Remote working is becoming a popular choice among both companies and employees due to the wealth of benefits it offers. With a remote team, companies are able to tap into a global pool of talent in a way that is cost-effective, with employees enjoying the flexibility of working from anywhere in the world. Work-from-home policies are increasingly being implemented across organizations both large and small. Remote working is also thought to improve productivity: according to a 2016 study by TINYpulse, 91% percent of American workers felt they were better at getting things done when they worked from home than in their offices.
Technology has made it possible for businesses to operate entirely remotely, across time zones. Some companies who have successfully made this model work are Basecamp and Buffer. Freelancing platforms like Kolabtree help businesses access and work with freelance experts from institutions across the world. Talent and expertise are no longer restricted by lines on a map.
However, remote working comes with its own set of challenges. Keeping a remote team together is easy while in a physical office space, but keeping a remote team together is a different kind of challenge. Without communication protocols in place, there can be a breakdown of relationships and coordination within and among distributed teams.
Be it a traditional office or a virtual set up, an engaged and positive workplace is essential for the effective functioning of a business. Here are some tips for keeping a remote team together and collaborating effectively.
1. Make the most of communication tools
The communication and interruptions that take place by default in an office space are conspicuously missing in a remote set up. Many remote workers, encouraged by this new silence, plunge themselves straight into work and slog away for long, uninterrupted periods of time. While this can significantly boost productivity, it is also important to remember that nobody can work in isolation. Some simple methods can improve communication:
Allocate time for catch-up calls: Setting aside some amount of time a day to communicate with colleagues should be a priority. Weekly and monthly meetings help teams discuss the agenda for the week and month, set goals, and make sure they’re on the same page regarding deliverables and deadlines.
Don’t shy away from technology: Tools like Slack enable team members to quickly access colleagues and keep others in the loop, while minimizing conflicts. Video conferencing software like Zoom and Google Hangouts make it easy for official meetings, face-to-face conversations, birthday celebrations and even virtual parties to take place.
Make the extra effort: Working remotely means that the other person can’t see your facial expressions or body language all the time. This requires you to make an extra effort to express yourself clearly and verbally to avoid misunderstandings.
Have watercooler conversations: Casual ‘how-was-your-weekend’ chats are sometimes completely forgotten in remote teams. However, it is essential for employees to have a space for watercooler conversations, as it is often these chats that help teammates bond and build better relationships.
Many companies also hire remote workers on a freelance basis to fill resource gaps, scale up or get work done, on demand. Trust plays a crucial role in these relationships — the recruiter needs to be able to trust the freelancer, and vice versa. Freelance platforms like Kolabtree help make these collaborations easier, verifying the identity of both parties, helping them connect, and providing payment security and safety.
2. Collaborate effectively
Meetings, team lunches and dinners, all-nighters, ice-breakers, whiteboard presentations — these are some of the things that bring teams together. Replicate these activities on a distributed team — and we face a new set of challenges. Tapping into the power of collaborative tools and software helps teams stay in sync with each other.
Use collaboration tools: Apps like Basecamp, Trello, JIRA and even Google Docs help to assign tasks, keep track of them, set deadlines, share files, and work together effectively.
Encourage participation: Conference calls can encourage discussions, initiate brainstorming sessions and can resolve conflicts quickly. But long meetings can also lead to active daydreaming (and not active listening!). Asking questions, respecting everyone’s time, and taking feedback helps ensure that everybody participates in a call and has meaningful takeaways from it.
Be mindful of time zones: One of the advantage of having distributed teams it being able to work across time zones. This ensures that clients always have somebody to access. Within a team, it helps to have some overlap among time zones so that everybody can meet at least a few times a week.
3. Meet in person
Though the advantages of a distributed team are many, in-person meetings and interactions help team members really bond and understand each other’s personalities — without having to have a screen in between them. Many teams meet at least once a year. Team-building activities and events also help keep remote teams together, giving them a chance to interact and engage with each other outside a work environment. These meetings accelerate the transition among teammates from colleagues to friends, helping them connect on a personal level.
4. Find ways to improve productivity
Not all remote workers have the same style of working. While some prefer to be in the comfort of their own homes, others prefer to use co-working spaces. It takes some experimenting to find what works best for you. Working from home can be isolating for many. Taking regular breaks throughout the day and getting a change of scene helps break the monotony. Something as simple as power-dressing for work (even though you might just need to walk from bed to table) can make a big difference. Keeping yourself inspired is key to be able to be a positive, motivated part of a team.
Also read: 15 tips for thriving as a remote worker
Effective remote working boils down to the 3 C’s: Connect, Communicate and Collaborate. As long as these three things are in place, there is every reason for remote workers to build lasting relationships with colleagues and clients, and also be more productive and efficient than in-office workers. Managers can ensure that the three C’s are met to help keep their remote team together.
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