Hire And Manage Virtual Workers

Ultimate Guide to Remote Teams: Hire And Manage Virtual Workers

Remote work has become a norm but companies are still learning how to hire and manage remote workers. Learn more with our ultimate guide to remote teams.

Shannon Hodgen
Written by Shannon Hodgen
May 17, 2022
Contents
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Remote work used to be a relatively rare phenomenon known as telecommuting. But over the past decade, remote work gained popularity until the pandemic accelerated it into the mainstream. Once a what-if option, remote work is now an option for most office employees—and one of the most attractive employee perks.

Despite concern from many companies that remote work will negatively affect their employees’ productivity, the reality is the opposite. According to Forbes, remote workers with flexible schedules are generally more productive than employees working 9-5 from centralized offices.

But remote work isn’t necessarily a simple switch from traditional work. Remote management differs significantly from traditional team management, requiring new communication styles, technology, and processes.

Keep reading for the ultimate guide on remote teams. You’ll learn about the difference between remote-friendly and remote-first organizations, remote work’s pros and cons, and strategies to hire and manage remote teams.

What is a remote team?

A remote team comprises employees and independent contractors working from different locations. They can spread across cities, states, countries, and even different time zones.

Remote teams, also called distributed teams, are not a novelty. However, the transition from on-premise to cloud-based technology and the development of remote collaboration apps enabled companies to easily hire teams from around the globe.

Remote-friendly vs. remote-first

The difference between remote-friendly and remote-first teams is:

  • Remote-first companies let employees work from home without any sort of regular commute to an office
  • Remote-friendly companies allow employees to work from home some or most of the time but require occasion in-person attendance

Remote-first companies set up systems and processes from scratch to cater entirely to a solid work-from-home experience. They might have quarterly or annual on-sites where remote candidates gather from their respective home offices (across the globe) to collaborate in person. But employees almost exclusively work from home, Airbnbs, coworking spaces, or wherever else they please.

Remote-friendly companies, also called hybrid companies, must set up in-person and remote work processes. A company can have excellent hybrid policies that produce equality between at-home and in-office work. But this is typically a more complex setup.

Remote-friendly companies also lose out on one of the most significant advantages of remote work: global hiring. Remote-first companies can hire the best talent in the world, regardless of proximity. Remote-friendly companies, on the other hand, can still only hire candidates in close enough proximity to commute to the office semi-regularly.

Learn more about the difference between remote-first and remote-friendly teams.

Benefits of remote teams

A remote team is only as great as its culture, processes, and leadership. The best remote teams enjoy the following advantages.

Remote employees enjoy better work-life balance

The primary benefit of remote teams is the opportunity for truly flexible work. Team members who work from home (or other non-office locations) ditch commuting and, often, rigid schedules altogether.

Remote workers may sometimes have specific schedules or shifts, especially if they work in customer service. But many remote workers can work flexible hours and build their workday around their life—not the other way around.

However, some remote workers struggle to separate life from work, working long hours on a one-way street to burnout. To achieve a healthy work-life balance when working remotely:

  • Dedicate some time to schedule your workday in advance
  • Speak openly with your manager to clarify expectations around being online at certain times
  • Engage in personal activities and run errands during the day
  • Plan after-work activities—even if they’re in the home—and try not to cancel them due to work

Companies have access to a wider pool of top talent

Remote work lets you hire the best talent, not the nearest. Many remote businesses hire from anywhere in their country—or even the world—to access the very best talent. Most companies can also find skilled workers from companies with lower costs of living to hire talent they couldn’t afford in more expensive areas.

Global hiring is a win for employees, too. Employees’ options expand enormously, which is an especially life-changing benefit for workers from countries that couldn’t pay nearly as much as a company from the US or Europe.

Companies save costs on physical offices

Many companies with remote workforces ditch any sort of working space, saving thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars each month on the cost to rent and maintain a physical office.

When companies take this route, they can afford to offer remote team members additional benefits like work-from-home-stipends, money employees use to buy work-related equipment to make their home office the best work environment possible.

Companies expand into new regions, languages, and time zones

A remote team—especially a global team—enables you to provide services 24 hours a day in new languages and regions. This is especially helpful for sales and customer service teams.

Remote management becomes more complicated when teams are spread across time zones. The solution? Asynchronous work, which reduces the need for meetings and gives employees more flexibility and freedom. We’ll touch more on async work below.

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Unique challenges of international remote teams

Hiring remote teams becomes more complicated when including candidates from other countries. Below, we discuss a handful of the major challenges of global hiring. Later, we discuss how hiring with an employer of record helps companies tap into a global talent pool and overcome these challenges.

Compliance with local labor laws

When you hire employees from other countries, you must follow the laws of the employee’s home country, not those of the company’s home country. Truly global companies generate contracts and conduct work compliant with a wide range of labor requirements, including:

  • Annual leave
  • Termination requirements
  • Tax and employment documentation

Labor laws are obviously quite a bit more complicated than those three points. Each country’s labor laws are complex and constantly evolve, and non-compliance has severe consequences.

