The pros and cons of a remote support team

Freshworks Academy has a community of pretty awesome people from multiple spheres of work. This shows in the varied points of view our members bring to light in discussions. We have a fortnightly discussion called a Coffee Chat about a predefined topic. This one deals with the pros and cons of remote working.

Remote working is gaining popularity. Whether it is the lack of the need for an office building, the joy of not having to manoeuvre heavy traffic during commute to work, or the simple convenience of being able to work from home in PJs, employees who work remotely have several advantages. But remote working also comes with several challenges. We spoke with the members of our community about this, and learnt about how they tackle these issues. Here’s the gist of what we discussed:

Do you have support teams that work remotely? What are the challenges you associate with them?

We asked the members of our community, of whom quite a few do actually work remotely, about their thoughts. We were surprised by the variety and level of detail in the answers. When it comes to working remotely, there are indeed challenges. It might be difficult to get work done because not everyone is kept updated. Someone might feel left out. Of course, there is the usual worry of not everyone working properly and of people not being accountable. Our community had a few tips to deal with all these problems:

  • Keep people updated on what’s happening. The more well documented everything is, the easier it is to follow up on tasks.
  • Ensure that everyone feels included. This will improve team morale. Have periodic meetings to ensure this.
  • Account for time differences between regions, both while contacting people and while setting deadlines.
  • Make sure that your remote agents have every resource they might need when it comes to working and learning about new things.
  • Face to face interaction may help your employees feel more connected though this is not always true.

What processes and tools have you used with your remote teams?

Remote working is often more complicated than working with the entire team in a single location. However, there are a variety of tools available to make things easier. These remote monitoring tools help you ensure that your team is being productive and working when they are supposed to. Members of our community recommended multiple tools including Asana, Jira, and Slack.

  • You can use remote monitoring tools and also try to put in place the following processes to make sure remote working is smooth for managers and team members:
  • Schedule regular calls and catch-up sessions with all team members. 
  • Have well defined channels of communication, such as one for conference calls, one for casual team chatting, one for sharing files, and the like.
  • Use productivity apps for splitting up tasks in a project and assigning them to people, as well as tracking their progress. Asana is a popular tool for this. 

How do you manage communication across time zones? Is there a way you coordinate changes between different teams and regions?

One of the biggest issues with working remotely is communicating effectively with your teammates. Whether it is setting up and sticking to deadlines, coordinating on a project, or just getting in touch with a person for something small, not being in the same location can make life harder. Here are some of the best practices you can follow to make things work:

  • Try and use one standard time zone in communication to avoid confusion.
  • When scheduling meetings, take the other person’s time zone into consideration and see how convenient the time might be for them.
  • Record meetings and calls, and take notes about things for the benefit of those who are not able to attend the meetings/calls.
  • When transitioning between shifts, one team should stay online until the next clocks in. 
  • Have multiple owners for bigger projects across different time zones to improve accountability.

What qualities do you look for in a remote team member? 

Hiring is a complicated task. It’s hard enough finding the right employees for a role, and it’s harder when he has to work out of a remote location. You need to make sure that the employee can handle tasks and finish them in time. Here are some ways to ensure you hire someone suitable:

  • During the hiring interview, ask questions that will indicate to you whether the candidate is self-motivated and can work independently.
  • If the candidate has provided references, speak to them to find out how reliable and accountable the candidate is.
  • Explain to the candidate how important good communication and responsiveness is given he will be working remotely.
  • Make sure your candidate is comfortable with not working in an office environment. Also, find out if he has worked remotely before.

Can you maintain team/company culture across different locations? What are some ways to do so?

A company is often defined by its culture. This shapes its employees, its working environment, and the relationships within and between teams, among other things. While it is hard to create and maintain a strong culture among employees across locations, quite a few members of our community have managed to do so successfully. Here’s what they recommend:

  • Culture is built on attitude, so ensure that everyone is feeling positive. You can do so by celebrating team achievements, having dedicated time for interacting with each other, and fostering an encouraging environment.
  • Ensure your company culture is something that has been documented and is often talked about with your employees. You can do this via newsletters, one on ones, and in team meetings.
  • Have channels for informal interactions about subjects outside of work, so that your team can bond better. Encourage remote employees to meet often if they’re living in the same city.
  • Try and organize periodic get-togethers and meetings for all remote employees so they can meet the people they work with. 


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