In today’s episode, co-hosts Shaheen Samavati and Kyler Canastra chat about managing remote teams and working with freelancers worldwide.

While working remotely has become a hot topic since the lockdowns worldwide in 2020, it’s something we’ve been doing at VeraContent since 2016. Because of this, Kyler and Shaheen have years of first-hand experience working from home and successfully managing remote teams.

During their conversation, they touch on the advantages and challenges of managing virtual teams, what makes VeraContent successful at remote work and how to build long-lasting relationships with international freelancers, plus a few tips to avoid “virtual burnout.”

You can watch the full conversation in the video above or on YouTube, listen to the podcast on Apple or Spotify, and read a recap of the conversation below!

What are the advantages of building a remote team?

Working from anywhere lends itself well to teams in the creative space—particularly writers—as, according to Shaheen:

“Being able to choose the environment you work in and having that focused time to write is important for content writing teams.” 

From a management perspective, a massive advantage of building a remote team is that we’ve been able to hire people from around the world. This is especially important when working in localization as we can collaborate with local writers, social media specialists and community managers based in each market we work in. 

Remote work also helps with employee satisfaction. It gives people the freedom to choose where they want to live—whether in a city or small town—and even travel more often. This helps them achieve a better work-life balance and create an environment that makes them happier and more productive.

What are the challenges of managing remote employees?

The main challenge of managing remote employees is communication, which doesn’t come as organically as it would in a traditional office setting.

“In a remote setting, you really have to be conscious of reaching out to your team members and how you do it so that it’s not in a micromanaging way.” – Kyler Canastra

It’s important to figure out the best style of communicating online. Kyler mentioned that sometimes it’s helpful to show more of your personality on emails or Slack messages—it can be as simple as adding an exclamation mark or emoji every now and then.

Another challenge is the change in the dynamic of virtual vs. in-person meetings. At VeraContent, it’s important for us to maintain some form of in-person contact to keep our company culture going.

“We have quarterly in-person team meetings and usually group all of our important management meetings over a few days when we’re together—including a few social activities.” – Shaheen Samavati

The last challenge mentioned is dealing with different time zones. If you’re working with clients or teams across multiple time zones, you really need to be conscious of the times of day for each person. For example, be aware of different times when scheduling meetings and be specific with deadlines.

Why is remote working so successful for VeraContent?

We’re an international team, so remote work has been an important part of our culture from the beginning. Many of us live away from our home country, making the ability to travel and work remotely a major advantage. 

As Shaheen points out, flexible work allows us to keep in touch with our own culture by being able to go home and continue working. But it also allows us to stay in touch with other cultures by traveling to new destinations—which helps with localization and cultural understanding!

We always make sure to hire people who share our values and company mission, which is key to our success in remote working.

“Having our values and mission well articulated and making sure everyone is on the same page has helped us maintain our culture despite not being in the same place.” – Shaheen Samavati

How do you build relationships with remote content creators?

Kyler’s key piece of advice for maintaining remote relationships is being human. He always adds a personal touch when communicating with freelancers to show that he—and the entire VeraContent team—really cares. This way, you’re not just sending them work but building a relationship.

For us, it’s pivotal to treat remote workers and freelancers as part of the team: 

“Getting them involved and feeling like they have a creative say in the work they’re doing and feeling like they’re accomplishing something with the VeraContent team is really important.” – Kyler Canastra

We build trust by being a human-centered team. Yes, we’re very serious about our work, but we also try to keep things light and fun. And that’s the key to building long-lasting relationships with our collaborators.

See also: How to build successful relationships with local community managers

How do we keep our remote collaborators engaged?

We try to regularly switch up the types of work that we give our freelancers so that it doesn’t get monotonous. For example, if we get a new client, we’ll ask one of our translators to help develop the tone guide for the client. We also get them involved in internal work to help them invest in our company.

We’ve worked really hard to ensure that our freelancer relationships aren’t purely transactional. We do our best to make them feel like they’re part of our community and that we really care about what they’re doing—so that they also care about their work.

There are a few tools that we’ve put in place to encourage engagement in the form of regular feedback and open communication.

“It’s really hard to invest and put your heart into your work if the person who assigned it to you doesn’t communicate with you about it or give feedback. They have to be invested in it for you to be invested in it. And that’s what we do really well with our freelancers.” – Shaheen Samavati

How can you avoid virtual burnout?

Avoiding virtual burnout requires you to actively put boundaries or structures in place that work for you. For Shaheen, that’s clustering meetings:

I have certain times of day when I do specific meetings. For example, I cluster most of my meetings in the morning to free up the afternoons for focused work.” – Shaheen Samavati

At VeraContent, we’ve recently been working on ensuring that every meeting has a clear purpose, with a set agenda and time. This helps prevent online meetings from being longer than they should be.

Kyler’s tip is to consciously do offline tasks throughout your day. For example, it can be doing your laundry between meetings, going for a short walk or even just standing outside for a few minutes.

From a management perspective, it’s important to give your employees the freedom to set their own boundaries. Obviously, it depends on their role. Some may need to schedule a few “no distractions” hours in a day to get their work done, while others may thrive on being constantly engaged with notifications. Giving them this freedom makes them feel empowered with how connected they are.

Everyone has to find what works for them. And obviously what also works with their team as you have to coordinate schedules.” – Shaheen Samavati

How can you stay productive and healthy while working from home?

When working from home, it helps to have a dedicated work area in your house that you can associate with “work time.” And make sure the space is conducive to productive working—many of our team members have invested in standing desks to create a healthier workspace.

For some, it’s important to be able to get out and have a separate space to work from, even if it’s only now and then. If you feel like you need to get out of the house, go work from a coffee shop or a coworking space for the day. Mix it up when you need to.

A routine can also do wonders for ramping up your productivity. For Shaheen, that’s going out for a coffee every morning. For Kyler, it’s starting his day at the gym. Build a morning routine that works for you and makes you excited to get up, dressed and ready to start your work day.

See also: How to stay healthy and productive when working from home

You can check out Shaheen and Kyler’s speaker profiles if you’d like to have either of them speak at your next event or be a guest on your podcast.

Check out more posts on remote working:

To read the full transcript, click on page number 2 below.