Last Updated July 27, 2020
Dateline: Tbilisi, Georgia
Going into 2017, I decided that the Nomad Capitalist theme for the year would be “home.” Thanks to that focus, 2017 was a successful year of searching for and cultivating a greater sense of home in my life and the lives of the people I help.
What I have found is that “home” has much less to do with your location and much more about the community you build into your life and the choices you make to live purposefully and abundantly.
As I have become more and more of a global citizen following the principles of flag theory that we teach here at Nomad Capitalist, I realize that when I left the United States for good, I still clung to certain elements of my American identity out of fear and anger.
Today, that is largely gone.
While I may have been a “global citizen” on paper all those years ago, I have truly become one now.
That process has taken years to really achieve, but I feel like I am finally there. No anger, no judgment… just the reality of years away from a country that is no longer my home.
Fully accepting that the United States is no longer my home has given me the freedom to both discover and embrace exactly what I want my new home to be.
With that freedom, something clicked and I decided that I would pursue that which was important at all costs. Not just in business, but in my personal life. At the same time, I decided NOT to pursue anything other than what is important.
The result has been a series of doctrines that cause me to invest heavily in creating quality relationships – my community. As I have done so, I have realized that anything worth having takes time, but inviting the right energy will lead to having exactly the right people in your life.
I’ve been fortunate to see the power of that energy at work lately. I have seen it in my personal life, but I have also seen it in my business as I have built the Nomad Capitalist Team.
In this article, I will share the lessons I’ve learned in over a decade of hiring people overseas to create that community and build my company, including the benefits of hiring remotely as well as the challenges. Then, we’ll share the insights of 19 leading experts who are running successful remote companies. Finally, we’ll sum things up by discussing the future of remote work.
Let’s get started!
LESSONS I’VE LEARNED HIRING OVERSEAS
First up, here are a few things I’ve stopped doing in recent years as I have learned from experience what does not work as well when hiring remotely.
However, as Nomad Capitalist (and my other businesses) have scaled, we have shifted our focus to hiring full-time employees – not necessarily for the high-level stuff, but for the day to day tasks that make Nomad Capitalist what it is.
There is a huge market for freelancers right now, but because of that, they are becoming increasingly expensive while the quality of work has decreased for what you pay. It is becoming a type of Uber situation. Are they working for me? Or am I working for them?
Consequently, it has become more productive and cost-beneficial to have a team that you can train the way you want rather than sourcing random freelancers off the internet.
Another decision that we have made from our experiences with previous employees is that we’ve stopped doing as much hiring from western countries – partly because it allows us to reduce the number of associations we have with those countries and protect our tax strategy, but also because of the transient nature of western working culture.
When you compare western and especially US workers to those from other cultures, you’ll find that people from the rest of the world are much more willing to stay on with a company as long as possible. Westerners are always chasing the next best thing when we’re looking for long-term loyalty.
To that same point, we generally avoid hiring people who are fans. This idea really hit home for me as I was reading through some of the comments of Gary Vaynerchuck.
There were plenty of negative and unfair comments from people who had bought into the sexiness of celebrity and jumped at the chance to work for Gary V. But when they started working with him, they found the same day-to-day grind they had found elsewhere instead of the high-flying lifestyle they had imagined.
It turned out that Vaynerchuck needed them to work.
I worry that if I were to hire a fan, they would find a similar situation. They would come in thinking that they would be able to work from the beach one day and Paris the next. Eventually, when they found out that we actually prefer a sense of structure, they would become disillusioned and end up getting frustrated in our comment section.
While we do have people from all over the world working for us, we have them under as few roofs as possible. There’s a reason why companies invest in big, nice looking office buildings. Aesthetics, comfort, and surroundings are all very important for productivity.
Having structure allows you to set a standard for everything, from what hours people will be available to what equipment they will be able to use to get a job done. If someone is working from the beach one day and Paris the next, you can’t control whether or not they will have a working internet connection or a peaceful place to work.
Lastly, you get what you pay for. Where earlier in my life I was fascinated with finding the lowest price, I am now focused on getting the best value.
You might be able to find someone that will do a job for a dollar an hour. But after all the extra time you’re going to spend managing that person, you’re going to be losing more money than you would have spent on the guy in Armenia asking for $3/hr.
The Benefits of Remote Working
In 2016, the members of the first Nomad Capitalist Remote Team booked their tickets to live in Thailand. Four years later, I am extremely proud of how my team has grown, not just in numbers but both personally and professionally, as well as what they have contributed to the advancement of Nomad Capitalist.
As my business grows, so does my team – you can’t have one without the other.
With time and growth, we have moved away from having location-independent teams that travel together to different locations and have moved instead toward having several office bases in countries like Macedonia, Serbia, and Georgia where I have found quality workers who have made great additions to my team.
However, with the onset of COVID-19 and quarantine measures around the world, our team began working remotely once again, creating new challenges and opportunities. It was the perfect time to revisit the lessons in this article.
