Despite a lot of predictions to the contrary, it is now pretty clear that remote and hybrid working is here to stay. However, the speed of the transition, and the belief in some quarters that it was only temporary, means that many organisations have failed to fully optimise their remote working structures. The truth is, when it comes to structuring your remote team, there is a huge range of choices available to businesses. Determining what will make the most sense for your organisation starts with exploring all your options. You need to be bold enough to challenge all your preconceptions on how a team should function.

Leverage Global Talent

One of the greatest benefits of a hybrid or fully remote working model is that it enables you to recruit from an incredibly large pool of talent. A business is no longer constrained by the available expertise in its local area or even country. Thanks to the plethora of communication platforms, engagement and monitoring tools now available, any company – no matter its size – can easily manage team members across the world. This is especially important given the high demand and low availability of many technical skills in Western nations. There are many countries in the subcontinent, Africa and South America that have a deep, cost-effective reserve of untapped talent.

Crucially, I am not talking about hiring a whole team in one country to act as a satellite office. Instead, it’s about hiring the best individuals from anywhere in the world right across your organisation.

There are plenty of companies that can help to identify and, in some cases, support the management of these team members on your behalf. Nevertheless, one of the most important lessons for building a global, remote workforce is to prioritise instilling your local company culture. Team members should be onboarded, engaged with, managed and treated the same – no matter where they are.

Flexible Hiring Structures

In times gone by, part-time workers were relatively rare. Usually older employees and more often than not considered real members of the team. Now, so many more people, of every age and experience are varying their working hours. The nature of employment contracts varies greatly too. There has been a surge in freelance and self-employed – especially within the tech sector. This creates an excellent opportunity for businesses to consider a blended model for their workforce. A team can be structured between part-timers, consultants, and project-based freelancers. These can be working in an office, remotely or a mix of both.

Consider do you need any full-time directly employed team members. Sounds baffling, but there’s no hard and fast rule that you do. A blended team can be ultra-flexible, cost and time-efficient to build and manage. They can enable you to benefit from a much broader base of expertise. If you treat everyone equally and instil your company values and culture there is no reason why this type of team cannot have the loyalty, motivation and ethos of its traditional alternative.

Another benefit of having an open mind when you structure your remote team is that it can help to diversify your team and give you access to a lot of high-value talent for which a full-time gig is simply impractical – women with young families. It’s no secret that a major cause of the gender gap in tech is its failure to adequately accommodate this group.

A Team With A Global Reach

A lot of business owners I speak to that run hybrid working models tend to think about their organisation in terms of a core, local – mostly full-time team – and branches of remote workers. Generally speaking, senior leadership is situated in the core. More junior members or specialist workers put the ‘hybrid’ in the business. This has the obvious advantage of enabling executives to closely collaborate and be accountable to one another.  It is also giving a business its ‘home’. There’s no real reason why this structure should also be subject to reexamination and disruption. After all, if your developers can work together across continents why can’t your senior managers?

Dispersing the top of your team has the benefit of creating multiple management focal points, across time zones from which your business can operate. As mentioned above, it also enables you to pull from a bigger pool of talent for less cost.

Practical Steps

Creating a fully optimised workforce strategy doesn’t mean throwing out everything and starting again. A safer, less disruptive approach is to structure your remote team by creating a plan with achievable, incremental steps that evolve your team into a structure and format that best suits your current and future needs. To do this, consider the following:

  • Audit your team’s expertise and management structure to determine potential cost-efficiencies, skill gaps, single points of failure and bottlenecks. Align this with your commercial strategy and client feedback
  • Review your tech stack to identify whether you have the tools and processes that fully enable remote and hybrid working. Pay particular attention to employee onboarding, engagement, accountability and productivity
  • Consult with your team – what is the optimum working model for each employee? Consider putting every option on the table – transitioning to consulting, part-time, fully remote etc..
  • Begin experimenting with new working practices. For example, a pilot project where administrative and other back office functions are executed by virtual workers can be a safe way to get started
  • Talk to businesses that offer remote working recruitment support to get a better idea of the talent out there and how you could begin hiring from different countries
  • Review, analyse and optimise – keep track of the impact of your new structure as you make changes and don’t be afraid to change course if the results don’t meet your expectations. Constant monitoring can identify weak points such as an incomplete onboarding process or the need to enhance management practices.
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Iffi Wahla is co-founder and CEO of global hiring platform Edge, which is on a mission to make global hiring and working easier than local, and aims to democratise access to fair wages and jobs around the world.