Due to the lack of physical proximity of a shared workspace, remote work poses a number of unique challenges not present in the traditional workplace. While contemporary businesses have embraced remote work en mass, they were and remain required to address their specific requirements.
The ability of organizations to adapt to the demands of a virtual office plays a big part in their overall productivity. The key to a successful remote team lies in understanding what’s different and what needs to be done about it.
Here are five key focal points to set you on the right path towards having a smooth remote operation.
1. Communication is paramount
Sharing an office allows us to communicate and handle a lot of our work requirements with ease. The amount of things that need to be communicated doesn’t decrease once you remove the physical connection.
This means that you must take every aspect of work into account and communicate it in a clear and actionable manner.
Communication is one key aspect of remote work. It is also overwhelming. You must accept this and prepare for it. Always have a checklist of relevant topics and be prepared for virtual team meetings. You will figure out the ideal meeting schedule in practice, but team communication has to be well-structured and comprehensive for maximum effect.
Otherwise, a great deal of time will be spent talking about work instead of actually working. Try to establish a communication model that ensures that everyone is on the same page without consuming too much precious time.
2. Include everyone
Remote work is a solitary experience. Without proper communication, it is easy for remote employees to feel isolated and excluded. Obviously, it is impossible to recreate everyday interactions that make up the “classic” workplace experience, but there’s still plenty that can be done to make remote workers feel involved.
It all starts with keeping everyone in the loop.
Make sure that all relevant communication is made public and shared on the team level, and not just between select individuals - this is especially important for teams that combine resident and remote team members.
Structure the communication so that everyone has a say and everyone’s voice is heard. If necessary, implement conventions that ensure orderly and inclusive communication.
For instance, if one or more team members tune in to a meeting via a video conference call, have everyone do the same - even the colleagues present on-site. This will make the remote workers feel more included, and it might help the on-site colleagues understand the unique challenges of remote communication.
Additionally, it is important to allow team members to connect on a personal level. Whether this means setting aside daily or weekly time for non-work subjects, keeping an open communication channel for usual workplace banter, or having one-on-one or collective video calls meant for social interaction - the choice is yours.
If possible, organize an actual get-together, or have all team members choose a shared activity for a day off. The important thing is to make remote workers feel like members of a team despite the physical distance.
3. Organize and delegate
We have already established that remote work requires a great deal of communication, but a lack of strong organization of work can lead to all talk and no action. It is essential that managers of remote teams organize and delegate tasks clearly and logically to sidestep unnecessary clarifications.
As much as the nature of your work allows it, try to parcel out the workload into smaller units that can be handled independently by individual team members.
Communicating assignments in a precise and detailed manner from the start will help cut further task-specific communication, thus saving time both for managers and remote workers.
Confusion and misunderstandings can be severely detrimental to the functioning of a remote team, so everyone needs to have clearly defined roles and assignments.
4. Focus on outcomes, not the activity
Having no direct supervision often pushes remote team leaders down the slippery slope of micromanagement, time tracking, and enforced discipline. Instead of focusing on attempts at maintaining firm control over team members, shift the emphasis to the end result.
Working remotely allows employees to organize their work in a way that suits them best. It is better to allow them this freedom rather than force them to conform to your work schedule. This is especially true for international teams with different time zones and asynchronous work hours.
Focus on honoring deadlines and divide the workload into smaller units until you develop a relationship of trust and reliability.
5. Mind the tech
Communication tools are essential for the successful everyday functioning of a remote team.
They need to be reliable and convenient, as well as suited for the nature of your shared work. From task management platforms to chat rooms and conference call tools, you will need a full arsenal of communication tools and channels to ensure a smooth transfer of information and resources.
If possible, allow your team members to choose the specific tools and ask for their feedback about the solutions in use. For remote team members, communication tools are their only connection to the rest of the team, and it is important that they are comfortable with them. Another challenge for the remote units is time management; you can use time reports to ease the process and track timing adequately.
With the number of remote teams growing by the day, it is essential that we understand the demands of the virtual workplace and find a way to overcome its minuses and maximize its pluses.
This is exactly why internal communication platforms such as BlogIn come in handy. Our choice lies in sharing knowledge through internal blogging and joint archiving.