Building and managing a successful remote team can require much more extensive and tactical planning than you would need to manage a physical office. You will likely come to rely more on the routines and principles used to successfully manage your personal remote working situation than you will on traditional office management tactics.
While I now favor managing regular office teams, there are certainly many benefits to remote working that can affect everything from business profits to worker retention. Below are a few of my favorite reasons why any online business could benefit from having a remote team:
1. IT SAVES YOU MONEY
The first perk of having a remote team is that you eliminate many of the overhead costs you would normally pay for with a typical office arrangement. Not only can you save by eliminating the need to pay for an actual office space but you also avoid paying for office supplies and even office snacks.
I choose to budget in a payment for my remote team to work from a co-working space because I see their productivity go up when they work in a more formal setting, but the price I pay for their memberships at co-working spaces is nothing in comparison to renting out an entire office on a monthly basis. And those memberships always include access to snacks, drinks, printers, and everything else they’ll need to get the job done… at a fraction of the price.
Building a remote team can also save you money because of how different wage expectations are from one country to the next. I’ve talked and worked with people who are originally from the West who have the expectation of making $100,000 a year despite the fact that they are currently living in a developing country.
There are educated people all over the world fully capable of providing quality work for your company for less than a westerner would expect because their cost of living is much lower.
We’ve worked with virtual assistants from the Philippines who will work for $800/month. In countries like Romania, $1,000/month is a great salary. By setting your sights on some of these countries you can find great talent, bring them on for a higher than average wage for them, and develop that sense of loyalty all while still paying less than you would at home.
This benefit can also help you expand your team more quickly. Each new remote hire is going to cost you less to train and prepare for the work you’re going to have them do. Rather than going through an intensive and costly process to make sure you find the right talent the first time, you can experiment with different cultures and people until you find the best fit.
All while having the advantage of being able to hire more people faster so that you can scale your business to meet demand more quickly than any competitor.
2. IT INCREASES PRODUCTIVITY
Many studies have shown that worker productivity increases with remote work arrangements. Without the constant excuses for useless meetings and empty chitchat by the water cooler, employees can focus on the task at hand and get it done.
As the employer, you also have more freedom to hire individuals on a per-project basis, paying for results and not the number of hours someone sat behind a desk in some cubicle doing who knows what.
3. YOU CAN HIRE THE BEST
Having a location independent team not only means that your team can work from wherever but also that you can hire anyone, no matter where they are. This gives you the incredible advantage of hiring a professional from a global pool of talent.
4. INCREASED INSIGHT INTO OTHER MARKETS
Having a global team also gives you the opportunity to gain greater insight into the markets where your team members are from. They understand the local market in a way you never could and can help you find and navigate the opportunities there for planting flags.
I was able to purchase my summer home in Montenegro because one of my team members informed me of a property there available for a bargain price, which eventually helped me get a Montenegrin residence. I was also able to obtain residence in Serbia thanks to my Serbian team members.
It is truly amazing what you can achieve when you share your vision with others who are willing to help you build that vision into something greater than you could ever achieve on your own.
5. FEWER SICK DAYS
If you are allowing your employees to work from “home” while they travel the world, it greatly reduces their need to ask for sick days or vacation time.
Most sick days are called in because an employee is too sick to leave the house or doesn’t want to spread the germs, not because they don’t want to work and get paid. If their work arrangement means that they don’t have to leave their house in the first place, then it’s only natural that there will be fewer sick days on the record.
Most work done in an office can be done from home, whether they’re sick or not. And if your life is a permanent work-life vacation, the need for time off to go travel the world becomes obsolete.
6. IT CREATES THE PERFECT WORK ENVIRONMENT
Allowing your team to work remotely can create the perfect work environment. Sometimes, this is an environment that you will create based on predefined expectations and rules – like my requirement that my nomadic team works in a co-working space and show up each day in casual business attire (I believe in ”dress for success”).
Other times, it is an environment that your remote workers create themselves – like my remote editor who can work from home so she can care for her two children.
The flexibility that remote work situations allow means everyone can get what they need, including you, decreasing stress levels and increasing happiness, work/life balance, and loyalty.
7. IT WASTES LESS TIME
Having a remote team wastes less of your time and your team members’ time. It eliminates the need to commute, cutting time and fuel costs as well as reducing the stress that comes with commuting.
This also means that your employees will have more time in their day to work and enjoy life.
8. IT’S EASIER NOW THAN EVER BEFORE
Because of the time we live in, it is easier now than ever before to hire, organize, and lead a location independent team.
Online hiring platforms make it easier to find talent, apps and other technologies make it easier to communicate and collaborate, and the global nature of business makes it easier to reach your ideal audience no matter where you or your team happen to be at the time.
The Challenges of Building a Remote Team
If you feel like your business structure could use some of these benefits, then building a remote team might just be the best option for you.
