Remote work is becoming the norm in today’s world. Many employers have made changes to their workflow to include remote work. Why wouldn’t they? Remote agencies are cheaper to run. Since there’s no physical workspace to speak of, there’s no rent to pay.
Setting up a remote agency, however, is hard. That’s not to say it’s impossible. If you’re planning to put up an agency for remote work, here are a few things you should consider:
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1. Adopt Project Management Software
The right tools can assist you in smoothly and efficiently managing your remote team. In remote teams, standardized systems compensate for the lack of coordination as a result of the physical separation. Those tools can help you put in place those systems. Your team members won’t be waiting for orders because everyone already knows what they need to do.
Project management software, for example, helps remote teams in project planning, scheduling, and resource allocation, among others. You can create charts and reports, share information, keep track of budgets, and manage tasks. Project management software also helps in portfolio management and program management tools.
Let’s say you plan to run a remote digital marketing agency. You can use Trello to assign tasks to members of your content team. Just assign a color to each person, then label a card accordingly:
Each card can contain the details each member assigned to that specific content needs to know. For example, you can include a deadline for the content there or the required word count.
While project management software can be installed on-premises, there are project management tools that are now available as SaaS. Some of the most successful and efficient project management software include Trello, Asana, Hive, Smartsheet, and Wrike.
2. Set Transparent Employee & Company KPI
Transparency between managers and the other members of their team is key to organizational success. Transparency, after all, fosters trust. According to Smarp, when team members trust their employers, they are 23% more likely to innovate and offer solutions.
How can there be transparency in a remote agency?
The good news is, technology can help you achieve that.
The following are some examples of how technology can be used to aid in the creation of a transparent culture:
- Instant messaging tools like Skype enable colleagues to communicate in real-time.
- Video conferencing tools allow for face-to-face contact.
- Cloud-based drives and storage systems, such as Google Docs, allows the whole team to simultaneously view and collaborate on the same documents.
- An internal eboard or social media page can help workers talk, exchange thoughts, and connect informally, similar to how they would in a break room or the halls of a workplace.
Transparency is not the only thing you need to ensure in your remote agency. As a manager, you want to make sure everyone in your team is doing their share of the work. How do you do that when you don’t physically see them in the first place?
One way to measure workers’ effectiveness who work from home is to use key performance indicators (KPIs). A KPI is a measurable value that shows how well an organization meets vital business goals. Organizations use KPIs at various levels to assess their progress.
Apart from measuring an organization’s progress, KPIs can help you do the following:
- Keep track of milestones as the team project progresses.
- Determine how a product or output is moving.
- Give you objective data for decision-making, project modification, and assessment, among other things.
- Evaluate team output straightforwardly.
- Motivate employees as employee motivation is directly related to the finished product’s quality and delivery times.
The KPIs you specify will depend on the nature of the work of the remote employee. For example, a KPI for remote writers could be the number of 500-word articles they write in a week, the KPI for the person in charge of email prospecting could be the number of potential clients they email, and the KPI for website designers would be the number of pages they code in a week, and so on.
For the remote employee, in particular, you should also assess three performance aspects, according to BSC Designer:
- Self-discipline or the ability to operate on one’s own without supervision.
- Ability to interact effectively with colleagues and customers.
- Ability to learn new things quickly and obey directions.
You can do those by looking at the way they work and interact with fellow team members on your project management software.
3. Establish Employee Working Guidelines
A remote work policy (also called a telecommuting policy) is a set of guidelines that must be followed for remote work to run smoothly. It is an arrangement between the employer and other members of the remote team.
But why do you need those guidelines?
Simply put, it could be a disaster, especially if you need to meet deadlines. Delays in responses from remote team members, for example, may cause delays in key projects or activities.
Your workers would know exactly how to handle their remote work if you develop a consistent policy. A remote work policy also decreases the likelihood of misunderstandings or miscommunication, resulting in increased efficiency.
So, what should your remote work policy cover? Here are some important components:
Working hours: Your telecommuting policy should outline the necessary work hours. You will improve your company’s productivity and teamwork by setting specific goals for your teams.
Workspace and etiquette guidelines: To help employees stay productive when working from home, create a code of conduct. For instance, require them to create a dedicated workspace at home to prevent burnout or to dress formally for meetings and client calls. Tell them to take breaks in between tasks.
Managing data security: Establish data protection policies. Here are some you can include in your remote work policy:
- Avoid using public WiFi networks.
- Use VPN and a reliable internet connection while working.
- Do not share confidential or sensitive details in public.
- Avoid using websites or applications that breach company policies.
Complying with data privacy requirements will help ensure your organization remains protected and avoids legal issues.
Financial and technical support: To avoid misunderstandings, the remote work policy should state whether the company offers any necessary equipment for the remote employee’s work or compensation.
Mention whether or not work-related expenses such as power and phone bills would be reimbursed. Apart from that, consider how you can provide logistical support to your remote staff. If technological difficulties arise when working remotely, there is no one to help you. As a result, you’ll need to specify how you’ll provide technical support in such situations, whether by emailing the support team or using remote desktop tools.
Legal rights: Employees working from home should be aware of their legal rights. These must be listed in your remote work policy because they are subject to your country’s labor laws. Ensure that the remote employees receive the benefits, opportunities for advancement, and training that they need. This helps improve their productivity.
