Steps to Building a Successful Remote Team

by Amy Steinberg Published Sep 3, 2019 Last updated Sep 3, 2019

More and more companies are relying on remote teams to work on projects. While technology has made it convenient for people to work together from any location, there are certain challenges that come with this approach. As a relatively new way of working, businesses are still figuring out some of the norms and processes to maximize efficiency and communication when people are working from different locations. Let’s look at the major steps and practices to keep in mind when setting up and managing remote teams. 

Use the Appropriate Technology

While there’s more to remote working than devices and software, technology does play a major role in the process. Team members must be able to communicate with one another and the home office, access files, and participate in virtual meetings. All of this requires robust technology that meets your needs, including:

  • Chat programs: Sometimes the most efficient way to talk is via a chat program such as Skype or Google Hangouts.
  • Efficient VoIP system: It’s essential that team members can efficiently make calls, send messages, and access projects.
  • Collaboration software: The right software is helpful for communication, assigning tasks, and tracking productivity. You should choose the software that’s right for your needs. Many companies find that software such as Trello, Asana, and Zoom help them stay organized.
  • Video conferencing: When people are working remotely, it’s essential that you can hold virtual meetings. While you can communicate by text and audio, it’s also helpful to be able to see people’s faces and body language. Video conferencing lets you approximate a live meeting more than any other option. When choosing software, make sure it’s accessible from multiple devices and operating systems. Choose a system that’s reliable and provides quality audio and video.

Foster Effective Communications

Effective communication is not only about your tools but also about how you use them. You need to use the right applications for each situation. It’s also important to set up a variety of meetings of varying sizes and purposes.

  • Keep all essential files on the cloud: Using applications such as Google Docs or Dropbox make it easy for people to access, edit, and share files from any location. Settings allow you to provide access to whichever team members are working on a particular project.
  • Provide options for both synchronous and asynchronous communications: Synchronous includes any type of communication in real-time such as chatting, phone calls, and video conferencing. Asynchronous communications have a time delay, include email, text messages, and apps where one party can leave a message for another. Both types of communication are useful in different situations and team members should have access to the most appropriate solutions at all times.
  • Schedule meetings at regular times so you stay in touch with everyone: All-hands meetings are useful for connecting with the whole team. Smaller meetings are also beneficial to provide more personal attention. This includes one-on-one conversations as well as meetings with smaller teams.
  • Consider time zones: It may take some effort to create mutually convenient virtual meeting times for team members who live in different time zones.

For all communications, the most important element is clarity. One of the keys to productivity is that everyone knows what he or she is responsible for at any given time. Whether this is done through meetings, emails, or tasks posted on your collaboration software, make everything as clear as possible. 

Track Productivity

It can be more challenging to keep track of people’s productivity when they’re working remotely. That’s why it’s important to make it a point to track important metrics for every team member. This overlaps with the above section on technology, of course, as you need the right software to help you do this. Collaboration software usually has features to track productivity.

Beyond software, however, you need to identify which metrics to track. Make sure that all team members are fully accountable and check in to inform you of what they’re working on. When tracking metrics, you need to focus on objectives and not simply the amount of time people are logged in. If you’re too casual about tracking and managing team members, you can lose sight of what’s going on. When people are held accountable, it’s easier for them to stay focused.

Foster Genuine Connections

Along with all of the advantages of remote working come a few potential drawbacks. One of these is that people don’t always feel as connected and team-oriented as they would working in the same physical space day after day. There are some ways, however, to help foster authentic connections even if people seldom meet in person.

  • Encourage people to share information about themselves. Don’t compel anyone to share personal information. However, it’s good to give them the option of posting facts about themselves such as their background, location, interests, and goals. When someone new comes on board, be sure to provide a virtual introduction.
  • Provide a place to engage in off-topic chat. A chat room that’s always open gives everyone a place to check-in and have casual conversations.
  • Share company goals and news. Don’t let your remote team get isolated and only focus on single projects. Keeping them in the loop reminds them that they’re an integral part of the company.
  • Meet in person. Try to hold live meetings and social events several times per year. If you have multiple teams, it may be more practical to organize multiple meetings in different locations. While you can get many things accomplished remotely, there’s still no substitute for meeting in person. This will supplement all the efforts you make for encouraging your virtual teams.

Get the Most Out of Your Remote Teams

There are many advantages to working with remote teams. You can work with the most qualified people independently of their location. Many professionals today appreciate the freedom to work from home or on the road. If you use the right technology and create a viable strategy, you can get as much or more value from remote teams as from traditional in-house professionals. Keep these principles in mind and always remember to track and test your results so you can refine your approach over time. 

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