I choose to travel and work remotely because it allows me to live a life of greater freedom and prosperity. There are always challenges – like loss of oversight, longer workdays, and potential hurdles to training – but everything can be tackled with good organizational skills and positive energy.
And if you can go into building a remote team already aware of the challenges you may face, you can prepare and meet those challenges head-on before they ever become an issue.
In the end, the benefits far outweigh the downsides and the challenges often lead you to take measures that improve the business overall.
Now, I don’t have a bunch of book knowledge on hiring or human resources to throw at you, but what I do have is a wealth of knowledge that I’ve gained from experience, including the mistakes I’ve made while hiring people.
Mistakes that have often been quite painful.
If I can help you avoid these mistakes, I’ll consider them worth the cost.
As you go out to build your remote team, here are eight mistakes that you should avoid making.
1. IGNORING YOUR INTUITION
Entrepreneurs – and people in general – are successful because they have good intuition. The problem that many people run into is that they ignore that gut feeling that tells them if something is right or wrong.
In many ways, we program ourselves to ignore intuition and go with the facts we see.
Don’t let someone else talk or shame you out of going where your intuition is directing. You’re where you are now because you have a good sense of intuition. Because you’ve trusted that feeling in your gut that tells you someone would be a good business partner or employee.
2. PUTTING TALENT FIRST
I have a lawyer friend who has hired many people over the years for his law firm. The question he focuses on when looking through potential candidates is whether or not they are a good person.
I grew up with the assumption that entrepreneurship was most like Boiler Room – a cut-throat office full of people looking for any advantage they could get. But, that’s not the kind of environment you want to build.
Finding decent human beings is more important than finding talented ones.
Growing up, my father would talk to me about people he knew who were more talented than he was, but not nearly as successful. They had attitude or behavioral problems that held them back.
3. LOOKING FOR SPECIFIC TALENT
I had another friend who owned an AM radio station. It wasn’t a sexy business, but it was a (surprisingly) highly profitable one.
Part of how he made his money was through paid programming. People would pay for an hour-long segment of air-time during which they could educate people in a certain field or on a type of service, then follow it up with a pitch for their business.
His big problem was that it was hard to find people to run the technical aspect of his show. Available people inside the industry with experience were most often people who had been fired or laid off from some of the sexier stations that were going under.
He had the money to pay them, but they would often come in with condescending attitudes because his station wasn’t the “big time”.
The advice I gave him then that has served me well over the years was that he should go look for people at the zoo.
Instead of looking for people who were going to think it was a big step down to work for him, he should look for people who would jump at the chance to get into radio. Someone who’s been helping people try on shoes for the last few years of their life is going to jump at the chance to get on the radio.
What I’ve found with my own business is that when I bring on an expert in a certain field, I often have a hard time making them fit in with our company goals. They bring with them their previous work culture and understanding.
I have much better experiences with people who have a general talent that can be trained to fit what their role needs. You don’t want to hire just anyone to do the work, but finding someone who can learn quickly is often better than trying to find someone with a specific talent or skill.
4. HIRING DISAGREEABLE PEOPLE
This comes back to the question of if the person you’re interviewing is a good person, but more specifically, can you work with this person?
The problem I’ve run into when working with some consultants is that they take the list of responsibilities we give them and immediately try to change everything. While they are sometimes correct in suggesting an entirely different course of action, working with someone who is going to undercut your ideas and try to change everything you’re doing is not going to create a good work environment for you or your other employees.
Obviously, you do want to defer to people who have more knowledge, but you also need to be able to hold people accountable. If you bring on disagreeable people, you’re always going to be struggling to hold them accountable and maintain a good office culture.
Having to constantly argue with someone while trying to move projects forward is going to bring you down and hurt your productivity.
There are some people who are just a pleasure to work with. They understand their work and their role in the company. And, ironically, they often achieve exactly what the disagreeable person was trying to do.
Both types of people might have the same goal, but they have entirely different tactics when it comes to reaching it.
5. HIRING SOMEONE WHO IS “TOO SMART”
What I’ve found is that the smartest and most talented people are often the ones who don’t talk about it.
I think you can make that idea apply to many different areas of life. Maybe this is just a common-sense idea for you, but the people who come in with big changes and big claims don’t deliver nearly as much as others do.
Always use your own evaluation when you’re looking at the talent and ability of another person. Don’t take their own evaluation at face value.
I’ve been far too malleable in the past about just accepting what other people say and it’s led to some problems dealing with people who thought they were much smarter than they really were.
6. SETTLING FOR “GOOD ENOUGH”
I watched a video from someone in the consultant space who said that he interviewed 600 people so that he could hire three managers.
One of my biggest problems with the idea of going to that length to find the right people is that I’m not that patient of a person. I like doing things. I like getting the results. If you watch our videos and read our articles often, that’s probably something you’ve picked up on.