Global payroll and tax compliance

Global payroll is a centralized process of calculating employee wages, withholding taxes, administering benefits and bonuses, and delivering payments to your employees in different countries in compliance with their local laws.

Global payroll is significantly more complex than local payroll—especially if you hire employees from multiple foreign countries. For example, say you hired people from the Netherlands, Colombia, and Nigeria. These countries have different:

Non-compliance penalties are steep, so it’s not surprising that companies prefer outsourcing global payroll to save the time, money, and effort of handling it in-house.

How to hire a remote team

In-person and virtual job interviews have the same purpose: to establish whether a candidate and a company are a good fit. However, despite more or less similar approaches, an interview for hiring a remote employee requires you to pay more attention to the tech.

Use remote technology to improve virtual recruiting

A remote interview requires a certain set of interview tools. Chances are, your company used many of these tools because of the sudden transition to remote work during the pandemic. But if not, you’ll need to use certain tools to overcome the lack of face-to-face social interaction, namely Zoom or another video conference tool.

Prepare for technical issues during remote interviews

Remote interviews have an extra layer of awkwardness. Your professionalism and the candidate’s first impression depend on a stable internet connection and both parties’ ability to handle unexpected technical glitches and distractions that may arise.

As the interviewer, it’s in your best interest to address any awkwardness by reassuring the candidate that technical issues and distractions are part and parcel of remote interviews and will not inhibit their chances of getting the job. This helps create a stress-free experience that will bring out the best in the candidate.

To get around any technical difficulties:

  • Send an email to the candidate providing all interview-related information in advance
  • Before the interview, check all the tools you’ll use, both hardware and software
  • If possible, be alone in the office to avoid interruptions
  • Have a backup plan in case technology or internet connection fail
  • Join the meeting a minute or two in advance
  • Start an interview with small-talk

How to pay remote workers

Paying remote workers depends on their classification and location.

If your employees reside in the same country or region as your company, paying them is pretty simple since you follow the same process to pay your office-based employees. You should:

  • Add the employee to your payroll system
  • Pay local contributions
  • Deduct relevant taxes from their income

If your business wants to run remote payroll domestically, check out our guide on remote payroll for more information. And if you plan to hire a hybrid team, see our article on the unique challenges of hybrid payroll.

However, paying remote workers based in other states or countries is more complicated since different laws govern your payroll responsibilities.

You have three options to pay your international remote team:

1. Set up a foreign subsidiary and run payroll locally

Opening a foreign subsidiary is a complex process, but it’s the most permanent and encompassing solution for businesses that want to grow into one other country. Once you open the foreign subsidiary, you’ll operate as a fully functioning business in that country and can run domestic payroll for any employees you hire there.

2. Outsource payroll to an employer of record (EOR)

An EOR owns and operates entities in many countries and hires employees on other business’ behalf to spare them from having to set up foreign subsidiaries.

An EOR is often the preferred option to pay foreign employees since it takes care of all local employment and automates payroll on your behalf while you manage the employee’s schedule and work. Your company is also assured of compliance as the EOR has in-country expertise in running payroll and can overcome any regulatory issues or payroll mistakes. And it’s quite a bit less expensive than setting up a foreign subsidiary, especially if you plan to hire in multiple foreign countries.

EORs maintain payroll records and can pay numerous remote international employees in their local currencies across multiple countries and regions while tracking payroll performance.

3. Hire and pay remote workers as independent contractors

Companies requiring short-term or project-based support may engage independent contractors instead of hiring employees. Not all EOR services companies also offer services to help you pay foreign remote independent contractors. However, this is less of an issue since paying foreign contractors is generally more straightforward.

As the contractor’s client, you do not have to own a business in the worker’s country to hire them legally. You are responsible for paying the invoice in their local currency under the agreed terms and schedule, but not for the accompanying benefits and local taxes. The contractor must pay taxes and arrange benefits themselves.

The best tools to pay independent contractors include:

Please note that employees and independent contractors entail different working relationships. While employees must complete work according to the company’s preferences, contractors have a high degree of control over how, when, and where they work. If you treat a contractor as an employee, you risk misclassification penalties.

10 tips for managing remote teams

To run a remote team successfully, you must establish the right tools for collaboration and communication and brief your new remote hires on your remote working policies and processes to ensure they succeed in their role.

1. Reimagine your onboarding process

Effective onboarding is essential for making an excellent first impression, boosting employee retention, and improving the performance of new hires, so they succeed in their role.

In-office onboarding typically begins on the new hires’ first day. The line manager provides a tour of the workspace and introduces the new hire to their new colleagues before leaving them to familiarize themselves with the different aspects of their new role and complete any paperwork.

During these first few weeks, new hires are assimilated into the company culture and begin to develop connections with the team, which is essential for employee satisfaction, productivity, and morale.