Make sure your remote work policy addresses the needs of your organization and those of remote employees.
4. Arrange Weekly Performance Meetings
Productive remote managers set up a regular conference call with employees. You can make one-on-one calls or a team call.
Instead of wasting time providing status updates, your weekly staff meeting should help ensure transparency and engage everyone to come up with solutions.
Let’s go through the seven remote meeting tips you’ll need to know to run productive and inclusive virtual meetings with remote teams:
- Determine the most convenient meeting time.
- Create guidelines for remote meetings. What can people talk about?
- Create a meeting agenda together and send out the talking points ahead of time.
- Make it possible for the team to bond.
- Assign unique meeting responsibilities to keep staff involved.
- Take notes on the meeting and assign specific action items.
- After the conference, follow up.
Performance is a subject that managers should explore in these meetings. To meet the organization’s strategic goals, you must meet targets and objectives on an individual and team level (see number 2 of this section). Members of your team will only know if they’re on track to achieving those set KPIs if they know how they’re doing in the first place.
So, talk about how the team is doing every week. If you plan to run a design agency, for instance, discuss with team members if you’re on track to meeting the client deadline for a project. If you’re not, discuss what needs to be done so you can meet the deadline.
You can then talk to each team member privately to discuss their individual performances. Give them tips on how to improve their work, but also, don’t hesitate to commend them for a job well done.
5. Run Team-Building Activities
Remote teams have fewer chances to socialize, making it difficult for team members to get to know one another. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and alienation from coworkers and team conflict, and lower productivity.
Virtual team-building activities can help solve these challenges. Research has shown that they boost team effectiveness and foster confidence.
Source: Team Building
Playing games online together, in particular, is very enjoyable. You can play jigsaw puzzles or virtual board games, office trivia or an online game of Pictionary, or even perform digital karaoke.
To foster further collaboration, you can consider implementing the following, too:
- Tiny campfire – virtual campfire for remote teams.
- War of Wizards.
- Remote team-building bingo.
- Virtual dance parties.
Be as creative as possible.
Prime Plus Mortgages, a money lender agency that has since implemented remote work, for instance, launched an online book club for its employees. During their virtual book club meetings, members take turns discussing what they liked and what they didn’t like about a book.
Canva has put in place different virtual clubs employees can join while working from home:
Each virtual club session is done via Zoom.
Organizations that invest in virtual team building have more innovative and efficient working teams.
That gives them a significant competitive advantage.
6. Put In Place Client Management System
When putting up a remote agency, you shouldn’t just think about your colleagues. Building long-term relationships with customers is crucial to any business’ success. In other words, client management is also key.
What exactly is client management?
Client management refers to how you handle your working relationship with your clients and ensure you provide them with the best services. It entails determining what the client expects from you and assessing how well you meet those expectations.
Excellent client management is well within reach when you use a mix of effective communication and modern technology. For instance, you can use demo software to conduct your demos, email to communicate with clients, or Skype and Zoom if they prefer face-to-face contact. Just send them a quick message to ask them what their preferred channels are.
Don’t forget to assign client management to professionals who have exceptional communication skills. That’s very important since your agency will be remote and you most probably won’t have the luxury of being in the same place as your client.
Source: Blog CDN
According to MBO Partners, there are other things you need to follow to steer clear of hiccups when handling clients remotely. For instance, you need to create a trusting relationship from the start. For you to do that, you need to always follow through. So, when you give a date, for example, for the demo of a product, make sure you conduct the demo on that day.
7. Monitor Client Satisfaction
You need to know how to monitor client satisfaction when running a remote agency. Before you put up your agency, then, you need to specify how exactly you will do that.
Here are some ways you can monitor client satisfaction:
- Check repeat orders: How many customers purchased your product at least for the second time around?
- Track the competition: Keep track of how your rivals are doing so you’ll know if you’re satisfying your clients. Are your clients leaving you and going to your competitors instead? That means they’re not happy.
- Look at referrals: Discover why a new customer chose your company over others. If it was a referral, you’re on the right track.
- Monitor demand: Monitoring demand for your goods and services vis à vis expected demand is another measure of customer satisfaction.
- Check survey responses: Why not ask your customers about your performance? Email the surveys. You can offer a small incentive in exchange for a filled-out survey.
- Examine complaints: Look at the total number of complaints. Is there an upward trend or a downward trend?
- Monitor compliments: If you see “I love your brand!” comments or something similar on your social media accounts, you’re doing just fine.
Choose the actions you will use to determine whether a client is satisfied with you or not.
Remember, ensuring your clients are satisfied every step of the customer journey is critical to building customer loyalty. That leads to increased customer retention and, ultimately, your organization’s success.
Before establishing a remote agency, you must develop policies to ensure smooth operations.
Keep in mind how you can achieve organizational goals and keep employees happy when you work on those. Consider the obstacles you can face, too. Don’t forget to research the tools you can use to work efficiently and remain productive as well.
Setting up a remote agency can be daunting, but it isn’t impossible.
Just put in the time and effort. Stick to your plan, too. In time, you’ll have everything you need to get your remote agency up and running.
Owen Baker is a content marketer for Voila Norbert, an online email verification tool. He has spent most of the last decade working online for a range of marketing companies. When he’s not busy writing, you can find him in the kitchen mastering new dishes.