What I’ve found is that a go and do attitude generally works for me in other areas of my life and business. If something doesn’t work, I can usually circle back later, learn from the mistake, and clean up the mess.
But, this isn’t an approach that works as well when hiring other people. By taking someone who seems good enough and running with it, I’ve hired disagreeable people and created internal problems which have slowed my business down.
To fix this problem, I’ve had to defer to more calm, mature, and experienced entrepreneurs to help me put together an interview process that will make me slow down and avoid settling for the first person that seems like a “good enough” fit for a role.
You don’t have room for dead weight.
7. Following The Herd
Don’t follow the herd. The pitfall that trips up many people is that they get caught up looking where everyone else is. We as humans are society-focused beings. We want to do what everyone else is doing.
Just as many people who start into the life of digital nomadism head directly to Thailand, many people who begin hiring offshore head straight for the Philippines or India. Both of these countries have a strong reputation for providing a workforce for different fields.
While there are people who create great situations by hiring where everyone else is, there are usually much better options out there. Places where you can get a better quality of work for half the cost.
Which brings us to the next important piece of advice.
8. Dismissing Culture Clash
Many people from the US who want to hire overseas will go to Asia to fill out their staff, but the cultural difference between the owner and their employees is so massive that they often struggle to make it work.
Instead, find a place where the culture and expectations are more similar. Hiring from the best places doesn’t mean hiring from the cheapest or most talented places. It means hiring from countries where you know you’ll have an easier time working with the people.
Eastern Europe, for example, is a hidden gem that most people have no idea about. Countries like Romania and Serbia have all kinds of educated, capable people willing to work for much less than their western counterparts.
You can read our article on the best countries for hiring remote workers to learn more about this topic.
Insights From 19 Leading Experts On Building a Remote Team
Founder and CEO of GuestToGuest
Take a break: I am based in Boston, but most of my team is in Europe. When I start my day, I have the feeling that I need to play catch up with the rest of the team who have sent me six hours’ worth of emails. It took me some time to realize that I am simply better at what I do if I take small breaks, whether they consist of standing up and stretching for a minute or two, getting a glass of water, or taking a walk around the block.
Small talk matters: Small talk happens naturally in an office. When you are working remotely, you need to make it happen. It really is important because it shows people you care about them. I spend some time on most of my calls inquiring about the other person and creating that space where we can share on a more personal level.
Trust: When you have some team members working remotely, you cannot help but think that they might not be dedicated to their work. These doubts are toxic. I have decided to trust that they work hard. I have also decided to trust myself. If someone is not motivated, I believe I will be able to spot it through my interactions with the person, without the need to be suspicious in the first place.
Pros of Having a Remote Team
- Talent without borders: Having a remote policy in place allows you to recruit the best, no matter where they live.
- Save on overhead costs: Employing remote workers helps you save money on multiple fronts: you need a smaller office, fewer desks, chairs, printers, stationery, coffee, etc.
Cons of Having a Remote Team
- Company Culture: It’s very hard to keep a strong culture with many people working remotely, who might not feel that they are part of a real team.
- Serendipity: Good ideas often emerge from a random conversation over a lunch or coffee break. These conversations do not happen as easily in a company with many people working remotely.
Managing editor at TCK Publishing
TCK is an independent press specializing in books on entrepreneurship, personal development, and well-being (and a growing line of fiction). The company is a fully distributed organization with team members in San Francisco, Scotland, and the Philippines, and clients and contractors from around the world.
As a business psychologist with a specialty in flexible and distributed work issues in addition to having practical experience with managing a diverse remote workforce, we have developed a number of strategies to help manage our distributed team and our far-ranging clients.
The biggest tip I can offer is to communicate constantly. We’re always in touch with each other by email, Slack, and frequent Zoom meetings. The one-on-one, “face-to-face” interaction of video really helps us come together as a team. We do weekly one-on-one calls with the company founder and have a monthly all-hands meeting via Zoom to make sure we’re all working in the same direction and on the same page.
This is absolutely critical to ensuring that we’re all motivated and have what we need to succeed, even in vastly different locations.
We also keep the team running smoothly via technology in other areas, too. We manage workloads and keep abreast of everyone’s productivity using Toggl, a handy tool for time tracking. This can be done either by individually managing time entries or by automatically logging time spent on any app or screen. It’s incredibly useful for making sure that your remote workers are actually working rather than on Facebook or running errands.
However, I only recommend it when you’re dealing with hourly remote workers. Using the auto-log feature can feel too much like babysitting for a self-directed salaried employee. For those folks, I suggest using Toggl more as an evaluation tool. Teach them how it can help them focus and channel their productivity and they tend to embrace its feedback power!
As for effective remote working habits, it’s incredibly helpful to have a set start and end time for your day. It’s all too easy to end up working too little (or far too much!) when you’re not in an office setting. Again, keeping track with Toggl can help here. You can see if you’ve been getting the right number of hours put in, and how that relates to your goals in the workplace so that you can adjust what you’re doing.
