’s calendar and schedule weekly check-ins, update, or general one-on-one discussion. These tools are saviors when it comes to managing a remote team. 

4. For task allocation and management - Trello

Trello (and generally most project management tools) offers an intuitive interface.

You can create task lists, set workflows, manage different stages of the pipeline, segregate your tasks and projects on the basis of their status, and so much more, using just drag and drop functionality. 

Being centralized, Trello offers complete transparency. You can check the bandwidth of your teammates by checking your boards and assigning tasks accordingly. 

remote work management, Remote Work Management - Top Agency Tips (Series 3 of 3)

You can create cards for different stages of the project and assign tasks within cards. These tasks can be in the form of checklists with a description or simple text.

There's more.

You can also upload important files and documents while assigning tasks. This way, the person responsible for the completion of the task will have all the files at their disposal. 

All in all, these project management tools also help you have a bird’s eye view of all the projects. You can use various reporting and automation features present in these tools to streamline the mundane tasks.

But, know this.

Tools are only as good as the people using them.

They are not your be-all and end-all.

Processes

While the team is the most important ingredient, processes are what defines your organization.

You might not like to think about “processes”.

The idea of processes might feel restrictive and rigid to you.

Start thinking of processes as “the way we work.”

They provide clear structures and directions on how to proceed. That way, they bring everybody on the same page, and ensure fewer mistakes. 

That being said, we don’t mean processes need to be unchanging or rigid. In honesty, they can be as flexible as your company culture is. You can use your team’s feedback to improve the processes and optimize them if needed. 

In essence, any process should be built on a strong foundation of a feedback loop. In the presence of the feedback loop, progress can be easily managed both by the manager and the people working on the project. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Creating SOPs for onboarding freelancers

This has been discussed earlier in our previous articles in the series.

2. Using project management tools to establish processes

We mentioned using Trello to manage projects and deadlines, but let's dive deeper.

We know that Trello is capable of offering a wholesome clarity on entire processes, but to achieve that, you need to keep your projects streamlined.

Suppose the task at hand is posting content on LinkedIn, you can use Trello (or any project management tool) in the following manner for enhanced productivity:

Segregate the entire activity into different stages. We can have the following segregation of stages:

  • Content prompts
  • Content first drafts
  • Client’s feedback
  • Revision
  • Good to go
  • Posted

In doing so, you’ve allowed yourself the space to manage resources as per the stage.

This will help you work in parallel.

For example, while a team of writers works on first drafts, there can be someone else working on content prompts, and someone working on posting the approved content. 

  • On the project management tool (Trello, in this case), prepare lists/cards for separate stages, list down tasks per stage, and assign it an order of priority and with appropriate and relevant labels.

    remote work management, Remote Work Management - Top Agency Tips (Series 3 of 3)

    remote work management, Remote Work Management - Top Agency Tips (Series 3 of 3)

    Support your tasks and cards with files, wherever required - so that the person working on the task has access to all the required files from one place. 
  • Start from the very first stage, that is, content prompts. The items that get completed from this stage can be moved to the next stage (first draft).

    As you shift the card from the first stage to the second and create a task for your writer, they’ll be notified in real-time.

    Keep moving the cards ahead in stages as and when they’re acted on. This way, you’ll have clarity on not only what work is being done, but also the entire flow of the work - and if anything goes wrong, you can fix it!

3. Creating process checklists for quality assurance

Going back to the example discussed earlier, if your activity is posting content to LinkedIn and you’ve divided it into different stages as mentioned, you are pretty much off to a good start.

Now, you need to dive deeper into every stage, and go task by task, and create a process checklist for each.

By doing that, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time that will later be spent in reviewing the work.

As an example, if we’re at the “drafting content” stage, and you’ve assigned your team member with the task of finishing one of the posts, you can maybe have a checklist for them to measure the quality of their work before submitting. 

For instance, for the task mentioned, a process checklist could look something like this:

  • Use short sentences.
  • No paragraphs should be more than 4 sentences long.
  • Use supporting visuals wherever possible.
  • Stick to the word limit.
  • Add hyperlinks wherever important.
  • Check for plagiarism, and add a report at the end.
  • Make the article as actionable as possible.

With this checklist, once the writer has written the article, they can check the items that have been accomplished.

Then, while reviewing, you can go back and check the items that are missing - and help the writers fill the gaps.

This way, you can also quickly check if all the standards are being met and quality is not compromised!

4. Defining agendas for weekly scrum sprints

Weekly scrum meetings are super helpful as they provide the opportunity for the whole team to collaborate and establish responsibilities.

Many teams find it difficult to identify the division of work per sprint - and therefore it is important to adopt this agile practice.

It makes it easier for the team to function as one, and for the teammates to be more confident about what they are supposed to deliver. 

Here’s what you can do to successfully define agendas for weekly scrum scripts:

  • Evaluate your roadmaps

    You should take time and review your project’s roadmap. It will set the context for two important concepts - epics and variations - which will provide the required backbone for planning, tracking, and delivery of work.

