On Hiring a Remote Team

Written By Patrick Sheffield
Posted on

Great news! You've just been informed that the company you work for is going to build a new web application to do some super important thing that will save or make them hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's a top priority for company leadership. And the best part? They want you to manage the project.

I'm excited. But also scared.

The first big decision you'll have to make is hiring a development team. And whether you're a rookie or an old pro, there are a few questions and concerns you're likely to have right off the bat.

  1. I already have a full-time job with responsibilities and deadlines. I don't have any extra time to do this project. How am I going to pull it off?
  2. This is an important project for us and our team is passionate about what we're trying to accomplish. Will the dev team share that passion and excitement for our product?
  3. Is this project going to reach the finish line? On-time? And within budget?

Once you've made peace with those three things, you have to get more specific about your hire. Local or out-of-town? Large agency or small? Someone familiar or someone new? But what about traditional or remote? Most people have no problem hiring an out-of-town vendor in a traditional office setting, but when it comes to remote teams, they've either never considered it or have reservations. If that sounds like you, then read on.

Our Remote Bona Fides

Zaengle has been in business for nearly a decade and has been 100% remote for all of it. We're currently working on projects based in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C. Like traditional workplaces, there are benefits and drawbacks to remote work. While the three concerns listed above are relevant regardless of the workplace setting, the prospect of working with a remote team may make things more uncertain. In our experience, that tends to break down into three buckets: 1.) Accessibility, 2.) Accountability, and 3.) Visibility.

I'm old school. I do business in person and on the phone. I need to be able to meet face-to-face sometimes.

Concern #1: Accessibility

How It Works: If the project requires it, we'll fly out to your office for an in-person kickoff meeting. Otherwise, meetings that are normally done on the phone or in-person are handled with video conferences. Video conferences are second nature to our team and we always have our camera turned on, even if our clients don't*.

If you can't get on-board with video calls, then a remote team is probably not the right choice for you. But if you'll give it a chance, you'll scarcely notice the difference after a few calls. Not only will you get the same level of access and interaction as you do in person, but there's an added benefit of saved time traveling to and from meetings.

*Note to prospective clients: please turn your cameras on.

How do I know if the team is working? What if they're just watching TV at home?

Concern #2: Accountability

How It Works: A professional is a professional whether they're working in an office, coffee shop, library, or at home. They don't need to be watched by others to do their job at a high level or an in-person meeting to change out of their PJs. Do we take small breaks during the day? Of course. Same as any workplace. But whereas you might chat with a coworker in the break room, remote workers may empty the dishwasher or go outside to check the mail.

Like traditional settings, this is our job. It's how we put food on the table. We have accountability structures in place to ensure work is getting done. It's just done online instead of in-person. You should expect the same level of professionalism from a remote dev team as you'd get from an in-person team. Albeit with a touch less pomp and circumstance than a traditional agency office provides.

If I can't come by your office or reach you on the phone, how am I going to keep up with progress?

Concern #3: Visibility

How It Works: Remote or not, a successful project requires clear, consistent communication. At Zaengle, we try to accomplish that in three ways: recurring meetings to discuss progress and demo work-in-progress, access to our project management tool, and written progress updates on weeks where no calls are scheduled. While this isn't a unique structure, remote teams tend to go the extra mile with visibility into projects because we know it's a source of anxiety for our clients.

Working with remote teams is different. But it doesn't have to be scary.

There you have it. In just a few short paragraphs I've removed every barrier to hiring a remote development team for your next project. Ok, not really. But hopefully there's enough here to make the job a little less scary. And to give remote teams strong consideration.

Have questions about working with (or for) a remote development team. We'd love to answer them. Hit us up on Twitter @zaengle.