It also really helps to take measured breaks and to remember to get out and about and be social when you’re working remotely. Lacking coworker interaction, we need to make up for that by interacting with other humans somehow! I suggest to all new remote workers that they start making a habit of taking a walk sometime during the day and using that to stop at a favorite lunch place or coffee shop.
If that’s out of the budget, then stop by the library or poke your head into a shop to do some browsing while you’re out. You get the combined benefit of a change of scenery, getting the blood flowing, and getting a little social interaction into your day! I always find that I come back refreshed and ready to roll after a break like this.
Using these various tools and techniques, we’ve been able to grow from our founder’s initial vision and a single contract administrative assistant to a remarkably close-knit team consisting of an editorial manager, a graphic designer, a research assistant, a social media coordinator, and several administrative managers who are based all over the globe.
Virtual Assistant Staffer & Consultant at The PVA
Being location-independent isn’t simply a perk for your employees. In fact, remote working of any kind should never be considered a perk. The ability to work remotely and be location-independent is a lifestyle and takes not only discipline but also a certain type of compassion and understanding.
Employees who are location-independent bring a unique perspective to your company. Talking about diversity and inclusion is great. However, it will only get you so far. You don’t simply learn to drive by reading about it. When you have firsthand experiences, you truly understand what it means to feel different and be the minority. Only then are you able to put away incorrect notions and explore new truths and possibilities.
Traveling forces a person to know that what is normal for some is not for others. What is considered rude or obscene in one country is commonplace in another. Some of the most outrageously offensive materials and promotions that companies have created could have been avoided if they had only had someone on the job who could see things through the right cultural lens. Having location-independent employees can help you avoid these fumbles and make better decisions.
Even when you actively seek to diversify your team, it can be challenging and take time. Business must go on and decisions need to be made. Good decisions come from asking the right questions. The right questions come from having more experience to draw from.
Location-independent employees help you pull from a larger talent pool. Whether or not you consider your company to be part of the hiring talent wars, having the right person join your team has never been more crucial.
Location-independent employees are far more likely to have a strong community outside of your company as well. Their connections, conversations, and project collaborations are a natural way to recruit the right talent for your company. Look for people your current employees want to work with and already have a relationship with. Hiring like-minded people and/or friends of employees not only helps bring in quality candidates but it increases your retention rate.
You also need to ensure that you are productive while you work remotely, especially if your remote-work arrangement involves travel. Here are my top three tips:
Tip 1: Get your bearings as quickly as possible. After a long day of flying, taxis, transport, possible travel delays and lost luggage you can easily feel disorientated – especially if you arrive at night and everything is closed. Find what is going to make you feel like yourself again right away. It could be water, coffee, food, the gym, etc. Self-care is a critical component.
Tip 2: Have a workstation setup which is ergo friendly. Working in different locations can be fun and even inspirational. However, many locations are not so friendly to your body. Many co-working spaces are not properly equipped so you need to be prepared. Over time it can talk a toll.
Tip 3: Determine what your working hours are and stick to them. It’s very easy to work all day and night, answer emails coming in, and even lose track of time. I have trouble with this and find the best way is to schedule a meetup with friends, sign up for a class or tour, and basically plan for things I want to do outside of work. It forces me not to drag out projects and I feel rewarded as well.
CEO of GraphicBomb
I employ an all-remote team, so I definitely have some insights on this topic. Here are my tips:
1. Become a fixture at the nearest co-working space.
Think of it as an investment in your company and yourself. Not only are you guaranteed a desk and a quiet place to work, your fellow coworkers could end up providing opportunities and knowledge for running your company — things you would have missed out on otherwise. You won’t get the same chance for face-to-face interaction and connection at, say, a coffee shop or the public library.
2. Give your team access to a co-working space.
The same advice applies to your team. They may not know how to handle the distractions of working from home, or miss the discipline that an office provides. If you foot the bill for their access to a co-working space, they’ll be more likely to go regularly and surround themselves with a supportive environment.
3. Use the latest digital tools for remote workers.
Our team uses Slack to stay in touch, Asana to track tasks and Skype for weekly meetings. When you have the latest digital tools in place, the perceived distance between you and your employees gets much smaller. The lines of communication are open and goals can be set and completed. Instead of feeling isolated, employees feel like they’re part of a team.
Certified Coach, Speaker & Trainer from The Empowered Entrepreneur
These are the qualities you need to look for in a potential remote worker, whether you’re looking to hire someone or you are wondering if you can handle being location-independent yourself:
- They are highly motivated and self-driven.
- They separate busy work from productive work.
- They delegate things they don’t need to do themselves.
- They hire support like a VA to help get admin things done and save time.
- They ask great questions to find solutions to challenges.
- They surround themselves with positive people who encourage them to dream BIG.
- They are interested in self-growth – they read books, listen to podcasts and attend conferences.
- They have a business plan that is used to keep them on course.