    Ensure that the roadmap is updated, shared with everyone onboard, and mentioned in the project management tool before your sprint meeting
  • Have a meeting before the meeting

    We don’t advocate having meetings after meetings, but sprint planning requires this. (Don't have meetings when a phone call will suffice.)

    Any sprint planning ideally involves two tasks - grooming the backlog and deciding the work for the next sprints.

    Backlog grooming simply ensures that the backlog is sorted, and that: 
    • The bottlenecks that caused the backlogs have been resolved
    • Resource allocation/reallocation has happened as required
    • The client has been kept in the loop regarding this backlog and the measures being taken to curb it. 

The focus of your sprint planning meeting should be to fix a goal. You should look at deciding the amount of work that is realistically doable during the sprint, and assign tasks accordingly.

Try to schedule sprint planning early in the week. In doing so, you’ll ensure that the team’s context and flow is disrupted less by the weekend.

  • Backing sprint planning with data
    Keep as much data, numbers, and figures as handy as possible. This is especially true if you’re talking in comparative terms. Suppose you’re talking about the performance in the previous sprint, and how you want the performance to be improved in the upcoming sprint.

Now, a better idea here would be to give numbers and metrics for your team members to improve and grow.

Try not scheduling retrospective discussions though - we discussed this in the second part of our guide.

Give your team enough mental space and bandwidth to truly retrospect. Only then will they be able to participate more in sprint planning. 

  • Ready, set, go!

    With everything else in place, you and your team members should be in a comfortable position with the sprint forecast.

    Once the planning is done, it’s a good idea to get verbal approval from everybody involved. You can also address any questions that your team might have at this point. 

5. Handling reporting for all clients and internal work

Reporting is one of the most important aspects of the project life cycle - especially when it comes to billing and invoicing.

You should have a strict structure in place for handling all the reporting related tasks. This should not only be for reporting to clients, but also for reporting to each other - internally.

For this, you can use Google Sheets to keep track of every task, every item, that is being worked on. There, you can keep tabs on important data about the task.

For example, if it’s a content piece, you can mention the following items for seamless reporting:

  • Title
  • Audience
  • Doc link
  • Word count
  • Comments

You can keep updating a system like this in real-time, as soon as a task gets complete.

That way, you’ll find reporting - whether to a client or internally - less troubling. It’ll become a part of your workflow if you practice it daily, and update the tracking and reporting systems in real-time.

Client Reporting template

6. Setting calls, meetings, and check-ins to set team cadence

Using video conferencing tools like Zoom, Hangouts, and such, book slots for important discussion meetings. This can include meetings like:

  • Weekly status update check-ins with the team
  • Discussion about specific tasks with team members
  • New client onboarding discussion

For the above-listed instances, you can pre-plan your meetings - ensure you do that.

Block your team members’ calendars by adding these meetings as events in advance. That way, everybody will have time to prepare for the meetings, and make it more fruitful.

As a general practice, make sure to have the agendas and goals of the meetings defined beforehand. Everybody involved in the meeting should be on the same page regarding the agendas, and for that, they need to know in advance. 

While you can automate setting up of most routine calls, you can still have SOP documents for this. On that, you can outline the key pointers one should keep in mind while both scheduling a call and joining a call. 

That way, there’ll be a foolproof system for your organization in place. 

Team Meeting Agenda Template

7. Developing a culture of accountability

While you’re doing everything in your power to keep your remote team happy and efficient, you should also be rigid with inculcating a culture of accountability.

And, accountability should not be confused with accusation.

Read that again.

Mistakes are a part of life and work, and expecting your teammates to be perfect at every task is a bit much.

Let them know that their mistakes are welcome, as long as they’re not repeated. In doing so, you’ll give them a safe space, and they’ll be more accepting of any mistake they made. 

That way, they’ll finally learn from their mistakes while holding themselves accountable for their fault.

This is just one idea. You can explore more ways of how to do this - but the end goal is creating a culture that fosters innovation, creation, but doesn’t shy away from mistakes. Instead, it thrives with every mistake by acknowledging, holding ourselves accountable, and evolving.

Wrapping it up

With that, we come to the end of this elaborate guide.

It's been a blast to run this with all of you as you look towards growing.

At BAMF, we're all about growth.

And, part of that is having proper systems in place with the right tools in the hands of the best team in the world.

Yes, that's how much we believe in our people.

If you’ve followed us this far, you’ve definitely gained the required insights for keeping your remote team happy and efficient, and managing work without it managing you.

Follow the steps we’ve mentioned, work on the advice, but don’t forget to improvise.

After all, you’re the best judge of how to manage your team - but with the above points in mind, you should be good to go! 🙂

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About the Author

The name’s Houston Golden. I’m the Founder & CEO of BAMF ― a company I’ve grown from $0 (yes, really) to well over $4M in revenue over a span of 3 years.
How did I do it? Well, it’s quite simple, really. I’ve helped hundreds of business owners and executives get major traction (because when they win, we win). I tell you how on this blog.
Growth hacking is a state of mind. Follow along as I explore and expose the unknown growth strategies and tactics that will change the way you think about marketing.

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