Remote working was already becoming increasingly commonplace long before — you know. And the trend shows no signs of stopping.
As reported by HR Review, one survey carried out by job site Monster in 2019, found 40 percent of workers in the U.K. were already working from home at least once a week. In addition, just over a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents said they would decline any job that didn’t give them the option of working remotely.
And according to Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Statistics, “25-30% of the [U.S.] workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.” This suggests that firms which do not allow for remote working risk missing out on top talent to their more flexible rivals.
In any case, the unprecedented circumstances of the current pandemic have compelled firms to change their working arrangements. Until a vaccine or effective treatments for the coronavirus appear, we will be unable to go ‘back to normal’ as we previously understood it. Businesses should be prepared, therefore, to allow their staff to work remotely for the foreseeable future — where this is practicable, of course.
As many are currently learning, managing remote content teams comes with its own particular set of challenges. Sure, there are the standard problems of remote working – ensuring reliable communication, clarity in assigning responsibilities, keeping people engaged on the job, and so on. But there are also matters such as meeting deadlines (as well as client expectations) and keeping those creative juices flowing.
So, perhaps you’ve found yourself in the position of managing a remote content team, and you’re not sure how to get the best results. To help you out, we’ve compiled six of the best tips to help you and your team continue to work harmoniously, whatever your exact circumstances.
1. Make sure everyone has the communication tools they need.
Communication is easy when the members of your content team are all in close proximity. More often than not, individual teams sit together in the office. That way, it’s a simple matter for everyone to reach their colleagues whenever they need to. There’s a lot less room for ambiguity, and it’s hard for anyone to miss relevant discussions when the team is physically close together. Obviously, when everybody’s working from home, maintaining these lines of communication is a more complicated task.
Recent years have, however, seen a genuine revolution in business communications. New technologies, from simple collaboration apps to machine learning, have changed the way we keep in touch with one another, and the way we do business. The current pandemic is accelerating these developments still further.
It’s essential to keep your content team in regular contact, even when working remotely. Thankfully, unified communications tools make it simpler than ever. Here’s how you can make the most effective use of them:
- There’s a variety of apps, such as video conferencing solutions, that you and your team can use to keep in touch with each other, wherever you all are. You will need to ensure that everybody has access to whichever tools you choose to use, and that they know how to use them.
- Encourage your team to check in regularly with updates. Bouncing ideas around is a great way to ensure creativity doesn’t suffer when working remotely. However, give your colleagues the freedom to do their work as well.
- If any of your colleagues need assistance or guidance, make sure it’s available. Remote working is still relatively new for a lot of people, so there’ll be some snags along the way. If you can provide remote training on how to use the appropriate communications tools, then make sure you offer this where it is needed.
2. Uphold standards.
As we’ve alluded to already, a lot of employers hesitate to introduce remote working arrangements. One reason is because they’re worried that standards will slip. They fret that once staff are out of the office and free from direct supervision by their managers, they’ll take liberties. That may mean that work which needs to be done will fall by the wayside. While this gives most employees too little credit, there are steps you can take to prevent any decline in standards as a result of remote working.
If you have a style guide, make sure that your writers have access to it. If you don’t already have such a document, now is a good time to draw one up, to provide writers with clear guidance about what’s expected of the content they create. Style guides are very useful for upholding quality standards and consistency. If everyone has a common set of guidelines to work to, this clears up any ambiguity and should also save time during the proofreading and editing process. Style guides are also particularly useful for freelancers, who won’t be so familiar with the way your company works.
3. Ensure consistency.
Standards are important, but they mean little if they aren’t enforced consistently. Remote working does complicate things, and it’s easy for some slippage to occur. Making the shift to working from home means a certain degree of upheaval, as working patterns change and people adjust. This can mean that some corners get cut, whether deliberately (taking advantage of the extra leeway) or by accident. It’s a natural occurrence as people try to adapt to an unusual set of arrangements.
Remote working can mean that working patterns change, and members of your team might not keep the same regular working hours. You should be careful to ensure that everyone does work the same hours, as things could otherwise start to get a bit incoherent. If your team works the same hours, essential tasks — including proofing and editing as well as content creation — are more likely to get done as and when needed. It’s also important that there remains a certain boundary between work time and personal time. Everyone needs time away from the grindstone to look after themselves.