- They use a time management system to track appointments and priorities.
- They employ big picture thinking and cast visions for growth.
- They hire for their weaknesses so they can work in their genius zone.
- They hire a coach to help them keep a growth mindset and overcome self-limiting fears
Owner of 7 Charming Sisters
As the owner of an e-commerce fashion jewelry company located in Northern Virginia, I work remotely at my home office p-t and have 2/3 of my team working remotely with people in Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Philly, California, and India, to name a few.
We started to change to a remote environment slowly and finally realized we should just make the jump permanent since we were essentially most of the way there. At first, it was a big adjustment for me in supervising our employees. My biggest adjustment was being very consistent with supervision. Because I was used to seeing everyone at one time, I managed by walking around (MBWA) deliberately. Once most people were remote, I had to make sure I collaborated, monitored, and supervised by everyone on a consistent basis. Skype and sticking to a meeting schedule was crucial.
The key is to find the right people to work remotely. They need to be highly dedicated to the company, its mission, and its values. They also need to be highly motivated and self-directed. Without this dedication and traits, it’s going to be difficult to get top-notch work.
CEO of Otium Boutique
I have been location independent since 2014. Originally a team of one, I had everything to do and no time to do it. Now I have a remote team of six, allowing me much more time to focus “on the business”, rather than working “in the business”.
As I have told my readers before about using habits for success, you can’t always control the outcome, but you can control the habits that will most likely bring you to your goal.
Say you set the goal of building a $1 million company by 2020. There are a lot of factors that are out of your control – what if there’s another market crash in mid-2019? – chances are the business could lose customers and therefore revenue.
Instead, you can focus on the habits required to build a successful business – building quality processes, selling a great product, etc. – this is all within your control.
Something less goal-oriented is how to manage your life while being remote. No one turns the light off at 6 pm when you work from your home office/hotel room, so it’s very easy to end up working 16-hour days. To combat this, I have a list of non-negotiables that I put first. Many of these are fitness and travel-based, where the intention is to make sure that I am happy in life first, before doing any additional work.
CEO & CoFounder of MejorTrato.com.mx
With nine years of experience in South America, 34 employees working remotely, and more than 21.5 million users internationally in Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia, it is time that I share what we have learned working on the Internet over all these years.
In the last 9 years, we have experimented with several strategies to be able to work remotely and successfully. After many tests, we made a lot of mistakes but also some successes:
1) What helped us generate the best results was to define personal meetings (1-on-1) with each member of the team once a month. This allows each employee and their boss to be up to date with any professional matter, but also personal. This is the key!
2) Then, another great lesson was to define meetings once a week on Mondays during the first hour. In these internet communications, goals are defined as a team for the week, what must be done as a team, and which objective each one has. In addition, the advances of the last week are reviewed.
Only with these two types of meetings, we release the rest of the week to do what is really needed: work. Eliminating any other type of distractions and interruptions so that you can achieve concentration and do an excellent job.
This mechanism allowed us to increase our productivity by 23.6% in the last 18 months!
Workflow and Productivity Expert at Accela Work
In our firm, remote workers get things done because they have exceptionally clear instructions. They know what’s expected of them, and they know what the company needs to move forward. That means I don’t hear from them unless there is a problem. Since we’ve been working together a long time, there is almost never a problem! Work gets completed, and the emails are few and far between.
Some people might think this sounds like a lonely existence for our remote team. The truth is quite the opposite.
Since we don’t spend much of our social capital at work, they have more energy in their personal lives to be sociable with their friends and families. And that’s really how it should be since these people selected us because they like the work and were selected by us because they are good at it. We didn’t choose them to be our friends, and while it’s fine if that happens, it’s fine if it doesn’t, too.
I personally love that I don’t hear from our remote team that often. What I also love is that we’ve found the right people to get the work done and that they enjoy doing it. It’s a great relationship, but it’s based on work and mutual respect, not on hours and hours of long conversations.
Founder and Head Trader of Foxy Trades
1. Do video meetings in every morning. This will ensure that everyone on your team is awake and ready to start the workday.
2. Invest more time into setting up control mechanisms to check on your employees’ progress. We write down a weekly goal for our employees and we assess it on each Friday. This will give everyone a clear task that they would need to fill during the week.
3. Schedule monthly team-building events. It is ok if some people can’t always attend the events, but doing something outside of your usual work keeps the spirits high and helps to keep motivation high for the employees. We have actually done a lot of online gaming events.
4. Invest in high tech video and conference gear to include those who work remotely on a screen. It’s a lot better to see everyone attending the meetings and discussion than to just speak with them via phone
Managing work and life is all about realizing that there are no boundaries between the two. The more these two are integrated and enmeshed, the more productive and happy an individual is. In today’s age of connectivity, working on-the-go and coordinating leisure time can happen with a few swipes on a smart device.
