If you haven’t heard, Wing Assistant made it to Forbes America’s list of Best Startup Employers for 2023. In partnership with market research firm Statista, Forbes conducted its fifth annual roundup to evaluate 2,600 qualified startups based on their employer reputation, employee satisfaction, and growth. Wing made its debut on the list at 183rd place—if anyone needed proof that we know how to build a remote team, there’s one!
It’s great to be recognized, but it does come with a lot of work. Our team is only able to provide clients with top-notch service because we’re a 100% remote team—and we know the perks and challenges of being part of a distributed company.
The foundations of building a remote team
Creating a great remote culture doesn’t happen by accident. Several factors go into having a strong distributed workforce, and the first is hiring the right people. For your team to thrive, you need people suited for the unique challenges of working remotely. Besides choosing candidates with the right mix of technical skills, you’d have to do your best to find out if they have the disposition for remote work.
Being a remote worker is all about accountability. It requires a capacity to deliver outputs on or before deadlines, without compromising quality. When teammates are scattered across time zones, they have fewer opportunities for midday syncs. So, each person involved in a project needs to be able to work independently and stay productive without heavy supervision.
Whether you’re establishing an in-office or remote team, one of the first things you have to do is define each member’s responsibilities. Getting everyone on the same page about what’s expected of them will lead to fewer misunderstandings down the road. It also makes coordination easier—when team members know exactly who to consult, it cuts down on second guessing and stopgap solutions.
Building a team that values communication
Another component of having a successful remote team is getting your collaboration playbook right. In a distributed workforce, the key is over-communication. If you work in an office, you’d typically check in with your manager with short and frequent updates—perhaps while you’re on your way to the pantry, or back from another department.
In a remote environment, though, walking past workstations and updating co-workers throughout the day is impossible. So, whenever remote team members communicate with each other, they have to provide plenty of context and details. Those working in remote teams need to be proactive in sending status updates and looping in all stakeholders involved in projects.
It’s easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of work—even more so if you’re 100% online. But if you create a culture where people are mindful of providing teammates with enough information to help them work independently, there will be less friction and fewer matters overlooked.
One of the first things a Wing client receives is a planning call with their customer success manager. Besides providing Wing’s talent acquisition team with everything they need to place the right assistant with each client, these calls provide the first venue for context-setting. The more details a client provides about his needs, the better equipped we will be to help address these.
Team culture in remote workplaces
Culture is one of those things that managers can’t plan for. It generally evolves out of the habits and norms of a team. However, leaders can do their best and encourage their colleagues to adopt certain practices so they could be integrated into the workplace culture.
Developing team culture happens more or less organically in a physical office environment. However, in a remote team, managers have to take preemptive measures so they can foster behaviors they want to see. Trust is the main ingredient in building a culture. If team members trust each other (and their leader), they’ll be open to direct requests from their managers.
For example, suppose you’d like everybody to check in at the start and end of their workday. Ostensibly, all it takes to make people do that is announcing it and making several reminders over a few weeks to ensure that the behavior sticks. But anyone who’s been responsible for motivating others knows that it’s not as simple as that. Getting people to do as you say, more often than not, is about how much respect and affection they feel for you.
Are you someone your remote team looks up to? Will they follow your orders? The good thing is, remote team habits can be as resilient as behaviors exhibited by in-office personnel. The crucial part is being the type of person others would want to follow.
Tools and infrastructure
In today’s digital-first business landscape, teams aiming for growth cannot stay offline. On the internet, a small business can go toe-to-toe with an established company—as long as it has great online presence. But building a digital footprint takes plenty of time and coordination, especially if you’re doing it as a distributed team.
Remote teams, like in-house ones, need tools to make work more efficient. They need tech stacks containing software and apps for communication, project management, tracking time, and more. Besides using the same combination of programs, teams must also be great at managing remote workspaces.
Besides having a go-to tech stack, remote teams must also address cybersecurity concerns. In Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, researchers compiled information on 29,000 cybersecurity incidents. They found that over 90 percent of the breaches are due to the use of cloud-based email and other tools crucial in remote work.
When learning how to build a remote team, leaders must account for challenges like these. The first line of defense for any remote team is employee education. Teaching remote workers about the importance of keeping their company data secure is a good first step in preventing breaches caused by malicious actors.
Managing a remote team
Managing a remote team can be challenging, but it's also an opportunity to embrace a different approach to team management. One of the most important things you can do as a manager is to set clear expectations and goals.
When learning how to build a remote team, one thing you must quickly get right is how to communicate effectively. Since your team members will likely be working out of different time zones, you would have to establish norms for meetings, contacting each other, and contingencies for when certain teammates are unavailable.
You must also learn how to define objectives, deadlines, and deliverables for each team member. In addition, leveraging technology such as video conferencing, chat platforms, and project management tools can help ensure seamless communication and collaboration.
For Wing assistants, collaboration with their clients is a breeze because of our complimentary VA management app, which functions as a task management space, a media library, a secure area to share credentials, and more. We also have Wink, which enables clients to record videos of their detailed instructions for assistants.
It's also crucial to stay connected with your team members, provide feedback and support, and encourage open and transparent communication. Building trust is key to managing a successful remote team. By being transparent, demonstrating empathy, and following through on your promises, you can foster a sense of trust and belonging.
Encouraging team members to build relationships and support one another can also contribute to a positive team dynamic. Overall, by adopting these best practices, you can successfully lead your remote team and achieve your business objectives.
After building a remote team: growth & scaling
Once you have successfully built a remote team, it's important to focus on growth and scaling. As demand for your products and services grows, you may need to expand your team to keep up with the workload and meet customer expectations.
This includes expanding your team, developing new products or services, and entering new markets. To enter new markets, you would need to expand your team, which requires having a solid plan for growth. Encouraging a sense of belonging and reinforcing your blue sky goals are the first steps toward scaling your team.
As your remote startup grows, you'll also need to adapt to new challenges, such as managing a larger team and optimizing workflows. Just like with in-office teams, measuring success is vital to creating remote sustainable growth. Distributed teams may also use metrics such as revenue, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement to track progress and identify areas for improvement.
Build a remote team that works
Remote startups enable founders to tap into a global talent pool, access a diverse set of skills, and recruit top talent without being restricted by geographical boundaries. Additionally, remote work provides cost savings in terms of office space, equipment, and commuting, and also allows for flexible working hours and improved work-life balance.
However, learning how to build a remote team poses several challenges. Communication can be difficult, especially across different time zones and cultural backgrounds. Maintaining team cohesion, culture, and accountability can also be challenging in a remote work environment.
Nonetheless, the benefits of remote work and remote startups are compelling, and with the right approach, entrepreneurs can overcome the challenges and build successful, sustainable, and scalable remote businesses.
As a completely remote team with over 1,000 members in 10 countries, Wing has the experience and expertise to help your company succeed in the remote work environment. From building a strong company culture to optimizing workflows and ensuring effective communication, Wing has the tools and strategies to make remote work a success. Contact us today to learn more!
Aya is Wing Assistant’s blog manager. When she’s not wrangling content briefs, editing article drafts and handling on-page SEO, she is crafting messages for Wing’s other communication materials. Aya writes about SaaS startups, marketing for startups, search engine optimization, and pop culture.