Working More Effectively as a Remote Team
Guest Post by Caroline Black
Remote work is becoming more and more common every day. The number of freelancers operating in the marketplace is growing and according to Forbes, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers in as little as ten years’ time.
This, plus the introduction and expansion of flex time and telecommuting, means that more and more people are plugging into their jobs from remote locations.
In general, this is great. The added freedom and flexibility of remote work is highly desired by most people, as demonstrated by the huge increase in the number of entrepreneuers. But as with anything, there are some downsides. The most prominent is the loss of face-to-face interaction.
This can hurt the group dynamic and make it tough for the team to be as effective as possible.
You’ll need to incorporate traditional groupwork strategies with some new ones tailored specifically to remote work, such as:
Take some time to get to know each other
When you work in an office, usually the first thing that happens in a meeting is that people catch up quickly about your lives. These few moments of small talk are really important for bringing a group together.
This often gets skipped, though, when working remotely. People sign into the meeting and you get right to the agenda. This might seem more productive, but it strips the meeting of its human touch. So even though it might drag things out a few extra minutes, taking some time to talk about something other than work will bring people closer together, enhancing the group dynamic and making it more effective.
To help build a connection, consider engaging in some activities you might not do if you were in an office. For example, everyone on the team could sign up for a coffee subscription service. You’ll get a new type of coffee every few weeks, and when you meet, you can discuss it. It’s kind of like a coffee book club, but drinking a cup of coffee takes way less time than reading a novel.
These small little things help add depth to the meeting and will make people more excited to get together with the group. And when people are more excited to go to work, they’ll perform better and more effectively.
Set clear agendas
However, while it’s important to take time to talk about things outside of work, to be more effective as a remote team, you need to make the best use of your time. One of the reasons you work remotely is because you perform better on your own.
There’s nothing worse than sitting on a call listening to a conversation that isn’t relevant or that has already been had. We all hate this in traditional meetings, but it’s even worse on teleconferences.
Write out a clear agenda, share it with everyone and breeze through it as quickly as you can. The point of the meeting is to discuss problems and solutions and make sure everyone is on the same page. Anything else is just extra and will create friction in the group.
Working remotely can be great for the individual. You can choose when and how you work. But for a team, this can be a challenge. In an office, if you have a question or if you’ve discovered something interesting, all you need to do is pop over to someone’s desk and show them. When working from different locations, this obviously isn’t possible.
Make sure you have ways of staying in touch. Productivity suites such as Slack are really helpful for facilitating dialogue among group members. You might want to consider asking people to check in with what they’re working on every day. This isn’t to monitor them, but rather to show that there is an open and fluid line of communication available to them.
Respect people’s time and be flexible
Again, the beauty of remote work is the flexibility it offers. But this can cause friction if you’re not used to it. When you sign in to work, you might be the only one who is doing so. Others may have errands to run or may already be finished for the day.
Give a little more time for people to respond to messages, and don’t be so persistent with follow-ups. People will still receive notifications even if they’re signed off, and if they feel like they’re being forced to work when they don’t want to, then they’ll take this animosity to the group, hindering its effectiveness.
Many of the same principles of effective teamwork are still in play when dealing with remote teams. If you communicate often, listen carefully and respect the ideas and opinions of others, you are well on your way to having an effective team. And if you implement the strategies discussed here, you’ll soon find your remote teams work just as well.
About the author: Caroline Black is a team member at JavaPresse, a company who believes that coffee is more than a drink. Founded by Raj Jana, the company is on a mission to transform your favorite coffee ritual into an extraordinary daily experience – so you can stay grounded in the moments that matter and enjoy more happiness, abundance, and fulfillment in every part of your life. The organically grown small batch coffee ships within two hours of roast, and they partner with causes that spread joy to children in need such as Make-a-Wish. Click here to read their inspiring story.