The best way to get the most out of work and life is not to compartmentalize but to make an efficient use of time and energy to get things done whenever you can make time for them. Technology like cloud sharing, telecommuting, applications and other productivity-boosting services can make this happen.
Coordinate your vacation during your train commute, respond to emails while waiting for dinner to cook, or FaceTime with your child when you’re stuck working late. Use technology to your advantage so you never have to feel like you’re missing anything at work or at home.
Travel Blogger at Portugalist.com
During the past five years of working remotely, I’ve spent time in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe. My tip is to find the balance between working too much and working too little. It is key when you work remotely. I usually end up on one end of the spectrum: I either spend too much time sightseeing and my work suffers, or I spend too much time working and I don’t get the benefit of working remotely. Unfortunately, due to my workload, it often ends up being that I spent too much time working.
To counteract this, I make sure I have at least one “reward” per day and, if possible, I put this activity as late in the day as possible. That reward is always to get out there and see something or do something in the area I’m visiting, such as visiting a tourist attraction or a typical restaurant.
Scheduling in sightseeing as part of my day, and especially as a reward, helps me to ensure that I don’t spend the entire day in front of the computer. Having that incentive at the end of the day encourages me to get through the work quickly as well, rather than letting it drag into the evening.
Founder and CEO of TripVerse
Here are the tips and habits we have at TripVerse:
1. We run weekly sprints: Every Thursday, we have a 30-min to an hour video call to go over what we want to achieve in the next week.
2. We run daily standups: Every day at 9 AM Pacific time, we hold a 10-min video call covering what we did yesterday, what we are going to do today, and if there are any blockers, it will be resolved right after the call between related parties.
3. We have a weekly one-on-one: As the CEO, I host a 30-minute one-on-one video call with each of my team members. In the calls, I let them talk about whatever they want. It can be about family, sports, product, growth, politics, anything. This way I get to know them very deeply on a personal level.
4. We hold quarterly workcations: Every three months, we meet up somewhere for a week to work, brainstorm, eat and get drunk together.
5. We only hire the best people: Accountability is everything for an effective remote team, so we only hire the most talented, passionate, and responsible people we can find to ensure they deliver what they promised.
Digital PR with Sleep Train
I have spent a lot of time both working remotely myself and working with remote team members. Here are a few tips for successful remote workers and entrepreneurs:
1. Invest in the right online tools and software. You’ll spend a lot of time communicating online (with your team or with clients), and if you don’t invest upfront in decent software you’ll waste a lot of that time trying to untangle crossed wires. Make sure you have a decent set-up for video calls as well as just chatting. Slack is a dream for team communication, and I highly recommend Google’s video call function—most people these days have some form of Google account already, and you don’t have to download anything to use it.
2. Maintain work-life boundaries. You’d think that remote work lends itself to a healthier (or perhaps too healthy) work-life balance. But I actually found that when I was working from home regularly, my team members were less inclined to respect that balance. I learned to set boundaries—like declining calls that came after 5 pm, except for emergencies. I even found that telling my manager what I had worked on during the day helped to reinforce the fact that I was still accomplishing a lot and that my personal time was well-deserved.
3. Prioritize your well-being. Again, you might think this is easy to do when you’re working from home. But in reality, it’s so easy to think that you don’t need to take a break or stop for lunch just because you’re not in the office. Be sure to advocate for your physical and mental needs by getting the appropriate amounts of sleep, eating well, and staying active, just like you should do in a typical office job. Millennials particularly have a complicated relationship with stress, sleep, and work, and should be especially aware of these issues.
Co-founder of Planning Pod
Planning Pod is an online business that offers Web-based event management and planning software to event professionals. We also have a small team of five people, all of whom work remotely. Here is one tactic that helps us run smoothly:
Virtual Coffee Hours: Twice a week, we all get together online (using the online video conferencing tool Join.me) and have coffee or happy hour drinks together. During work hours, we are constantly communicating via chat, Slack, email, Facetime, etc., regarding our daily work, but we have found that we needed a more informal type of online get-together to instill our culture and allow our team to just talk about anything work or non-work related.
We have found that these coffee hours have not only brought us closer together but also have provided great insights that we could only have arrived at through more informal conversation. They have also allowed me and my co-founder to talk about our approach to business and to our customers so our team can take cues from our direction.
Founder and President of Digital Ink Marketing
Check in regularly with remote workers via video conference. Try to meet with them at least once every couple of weeks, even if it’s for five minutes and try your best to do a video call. This is as close to a face-to-face meeting as you can get with remote workers, and being able to see each other allows you to make more of a connection than if you just hear each other. Regular video check-ins remind remote workers that they’re part of the team and keeps them engaged.
Co-founder of Guest Hook
At Guest Hook – a marketing and copywriting agency – we specialize in the travel niche, and more specifically in vacation rental marketing. We work with a team of 15 remote freelance writers.
