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How to Work Successfully With Remote Teams – Part 1

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How to Work Successfully With Remote Teams – Part 1

With the right strategies, collaborating with remote teams can be highly rewarding, rather than a disaster.

Remote collaboration is becoming an everyday reality in today’s business. Some of your team members might work from home occasionally or every day. You might operate in partnership with other businesses located in different buildings, cities or countries. And you might engage freelancers from all around the world.

When your business is set up for collaboration with remote teams, you can enjoy many advantages. You can network without geographical limits and work with people you otherwise couldn’t. Cost savings can also be significant.

Your remote members are likely happier and more engaged than the average office-based employee, appreciating the flexibility and lifestyle that this work arrangement offers. They also have a better chance to avoid distractions, which, of course helps with productivity.

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows …

Remote collaboration can be a challenge.

Remote workers typically work from home, by themselves. And it can be difficult to set the right priorities, and to stay motivated, focused and disciplined when no-one is around. Home-based workers often feel isolated and disconnected from the team. They often struggle to maintain boundaries and to unplug from work. 

Poor communication is not helping.

Without maintaining regular quality contact with their mates, remote members can feel overlooked and left out. They may start to doubt themselves, worry that they are hopelessly behind, and even overwork in order to compensate. And you can imagine their frustration when they miss out on recognition just because they are out of sight.

So it’s worth doing a reality check. How effectively does your team communicate and collaborate? Does every single member have a fair chance to influence decisions? And does everyone feel valued, appreciated, and connected to the team – whether they work remotely or sit next to you?

Remote collaboration will always have a different dynamic compared to working with others in the same space. But the good news is, there are many things you can do to set up your teams for success. Here are 12 tips that will help you do so.

Coordinate work carefully.

1. For your team to work like a well-oiled machine, everyone needs to understand how their tasks fit into the larger picture. They also need to know what others are doing and when they are available. To make this happen, create communication protocols describing when and how your people should provide updates, discuss certain issues and make decisions.

2. Set clear targets and performance indicators that will help you evaluate your people’s performance fairly. Be mindful of your unconscious biases. We all have the natural tendency to overestimate the skills and contribution of those we frequently see in person compared to those we only work with remotely. You can’t overcome such ingrained biases at will – you need smart management strategies to help you stay objective.

3. While regular interaction is important, I suggest you encourage your remote members to set some boundaries. Just like anyone else, sometimes they need to work in a bubble to get things done. So let them silence their phones, switch off notifications and not answer messages when their work requires deep focus.

4. Your remote teams could possibly use some help in maintaining a healthy work routine. Encourage them to take regular breaks during the day, which might not come naturally to them without the hustle and interruptions of a busy office. Make it clear to them when they are expected to answer emails and calls, and when they can switch off at the end of the day.

Share information and provide feedback.

5. Share all news and updates with your remote teams, no matter how small. If it’s worth talking about with a colleague over a coffee, then it’s also worth sharing with the rest of the team. Keeping all members fully up-to-date on what’s happening in the business will make them feel more involved and valued, and give them a greater sense of progress.

6.. In the workplace, people tend to learn more about their jobs through impromptu chats and overheard conversations than through training. So you might want to schedule time for ‘spontaneous’, informal online learning sessions to ensure that your team members are not missing out on the opportunity to learn from each other.

7. Even though they might be highly independent, confident and self-motivated, your remote members need recognition and feedback as much as anyone else. So share your thoughts about their work generously, and help them see how their efforts translate to tangible results.

Use smart technologies and strategies for online collaboration.

8. During conference calls, every participant should switch on their video. You’ll have a more connected conversation when you can see each other. Also, this will prompt members to pay full attention rather than multitasking during the meeting.

9. Use good quality video-conferencing equipment. Place screens, cameras and microphones in a way that every single member – whether physically present or joining remotely – can clearly see and hear each other. You’ll find that with the right technology and set-up, your team will be able to communicate much more effectively.

10. When some team members are joining a meeting remotely while others are in the same office, consider adopting this interesting strategy used by Trello’s teams. The idea is that office-based members disperse. All participants sit in a separate space, joining the meeting via their own devices. This gives everyone an equal opportunity to be involved in the conversation and to contribute.

11. Consider investing in a digital canvas – a device you can write or draw on directly, and which also allows you to also add notes and images from your own devices. Remote teams are also able to see the content of the canvas via the internet and to contribute with their ideas.

12. When two or more teams in different offices collaborate, it might be worthwhile to set up a 24/7 video connection between these offices. Using large screens, you can create the illusion that the other teams are at an arm’s length. This can invite informal conversations between members, and strengthen the connection between the teams.

Some of these ideas are very easy to implement while others require an investment of money and time. But just think about what your business could achieve through improved collaboration within your team!

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