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How to Work Successfully With Remote Teams (Part 2)
With the right strategies, you can work successfully with remote teams and it can be highly rewarding.
Remote collaboration can open up a world of opportunities for businesses. However, this practice has its inherent challenges. Simply allowing people to work from outside the office is not ‘remote collaboration’ but a recipe for failure.
To set up your teams for success, you need to be highly organised and plan carefully. You probably need to provide trainings, build new skills, set up new systems and processes, and adapt your workplace culture to new ways of working.
In my previous article I shared 12 tips to work more successfully with remote teams. Here are another 13 ideas:
Build and nurture social bonds
1. Allow time for social catch-ups with (and among) remote members. Chatting about home life, current affairs, or personal interests and opinions, for example, is not a waste of time; social bonds are important pillars of a great workplace culture. Schedule virtual coffee meetings, and set up social media channels dedicated to non-work related conversations.
2. Catch up with your remote members in person at least once or twice a year, and when possible, bring the whole team together. Face-to-face meetings and events can strengthen relationships, energise your team and give collaboration a boost.
3. If some of your team live near each other, encourage them to meet and work together every now and then. They could work side by side at a coworking space, a cafe, or someone’s home office, for instance, enjoying a welcome break from the usual solitude. Even if they work on different projects, using different skills, this could still be a great opportunity to explore shared interests, help each other out, and learn from one another.
Adapt your workspace to a remote-working culture
4. While not everyone might be able to travel to your office frequently, some members may have this option. Think of the reasons why remote members might want to visit the office. Chances are they are looking for in-person collaboration and personal connection. So ideally, your workspace should incorporate inviting, well-equipped team areas where visiting members can work and connect with their mates.
5. Remote workers may also want to pop into the office for a top-up of inspiration, and to immerse themselves in a community where they feel they belong. To ensure that visiting members get the emotional support they need, let them know that they always have a place. When feasible, create a welcoming ‘base’ where they can sit and work whenever they come in, so that they don’t need to hunt for a vacant desk, or to settle for a spot that feels more like a ‘naughty corner’.
6. People working from home regularly can quickly get used to the quiet and controlled environment. On the downside, they might become increasingly sensitive to noise and other distractions. Keep this in mind when you invite home-based members to work in your office. I suggest you allocate a space for deep focus, in a relatively quiet area of your workspace, where loud conversations and phone calls are kept to a minimum.
7. The workspaces of some progressive companies employing both office-based and remote teams are designed to feel a bit like home. Apart from the significant productivity and wellbeing benefits, these workspaces send the empowering message: everyone’s treated fairly and equally. There are no ‘lucky ones’. How can you achieve this? Create a pleasant and comfortable environment which offers ample personal space and a great degree of privacy, flexibility and control.
Set up your workspace for better communication
8. Create a team space for seamless video conferencing. First, organise the space to support engaging, inclusive conversations. A great collaboration space allows participants to easily stand up and move around, and incorporates vertical surfaces to draw and write on. The next step is to design technology around the natural flow of work, ensuring that members stay on screen even as they move around. With the right set-up, participants could forget about the physical distance and work together as if they’re in the same room.
9. You probably find that collaborating with remote teams requires a large number of one-on-one phone calls and video calls. You might want to provide small, sound-proof rooms or meeting booths for this purpose. Everyone will benefit – people on the call will find it easier to pay attention to each other and discuss issues in privacy, while the rest of the team will be saved from the distraction.
Provide assistance and training
10. Provide assistance and training to remote teams for setting up their home office. Home-based workers often experience discomfort and health issues that stem from having a poorly set up home office, using low quality furniture, or working in places they shouldn’t. Give them the same level of support as your office-based members; they will not only be able to perform better but will also feel equal to their peers.
11. If feasible, provide every member of your team with the same quality of technology as well as IT support. This will not only enable efficient communication and teamwork, and increase productivity, but again, will send the message that there are no ‘second-class citizens’ in the team.
12. Think of the members of your team who frequently work in coworking places, cafes, or on the road – in airport lounges and hotel rooms. They need to learn, perhaps more than anyone, where and how to work in order to be able to focus and do their best. So give them the necessary training, and point them to the resources that will help them make smart choices.
Know who is up for the challenge
13 Studies suggest that remote workers who love their jobs despite the inherent hurdles tend to have exceptional work ethic. They are typically hard-working, self-motivated individuals who strive to be their best and are willing to go the extra mile. So instead of questioning their performance, you might want to check how your remote members feel. If they consistently struggle, remote work might not be the right choice for them. But if they handle the challenges with great spirit, they probably deserve your trust.
Working remotely isn’t easy, and it’s certainly not for everyone. But with the right people, and the right strategies, you can work successfully with remote teams. Your business can reach new heights.
Treat your remote members as integral parts of your team, collaborate with intelligence and discipline, and you won’t look back.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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