3 Ways Southeast Asian Entrepreneurs Can Better Manage Remote Employees

Stay connected and work efficiently despite the distance

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BY Tanya Mariano - 15 Mar 2017

manage remote employees

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Remote work is a reality for many of today’s companies. While managing a geographically dispersed workforce may be relatively easy for those that let employees work from home once in a while, it's tougher for companies that deal with this on a larger scale – start-ups that have grown big enough to have offices across the region, or those with employees that are based outside their home country, and maybe even outside Southeast Asia.

It can be challenging, overseeing teams that are scattered across geographies and time zones, but many companies are making it work. Here's how.


1. Tap available technology

For the most part, it's tech that has made remote work possible.

It has allowed Manila-based fintech start-up Coins, for instance, to circumvent location as a barrier to talent acquisition. Says co-founder and CEO Ron Hose, “[With] the widespread use of communication technologies such as Slack and Skype, we've found it quite effective for certain positions to source talent from wherever they might be located and have them work remotely if they so choose,” he says, adding that a good chunk of their engineering team works this way.

“As long as communication is clear between all relevant parties, we've found that having some roles being globally distributed when necessary works quite well,” he says.

Online marketplace Carousell – headquartered in Singapore and present in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Australia, and Hong Kong – acknowledges that managing remote employees can be difficult, but technology helps bridge the physical distance.

The company uses cloud-based collaboration tool Slack to keep in touch with each other, and Google Chromebox to facilitate meetings. Says Marcus Tan, co-founder and president of Carousell, “[Google Chromebox] has drastically cut down on the time we spend testing the call connection.”


2. Trust people, but review performance regularly

Ideally, the only employees you will have hired are those you can trust to do what needs to be done even without close supervision.

“I think when you give people that power, they don't abuse it,” says Niner Bikes CEO Chris Sugai in this Inc. article. “Letting employees work remotely is the best thing we've ever done. It was an idea that kind of arose organically as the company grew, [and it] worked out wonderfully. All we care about is that the work gets done properly.”

Still, regular performance reviews help ensure that quality of work remains top-notch.

According to Sugai, they do quarterly reviews to weed out employees who don't measure up to their standards. “Typically, we lose only about one person each quarter,” he says.


3. Make time for periodical face-to-face sessions

Despite the many advantages of remote work, nothing beats the power of in-person interaction when it comes to nurturing your relationship with your team and maintaining a unified company culture.

Tan says he and his co-founders spend time in all of their markets to get to know and bond with their teams. Last February, they were in Taipei for their quarterly “tech detox session,” something they do in all of their offices. Says Tan, “We spend half a day away from our phones, tablets and laptops, and do something fun, like go to a trampoline park, play laser tag, or have a BBQ.”

Sugai’s team bonds over biking. “Every year, we shut down the entire office and spend four days camping and riding mountain bikes together. The trips are a great culture builder and help keep everybody connected,” he says.

These sessions are important for Tan: “[We] get to know each other outside of our jobs, and remember why we’re more than co-workers – we’re also a family.”