It’s taken some time, but we built a talented team whose work we can count on. Once we accomplished that goal, we turned our focus to being fair employers that these folks would want to work with for the long haul. Remote workers value flexibility (of course), so we strive to provide it. Freelancer heading to Bali for a month? No problem—we’ll work around their schedule (and give them any assignments for vacation rentals in Bali, if/when they come up.)
Working remotely limits the in-person team camaraderie, but those of us with more set schedules use Slack to keep in touch and share photos of our morning donuts and Friday afternoon beers. Soon, we’re headed to the UK (to a vacation rental, of course) for some in-person brainstorming.
Basically, my philosophy is that everyone we work with — both clients and employees — are people first. If they’re happy, I’m happy.
Founder of RegainYourTime.com
Some managers may be apprehensive about allowing employees to work from home because they feel that employees can’t be as productive as they would be in an office setting. But the work setting is not the major factor in determining an employee’s productivity. Instead, productivity depends more on the ability of the employee to organize their time, prioritize work, and manage distractions. Office environments can be just as much of a distraction, with impromptu meetings and discussions interrupting core work.
In addition, some employees have bad work habits that affect their productivity, regardless of where they work, such as allowing email alerts and social media notifications to distract their focus from their work.
If you are working from home, there are several factors that affect your productivity. First, it can be difficult to find work/life balance. Just because you work from home, it doesn’t mean that work should eclipse everything else in your life. Some boundaries must be determined to prevent an “always-on” work mentality.
When working from home, you must have the ability to control your attention and not be constantly distracted. Consider who else is at home who may demand your attention while you’re trying to work. This could be children or just a constant barrage of personal email. Not having a proper workspace at home can seriously affect your productivity, and constantly being distracted by personal issues can undermine your ability to focus on your work.
Another item to consider about your physical workspace: is it really a workspace? Do you have an appropriate amount of space for the tools of your work, such as ample room to comfortably hold your computer and peripherals, some space to write and do work that isn’t computer-based, plus storage space for other tools and accessories, like pens, a stapler, paper clips, a phone, a calculator, reference material, unopened mail, a glass of water, outlets, and USB ports, etc.?
If you routinely “work” squeezed into a corner of your couch, the end of the dining room table, or squeezed onto some flat surface in a corner of your bedroom, then you are seriously impacting your productivity. Most workers today are knowledge workers, and therefore our tools and products are information and communication. If you work from home, have you taken this work seriously enough to dedicate some real “workspace” in your home, or do you just pick up and move around based on whatever else is happening in your house at the time?
The most important tip I can give you is to schedule your tasks, both work and personal, on your To-Do list, not your calendar. Try to be realistic — you’re not going to complete your work, and then do ten other personal tasks on the same day. Also, tame your task list. Do you have to check two different email accounts, the Post-it notes on your computer, your calendar and your voicemail to figure out what you need to do? Get your to-dos all in one place. Your brain doesn’t know what to do with ill-defined tasks until you turn them into smaller, actionable steps that are very specific. Use verbs when entering items on your task list so you’ll know exactly what you have to do to take appropriate action.
“Museum Hack is a $3 million/year company with 60 staff members working remotely. Here are three tips that have proven to be high-impact on motivating our team to do their best work:
1. We give recognition for individual achievements daily. For example, we have a #you-are-awesome channel on slack where anyone can share praise for a coworker, and the leadership team records shout-out videos where we give our teams credit for their awesome achievements that week.
2. In most cases, team members make their own schedule. Projects have defined deliverables and deadlines, but each contributor can work the hours they choose. We have some folks that are early risers and some that are night owls. It’s important to us to support both.
3. We travel! If our team members are going to workshops or client meetings around the US (and the world), we try to do meetups with our local remote team. We also fly many of our remote staff to our NYC HQ to hang out for a few days, experience the product and get some face time.”
The Future of Remote Work
I believe that remote work is undergoing a gradual transition. I tend to stay away from the statements made by the overeager crowds that claim, “This is the way of the future! By 2050 we’re all going to be working in co-working spaces!” But the movement toward greater location independence is certainly growing.
When remote work first began to take root, it was certainly a bit more… bohemian. Like any alternative movement, it had a different feel to it. Up until recently, there was a general idea that all things co-working, nomad, and remote work were synonymous with being a backpacker.
You’re seeing that go away now.
The more mainstream it becomes to work remotely, the more types of people will enter this space. And as more people adopt this lifestyle, the more you’re going to see everyone doing remote work in their own way.
The responses above are a testament to this. Among the travel bloggers, there were CEOs of publishing companies and graphic design firms accompanied by coaches and business strategists. And while there were many commonalities among their strategies, each had their own unique approach.
If you want to become location independent or build your own remote team, there are numerous resources here on the blog and over on my YouTube channel. You can check out the Nomad Entrepreneur’s Toolkit to find the best project management tools or watch this video on some of the cheapest places to hire high-quality team members.
Or, if you want to skip over the research phase, you can always apply to work with me and we can design your personal plan for success together.