by Chen Terng Shing, Founder and CEO of SYNC PR
When I first started my business, the goal was to be a fast-moving dynamic agency that worked from co-working spaces and with remote teams. This was to be phase one, with phase two expanding into a fully-fledged traditional office supported by remote teams around the world. Cut to COVID changing everything and we’re fully remote and loving it. However, there were challenges and issues we needed to deal with that could have derailed the business.
Now, we’ve expanded beyond our Singapore office and launched in Malaysia, Indonesia and India. This means having to manage different teams and make sure we build a cohesive culture that adapts to the differences versus trying to override them. This has helped us build a growing team across the region with over 20 staff and even faster expansion planned for 2022.
But, first how did we manage remote teams and manage local, as well as regional clients. Here are 5 things that we do to manage our remote teams.
1. Build a better internal communications process.
When running a remote team you have to act like everyone is in the office, but you just cannot see them. That means being able to maintain regular communication and instilling a collaborative and communicative culture.
We don’t force people to respond in five minutes or less, but create a culture of oversharing, just so that everyone is aware of what’s going on and as a team member you know that someone else is working alongside you. By oversharing we mean, if you have finished a task drop a message in the Slack channel and let your team know. While this might seem minor, it prevents a disconnect forming between team members and also is way for managers to keep track of what is going on.
The importance of communication in remote teams cannot be overstated, especially as we start to employ more people across time zones and different countries. Using something like Slack, Microsoft Teams or whatever works for you, helps bridge the gap between markets and encourages collaboration.
2. Invest in proper cybersecurity.
A couple of cybersecurity scares was all it took for me to invest in some solid protection for our data. We are not exactly very data heavy, but we do handle some sensitive information, so good cybersecurity is essential for remote teams.
While it might be good enough for some companies to rely on basic security, the online threat is both very real and very scary. Your initial investment might save your company a few years down the line.
3. Celebrate the little things.
One thing we learned the hard way was that celebrating things like birthdays, anniversaries and more go out the window when you’re working remotely. This isn’t planned or with malicious intent, but is a consequence of not physically seeing the person in the same room. It is also due to a changing HR requirement in the business.
So, one thing that we always do nowadays is celebrate the small things across the team. Company-wide Zoom sessions that last 30-minutes are not uncommon and an essential part of keeping a team engaged.
4. Use technology wisely.
Too many managers I’ve worked with or spoken to seem to have a reluctance or fear of new technology. Whether it is using organisational tools like Asana or Monday or experimenting with productivity tools like Proofhub or Google Keep, it can be difficult to adapt to these tools. There is also an insane amount of noise from dozens of apps on your phone and laptop.
We keep it simple – we automate what we can, experiment when possible and always make a judgment based on the outcomes. If using the tool helps us be more productive, then we work on incorporating it into our daily work flow. We automate quite a few things, but find that a balance between technology and the human touch is the perfect balance for what we do.
5. Culture still comes from the top.
I won’t lie, sometimes I just want to grab a nap and forget about work on a particularly difficult Monday afternoon. However, the culture I want in my company – collaborative, communicative, helpful and more – has to come from me. I set the tone and therefore, initiating things like brainstorms, weekly sharing sessions and regular one-on-ones with the team is part of walking the walk and talking the talk.
Chen Terng Shing is the Founder and CEO of SYNC PR, a PR and content marketing startup. Based in Singapore, Terng Shing built SYNC to help startups and SMEs build and share their brand story through media and content. His experience includes a decade of work in PR and communications agencies, managing fortune 500 companies to the leading startups in Southeast Asia. Terng is also the co-host of popular business podcast Business over Drinks and co-founder of travel platform Travel Wanderlust.