Working from home: how to overcome the challenge of managing decentralized teams

Posted by media on August 5, 2015 at 10:32 AM


In 2012, Forbes magazine estimated that about 30 million Americans worked from home at least one day a week, and of these, three million people never went to the office. This calculation is equivalent to say that one in five people in the United States teleworks, a fact which the publication also predicted an increase of 63% over the next five years.

Although in Spain only one in seven people accomplishes his/her work at home, a figure which is below that of the United States and the European average of 13% - there is no doubt that teleworking and decentralized teams are not a fad, but the direction to which management is headed in the XXI century.

This post is also available in Spanish.

Some of the main reasons for this change of direction regarding presence - an obsession that has characterized HR departments for decades, at least in Spain -  are that those working from home have higher productivity rates. And also, it means savings for workers and companies in their transport costs or energy consumption. 

The rise of this trend also reflects the growing importance of keeping workers happy and committed to the company’s project, in a context in which retaining talent is key for any company’s growth. 

Given this reality, in this blog post we would like to offer some recommendations on how to manage decentralized teams:

1. Clarity about the objectives and progresses

In a decentralized organization, with its members working from home or at various subsidiaries of a multinational company, it is very important that the whole team visualizes what their common goal is and how their work is progressing at all times. For in-person circumstances, information on whether a project is progressing in the right direction and at the right pace circulates in a more informal way. But when a team don’t share breakfast or lunch time anymore, managers in charge of a project need discipline to frequently update their workers about their common goals and progress.

2. Do not neglect the nonverbal dialogue

When managing a decentralized team, there is a natural temptation to circumscribe the channels of communication to email or messaging services, as they offer a fast path with which we feel more comfortable in communicating any concern or recalling a deadline, for example. However, it is very important to combine these with other channels that allow non-verbal communication - like video or voice calls - because this is what gives the human touch to the conversation, and is the only way to truly detect enthusiasm or reluctance of the person you are talking to with respect to a specific issue or project.

3. Rely on technology

It can not be expected that a decentralized team complies with internal processes the same way a team does that works under one roof in a corporate headquarters. Therefore, it is very important to facilitate technological solutions to these remote teams, in order for them to be able to accomplish fast (or even faster) the same processes that occur frequently in an office - petitions for signatures between departments, accepting suppliers' offers, hiring freelancers, costs management etc. For example, Signaturit enables signing documents remotely from any platform and with full legal guarantees, with an ease of use that makes the companies that rely on our solution invest only 37 minutes on average, in the request and receipt of a signature.  

4. Celebrate team accomplishments

Decentralized teams need additional efforts in terms of motivation. It is true that being able to work remotely reinforces the commitment of many workers, who appreciate this gesture from the company. But at the same time it is also easier to lose the reference of how well the project is progressing. Therefore, it is vital to share and celebrate the achievements of the whole team with all its members. The ideal situation is to develop an online community with the team, in which not only the purely corporate information flows, but also recognition for a well done job.

If you have to deal with the challenge of managing or participating in a decentralized team, why don’t you start by testing Signaturit for free?

This post is also available in Spanish.

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Topics: Human Resources

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