Remote work, once seen as a “wave of the future” or a passing trend, is now accepted as here to stay. In fact, according to a GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com survey, 50% of the U.S. workforce holds jobs that allow for at least some degree of remote work. And even if they’re not currently remote working teams, a whopping 80-90% of American workers say they’d like to work remotely at least part of the time, balancing two to three days per week out of the office (concentrative work) and the rest in the office (collaborative work).
Statistics aside, your workplace reality likely includes a mix of folks working off-site some or all of the time. So what’s an employer or manager to do when it comes to making sure your remote team is able to work together effectively?
Read on for seven strategies to help you build stronger remote working teams:
1. Practice conscious communication
While clarity is crucial to all business management, when people are remote the likelihood of miscommunication only increases. Nip this potential issue in the bud by first clearly stating who is in charge of tasks and then by building a group plan for how a project will be managed. Get in the habit of creating agendas to articulate the purpose of meetings, provide structure to teams, and stay on point when it comes to keeping goals and tasks moving forward. That extra organizational effort will go a long way in keeping the lines of communication clear and open.
2. Establish a “home base” for documents and files
Set up a common place where your remote workers share documents and files, and make sure everyone has appropriate permissions to contribute, view and/or edit. This is vital to leading a successful remote team since colleagues don’t have the convenience of the in-person “shoulder tap” when they can’t find important information they need to get their job done.
3. Set up weekly team check-ins
One of the bigger misconceptions about remote work is that it means managers are out of touch with employees. In fact, a recent study by TINYpulse that measured remote workers’ happiness and productivity found that 52% of remote employees are in touch with their manager at least once a day. Still, this isn’t the same as getting the team together, which maintains structure and creates important opportunities to connect for team members who don’t normally work closely together on projects. Sharing information about projects and client updates, for example, can reveal collaboration opportunities and allow people to share insights and advice based on past experiences. Many teams prefer Monday morning meetings for their regular check-ins.
4. Stay in contact with chat and video
While formal meetings with agendas are a great way to stay organized, ongoing informal communication throughout the day, like team messaging, helps coworkers maintain a personal relationship with each other. Think of it as a virtual watercooler. Add in video, too, because face-to-face interaction makes people feel more connected and therefore, more productive.
5. Bond with your remote working teams
Leading a team of remote workers demands special skills, because motivating people and holding them accountable is trickier when you physically aren’t there to check in with them. Reinforce your bond by staying connected in both formal and informal ways to reassure your team members that you care about their work. Make sure you give your remote workers actual face time via video, and use your weekly check-ins and project management tools to create and maintain accountability. Don’t go overboard with oversight, though. Successful remote teams come together around leaders who both inspire them and trust them to get the work done.
6. Hire the right people for your remote working teams
Not everyone is cut out for working away from the office. The right person for the job is a self-starter and self-motivator. Time management skills are of utmost importance – you don’t want to be stuck micromanaging from afar. And be aware that remote teams have a culture just like in-house ones do. When hiring a new person, be sure that they share the same characteristics and traits you value in the rest of your remote team.
7. Remember, we’re all human
Just because a remote worker is out of sight, he or she shouldn’t be out of mind. Remember to make small talk and have non-work conversations with off-site workers. This solidifies personal bonds and supports a closer working relationship. And don't forget to frequently use chat and video calls to build even stronger connections.
By following these seven strategies, you’ll soon find that you can build bonds that will boost your team's performance.