Working with someone who's located thousands of miles away and in a different timezone can be difficult when you're not experienced in handling cross-cultural differences and communicating effectively with someone you rarely see. This difficult part in a long-distance working relationship is most understood by business owners who outsource some of the work to a remote location. If you have business support staff in the Philippines, then consider these tips when managing your staff from far away.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Because you're not in the same room or even in the same city as your business support staff, it's important that you regularly talk with them. In some instances, your staff may find it difficult to express themselves. They may not be as candid about their thoughts and feelings as you'd like them to be.
The solution is to let them get to know you better.
Schedule a morning huddle with your staff to gather updates about current tasks and ideas for new ones. Take time to ask them about their personal lives, what their plans are for the weekend or for next year, and what they think about your ideas for the project. Moreover, a daily or weekly meeting will help you identify problems as soon as they come up and work with your team to find solutions.
A multitude of communication and collaboration tools are available. A favorite is Skype, which you can use to talk and chat with either one person or a group. You can also share your screen during a group video call. Other tools you can use include Google Hangouts and Slack.
Create To-Do Lists for Your Staff and Track Their Progress
Cut down the work into small tasks that you can delegate to your staff. Make use of Trello or any tool that applies the kanban method of scheduling and organizing your work. These tools are a good fit for Getting Things Done or GTD, a workflow framework.
Organize and Share Files
The keyword is collaboration. When you have business support staff in a different timezone, it's important that outputs - whether they're finished or still in progress - can be found and quickly edited in one place. Recommended tools for this include Google Drive and Dropbox. If you're using Asana or Basecamp, these project management tools already come with a big enough storage space where you can upload your files.
Manage Your Time and Your Team's Time Wisely
For busy people, 24 hours are not enough in a day. Managing a team in a different timezone makes it even more insufficient. You can have your staff work the same hours as you. If there's a 12-hour difference, then you'll have staff working at night, so they'll be accessible to you and your business. Your staff can also work on tasks while you're asleep or when you're away during the weekends.
Different time tracking and timezone management tools makes scheduling and monitoring work with your staff easier and efficient. When setting up a day and time for meetings, use Timezone.io or World Time Buddy to find the best time to meet your staff. Make use of Harvest or Toggl to track the hours each of your staff spends on tasks.
Set Aside Time to Celebrate Holidays and Special Occasions
Make your staff happy by giving them days off when they need to be with their family. Birthdays, weddings, Christmas, and New Year's Eve are just as important as work, even more so. Schedule deadlines before or after those special days.
Remote Cams and Trust Issues
The use of a remote cam and tracking tools has become the norm in the BPO industry. Remote workers, whether they're home-based or not, are required to use a time tracker that takes snapshots of their screen at different intervals.
On one hand, the use of remote cams is a contentious issue. Installing remote cams creates the wrong impression among the staff. It makes them feel the manager or business owner doesn't trust them well enough to let them do their jobs without the cameras. If you're considering a remote cam for your business support staff, it's best that you discuss the need with them. Ask them what they think and whether they're okay with it or not.
Surely, you have other ideas on how to manage your staff even when you're not around. Share them with us by leaving your comments below!
For inquiries on how to hire your own support staff for your business, call (484) 383-4100 or email Mike Dershowitz.