When it comes to advancing the remote team model, UPWORK has led the charge by creating a platform that enables professionals and freelancers to collaborate remotely. Headquartered in Santa Clara with offices in San Francisco and Chicago, Upwork operates with corporate employees and freelancers - both of which are a mix of in-office and remote workers, primarily using their own in-house platform.
More than 5 million business are registered on Upwork. According to UTKARSH, a growth engineer with 2-years of experience at Upwork, focusing on enterprise functionality for larger companies, Upwork is one of the top hirers on Upwork itself.
While they have a sizable team spread throughout California (and the world), Upwork unsurprisingly pulls from its own online pool of talent to complete projects on a short-term and long-term basis. And, while some may say that hiring remote employees can be hit or miss, Utkarsh has two tips for successfully hiring remote freelancers:
“People just approach gig work where you can just spend three hundred dollars and you get a full-fledged, working Snapchat application built. So that's a mindset change where you have to spend for quality work.”
Community requires communication, and Upwork’s tools of choice include their in-platform collaboration tool "Upwork Messages", as well as Google Hangouts.
One of the downsides of working remotely, explains Utkarsh, is that you can get lonely.
“Sometimes you want to be close to individuals and just chit chat sometime, you know, like we are humans. We are social animals. So we need to talk to people about things and 'hey, what did you do today?' So that is a drawback.”
For Utkarsh and other managers within Upwork, to combat this problem of loneliness, he sometimes adopts a co-working approach. His team commits to an hour or so a day on a Hangout, but it’s not like a meeting in the standard sense. They just work while on call.
"They're just doing their own thing, but they're just on the hangout and if somebody has a question, they just unmute themselves and just say ‘Hey guys, I have a quick question for you. I'm working on this problem. What do you think or do you want to take a look at this?’"
This approach can work best on a small scale, says Utkarsh, but with a team of 12, it’s much harder to pull off a co-working hangout due to varying schedules, time zones and personal preferences. But for his team of 3-4, he is constantly getting feedback from his teammates and everybody enjoys the process.
In addition to loneliness, many companies supporting remote teams bump up against the problem of maintaining their culture and a feeling of a shared community. Upwork addresses this issue by hosting required meet-ups once a year. "Last year it was in Malaga, Spain for 10 days of engagement. It was a bonding opportunity for everyone to understanding each other,” says Utkarsh.
"We have hackathons together. Some people present technical topics. Some people brainstorm about the next quarter or the next year of focus areas for our teams to find what they want to do.”
How often you should communicate with freelancers depends on the project — sometimes daily. Sometimes weekly. Utkarsh stresses close collaboration. Otherwise, you have a risk of them heading in the wrong direction. Whether or not Upwork’s remote freelancers work on an hourly basis, or a project basis, he spends at least 10 minutes a week making sure his team has context by sharing the project vision.
Everyone wants to feel like they’re connected. When you’re working as a team and part of a larger enterprise, consistent communication is the best way to ensure your teams operate cohesively and each individual truly feels like they’re an integral part of the overall scheme.
It’s not enough to hire a remote freelancer to say you have a remote sector. You must create, and maintain a working environment for your remote freelancers and remote teams to operate properly.
One of the keys to encouraging a team environment is to put the right channels in place so that good communication is enabled between team members.
Here is a quick list of tools (chat apps, free to download) that are great to have in place and very necessary for a remote team.
In addition to having the tools, also set in place a quick on-boarding process to demonstrate all the caveats and idiosyncrasies of the company so that the freelancer knows exactly how to communicate.
Communication tools like these are great to have in place but in the end, the tool is only as good as the operator using it.
Remote teams just don’t work if they are merely a collection of individuals. Shared goals are necessary in order to see results. It is imperative to fully communicate all aspects and expectations of the project to the remote freelancers. In addition to giving an outline of the project within Upwork, include all remote freelancers in any standups, and project meetings you plan to carry out.
Hiring a remote freelancer has never been easier with Upwork. With great filters, and a streamlined interview process built in, it is an amazing tool when looking for talent! However, you must set the foundation for success before you start hiring any remote freelancers. Having strong communication tools in place, knowing the value of the work your are hiring for, maintaining a sense of community and a remote friendly work environment are all necessary for setting your Upwork freelancers up for success.