In remote teams, however, the onboarding process is quite different. Companies must help set up the new hire from a distance and recreate these “organic” social scenarios using digital tools and technology.

While online onboarding may seem more forced or unnatural, a satisfying remote onboarding process is possible. Many organizations even find online onboarding is more streamlined and scalable, thanks to the availability of sophisticated onboarding software.

Onboarding by Roots, for example, is an HR plugin designed for distributed teams that helps companies automate online onboarding. The tool builds automated workflows in Slack to take new hires from day one trainees to high performers. It also auto-assigns tasks based on the new hire’s location or department and reduces the manual workload.

Every week, team members receive a message on Slack pairing them with another team member and giving them the option to find a time to meet virtually or in person.

2. Embrace remote-friendly communication tools and processes

In the remote world, effective communication hinges on virtual leadership skills and the right set of tools.

Remote employees working in various locations and time zones may not be available simultaneously. Therefore, remote teams must embrace both synchronous and asynchronous forms of communication to allow teams to communicate in their own time and in real-time.

The most common examples of remote synchronous communication are:

  • Video calls via Zoom or Google Meet
  • One-on-one or conference phone calls
  • Virtual team meetings and company all-hands on platforms like Hopin

Examples of remote asynchronous communication:

  • Email
  • Pre-recorded video messages (via Loom)
  • Notes in project management tools (like Basecamp, Asana, and Trello)

Some tools, like Slack, fuse asynchronous and synchronous communication. Slack calls itself a real-time communication tool because people tend to use Slack messages to chat back-and-form on the app. But Slack doesn’t require an immediate response, making it async as well.

3. Adopt remote team-building activities


When coworkers don’t spend time in the same workplace, it can be challenging to form connections with their colleagues and develop a sense of belonging. You can overcome this by facilitating online social engagement and organizing remote team-building activities.

Allow remote teams to create slack channels where members can discuss personal interests, encourage virtual one-on-one coffee breaks, and schedule virtual team hangouts where teams can play games and discuss non-work-related topics.

4. Prioritize remote team inclusion


Creating a diverse, equal, and inclusive work environment is just as important for remote teams as for in-office teams. Companies adopting inclusive workplace practices help their remote team members feel like they’re on a level playing field regardless of their background, location, or job title.

Inclusive workplace practices to adopt:

Create an equality, diversity, and inclusion policy. The first step to creating an inclusive remote workplace is to outline the company’s values and principles on inclusivity. Share this policy internally and externally to help your existing remote teams embody these values and attract and welcome new remote workers from diverse backgrounds.

Promote transparency and honest communication. Create a safe place for remote workers to share their feelings and experiences without judgment or consequences.

Check your systems and traditions. Companies should assess any long-standing company traditions and systems to identify and remove any exclusionary practices and biases. For example, check your hiring process and do away with discriminatory requirements or gender-specific language.

5. Track remote employee performance

Establish processes and systems for measuring remote employee productivity that do not undercut trust or verge on micromanaging. For example, goal setting, weekly one-on-one check-ins, and KPIs are a great way to follow remote employees’ performance while respecting their independence.

However, practices such as time-tracking and computer monitoring software can be invasive and cause unnecessary stress.

6. Help newly remote employees be productive at home and avoid burnout

It’s common for remote workers to form a habit of overlapping work and free time since there are often no set office hours or commutes. This can lead to burnout which impacts productivity at both organizational and personal levels.

To prevent burnout and increase productivity at home, support your remote employees in maintaining a good work-life balance by educating them on healthy remote working practices and encouraging them to take time to rest and be with their loved ones.

7. Organize remote employee training

Those new to remote work require training and support to help them get set up for success.

In addition to learning all aspects of their role, new remote hires also benefit from training on:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Effective communication
  • Preventing burnout

Once you’ve decided on your training topics, you’ll need to choose how to deliver them. Whether you want to run instructor-led sessions or use e-learning software so new hires can learn at their own pace (or do both!) is up to you.

8. Reduce or eliminate meetings

Do you know that “this meeting could have been an email” feeling? Although many teams hold an old-fashioned belief that team meetings boost productivity, they negatively affect employee efficiency and focus.

To allow your remote teams time to concentrate on the job at hand, eliminate meetings that:

  • Are little more than status updates
  • Do not have a clear purpose
  • Do not have a concrete problem to solve
  • Could be communicated asynchronously

9. Encourage effective communication

The best way to ensure effective communication among remote teams is to create a guide setting out communication tools and processes that organizations can share during onboarding.

Provide your remote team with the opportunity to feedback on these processes and tools to ensure continual improvement.

10. Invest in tools to improve remote team collaboration

Every organization has unique needs and objectives. However, the tech stack many remote teams use includes:

  • Trello
  • Asana
  • Monday.com
  • HubSpot
  • Slack
  • Basecamp

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