4. Don’t micromanage. Trust your team.
As important as it is to uphold standards consistently, you should be prepared to show a bit of faith in your colleagues. Nobody likes to have their manager hanging over their shoulder all the time -remotely or otherwise. We’ve discussed employers’ fears that remote workers might start slacking when they aren’t being watched closely. In fact, if it does require such close supervision to get employees to work properly, this suggests there’s something seriously wrong. Employees should already have enough buy-in to work well under their own steam.
Here are our top tips to help you avoid micromanaging your team:
- Think carefully about your own conduct. Before contacting your colleagues, ask yourself whether you really need to do so. Of course you want to make yourself reachable and approachable, but a more restrained approach to management can work wonders.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your team members what they think of your approach to management and communication. Make sure you give them the freedom to make constructive criticisms. It may be that you’re being too overbearing without realizing it.
- Encourage your team to take responsibility for themselves. It’s good to develop the capacity to lead throughout your team, rather than concentrating all responsibility in your own hands. This not only helps your team reach its full potential, but it also means there’s less pressure on you as well.
Again, when working remotely, you should be prepared to give your team enough leeway to use their own initiative. They don’t need to have someone looming large over them while they work. In all likelihood, they’ll work better if they don’t. Remote working requires a modest leap of faith in this regard. Make yourself available by all means and ensure that your content team can reach you whenever they need you. But avoid micromanaging, as this is likely to be counterproductive.
5. Consider teamlancing.
In the current situation, there’s a lot of uncertainty. It’s therefore difficult to work out just how much demand there’ll be for goods and services. This will inevitably have an impact on agencies and their content teams. The unclear economic outlook causes businesses and consumers alike to rein in their spending. Furthermore, the changed economic conditions will also cause them to reconsider what they spend their money on.
When setting up a remote content team, then, you need to think carefully about how much work will be coming in. That’s what will determine how many writers will be needed to do it. It’s also important to consider what content will be particularly in demand over the coming period. Some types of content will require more labour than others. In-depth content guides, for example, will take more time and effort to create than short blog posts.
Do you have enough writers for the period ahead, or do you have too many? Are the writers you have equipped to tackle the work that’s likely to be coming their way? If not, you should consider a teamlancing solution — the new model of outsourcing talent — so you can right-size the number of freelancers you need at any one time. This will help you adapt and continue to meet your clients’ needs, as well as bringing fresh perspectives to your team. Remote working also allows you to recruit from a wider talent pool than before, as geographical location is far less of a hiring consideration.
6. Encourage close collaboration.
Fostering a culture of collaboration is important in any workplace. It’s especially useful in creative fields. Content creation is one such field, and the best content is always made through collaborative processes. Collaboration is how ideas go from the bare-bones basics to fully fleshed-out creations. Again, physical distance unavoidably complicates this. How do we ensure that content teams continue to bounce ideas and insights off one another even when they’re working remotely?
Here’s how you can go about fostering collaboration among your team, even when you’re all working remotely:
- Create a sense of shared aims and values. You should always emphasize the importance of close teamwork, and point out that any good team is always more than the mere sum of its parts. This increases buy-in and boosts your colleagues’ motivation.
- Break down company silos. It’s one thing to encourage close working within teams, but it’s also easy for individual teams to become closed off and insular. You should challenge your team by encouraging them to work with other teams.
- Set some time aside for remote team building activities. It’s possible to maintain team spirit when everyone’s working from home, but it requires a concerted effort. Virtual team building exercises (whether it’s playing games or simply sharing a remote cup of tea) can make a big difference to morale. Make sure, though, that everyone can enjoy consistent and stable call quality.
As we’ve discussed, good communication is crucial to effective remote working, and tools such as VoIP phones can greatly simplify this. But in addition, make sure you give your team the opportunity to express and share their ideas when they’re working remotely. Perhaps you could consider setting some time aside for brainstorming sessions. Not only can this prove highly productive in generating new ideas, but it also gives your team a break from the grind and provides a space to experiment and try new things.
Indeed, this is perhaps the most important point to remember. Your content writers are creative people and they will have plenty of good ideas of their own. You must ensure that they continue to have the opportunity to express themselves, even when they’re working from home. Great content ideas can emerge from adverse situations, and the changed circumstances in which we’re currently working will no doubt make us think differently too.