Remote work, telecommuting, flexible workplace... all are terms used interchangeably to describe the same phenomenon: allowing employees to work some or all of the time outside of your business's offices.
This trend began with the IT revolution of the 90s and has dramatically increased since then alongside technological developments: 70% of office workers globally work remotely at least once a week, according to recent research.
Today, it is easier than ever to work remotely or manage a remote team. And, as with every workplace trend, there's a reason for this uptick (not just because there are more tools than ever for remote work).
Remote work offers tangible benefits to any business. Of course, there are some specific challenges as well that need to be overcome.
This article will highlight both the benefits and the challenges, and then focus on the tools and strategies you can use to overcome them so that you can keep your remote marketing team properly synced.
Benefits of a Remote Marketing Team
The benefits you can bring to your marketing team through remote work are numerous, ranging from cost savings, to access to a wider range of talent, to higher levels of productivity.
Your marketing budget is likely smaller than what you would like it to be; or, at the very least, if you had extra resources, you could find a good way to use them. So every dollar counts, and reductions in labor-associated expenses can be used to invest in more research, creative, advertising, etc.
Employing remote workers on your marketing team can save you money in various ways:
- Reduced office space costs. When some or all of your team members work from a place of their choosing, your office space needs are reduced accordingly, reducing rent, utilities, cleaning, and other expenses.
- Lower labor costs. Employees are often willing to accept a lesser salary in return for the convenience of remote work. In fact, 37% of remote employees interviewed claimed they would accept a 10% reduction in pay if it allowed them to keep working remotely. Working with employees from more affordable labor markets can also help in this regard.
- No relocation expenses. Remote employees choose where they work, which means they won't need your help relocating.
All of those cost savings can be reinvested in your marketing endeavors, making your business more competitive.
Your business is likely not limited to one geographic location, and you may even have clients from multiple countries and regions. Gaining insights into each of those contexts can be a challenge: What appeals to the public in the United States will likely be much different from what appeals to those in India, for example.
Remote work can allow you to easily access talent from any location in the world, which gives you the opportunity to gain access to people with a deep understanding of local cultures. Without remote work, it could be both expensive and administratively difficult to bring in experts from around the world to your central office.
General wisdom holds that giving your employees more freedom to choose how and where they complete their work can lead to increased productivity. There's also a growing body of evidence that supports this claim, suggesting that remote work itself leads to boosts in productivity.
In a recent survey, 77% of remote workers reported being more productive and 52% said they are less likely to take time off from work . Working with a remote marketing team can help your employees accomplish more and stay focused on work more days out of the year.
Remote Team Challenges
Despite the benefits of having remote workers on your team, there are some challenges as well. The good news is that if properly managed with best-practices and the right tools, those challenges can be overcome.
In marketing, quick and efficient team communication is crucial. Without the right tools, remote work can lead to slower and more inefficient communication. Relying mainly on email, for example, can lead to delayed responses among your team members and the potential for misinterpreting a message's meaning.
Marketing is a creative effort that takes strong team collaboration. Some team members may thrive on being able to bounce ideas off their colleagues or to work through a difficult process together. Having your team based in different locations has the potential to make collaboration difficult by eliminating in-person brainstorming sessions.
Not being in the same physical office can make it more difficult to track what exactly your team members are working on and for how long. Working alongside someone every day can give you an idea of what that person does, and when; to be unable to actually observe them working, however, can leave you in the dark.
Your remote marketing team could have employees working in different time zones, leading to difficulties scheduling things like team meetings, meetings with clients, etc. A lack of clear procedures and tools will result in a lot of time wasted trying to match up everyone's work schedules.
Much as with team collaboration, managing complex marketing projects can be difficult to do when your employees are in different locations. Mapping out workflows and timelines, and assigning ownership of different tasks, is often easier to do in person, in large planning meetings.
Five Lesser-Known Tools to Keep Your Team synced
Although any remote team will face those challenges to a greater or lesser extent, it's not inevitable that your marketing team's performance will suffer. With the right tools you can compensate for those challenges, and even potentially help your team work together better than if they were working in person.
An ever-increasing number of tools can help keep your team synced. Many of the most popular ones may immediately come to mind, but here we'll focus on some lesser-known options.
Ryver for communication
Cost: Packages for unlimited users start at $99 per month.
Ryver is a lesser-known tool that can help your team streamline its communication in one place, with features like direct chats, ongoing topics of conversation, and voice and video calls. This type of direct communication can help your remote marketing team stay in close contact and avoid unnecessarily slow communication. Ryver also allows for integrations with external apps, as well as news streaming, meaning your team can also stay in close touch with the outside world.
Brosix for collaboration challenges
Cost: Private team networks start at $4.00 per user per month.
Having one tool that your team can turn to for collaboration goes a long way to make the process more efficient. Brosix is a lesser-known tool that gives teams private instant messaging networks that include a full package of collaborative features, from the standard text/voice/video chat, to features such as virtual whiteboards, dedicated chat rooms, and remote desktop. Brosix networks are fully administrable, meaning you can adjust them to best fit your team's needs. (Disclosure: I work for Brosix.)
Timely for tracking work
Cost: Team plans start at $99 per month.
In the process of tracking your team's work, helping team members to plan their time is step one, and checking that the plan is on track is step two. With Timely, it's simple to accomplish both of those. This app can help your team members with a range of time-management features, as well as allow you to track work done through numerous reports. Timely allows all that to happen on an individual, team, and project level, making it a good fit for marketing teams.
Appointlet for scheduling
Cost: Premium plans start at $8 per month, per user.
Appointlet is an app aimed at making scheduling a streamlined process. Through features such as workflow creation, reminders/notifications, and time-zone support, Appointlet can help your remote team stay in sync with its scheduling. Appointlet also allows for a number of integrations, so your team can keep its preferred calendar software.
LiquidPlanner for project management
Cost: Professional plans start at $45 per month, per user.
LiquidPlanner is a feature-rich project management platform that can help your remote team better structure and execute complex projects. Apart from structuring projects, LiquidPlanner can help your team manage its internal resources as well as track time and budgets. Though LiquidPlanner takes some time to learn, it can go a long way to addressing any project management challenges once your team masters it.
Marketing is an ideal department for embracing the remote work trend. Tapping into talent from around the world can save you precious budget and allows you to gain insight into a range of local consumer markets. And although there are certainly challenges to working with a remote team, with the right tools and support you can keep your team well synced and working efficiently.
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