Since the pandemic began, the popularity of remote teams has soared, providing organisations worldwide with the opportunity to stay in business despite COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, remote working has allowed organisations to benefit from a more diverse talent pipeline as they are no longer restricted by location.
Collaboration can generally be easier with face-to-face interactions where a team member could easily walk up to a colleague to ask for specific information and then move on with their work. With a remote working system, this can get a little more complicated, as for various reasons, team members might not be so easily reachable, causing a break in communication and flow of information within the team.
Even though having a remote team offers all sorts of benefits, these benefits could almost be negated if deliberate strategies to support collaboration and generally improve motivation are not put in place.
Why your business should engage remote teams
For many organisations, enforcing a remote working system helps them save money on maintenance, office support, etc. Remote working also allows employees to save a lot of funds on their commute and possibly on their lunch bill.
Businesses with physical offices in the city might struggle with low employee productivity as staff might frequently feel stressed due to dealing with traffic congestions everyday. Remote working means that your employees do not have to waste time and energy in traffic. With the time saved from not having to commute, your staff can become a lot more productive in executing their actual work.
Challenges of managing remote teams
A healthy flow of communication is the lifeblood of every high-functioning team, as it affects how well members can collaborate. Remote working can often cause strained communication, even if team members are within the same time zone.
This can play out in different ways, e.g., inability to reach team members (via voice calls or instant messaging), lack of clarity on ongoing projects, internet connectivity problems, etc.
Lack of motivation
Remote working takes out the element of physical interaction between teammates, so in the constant cycle to get work done, managers might overlook the importance of regular feedback and validation, making their colleagues feel under-appreciated and unmotivated. Every human wants to be validated and know that their contributions are recognised, and this remains true even if they are working remotely or not.
By nature, remote teams rely heavily on technology solutions for collaboration, so one seemingly small issue like poor internet connectivity can affect productivity.
Tips for Improving Collaboration in Remote Teams
1. Develop an accountability system
Accountability is extremely important for remote teams, as the team dynamics can be disrupted because someone is slacking at their job. An accountability system helps to tread the balance between micromanaging and giving your team room to deliver on their work, ensuring that everyone can be trusted to do their job and communicate if they have difficulty in doing so.
Remote team members could constitute of people who have never physically met or who do so quite rarely, so teammates must be able to trust and count on each other.
You can promote accountability in your remote team by clearly communicating roles and expectations, leveraging project management tools, among others.
2. Improve the onboarding process
It is extremely important to have your remote workers go through onboarding so they can internalise the company’s values and culture.
Onboarding should cover work structure, culture, organogram, business identity, policies, socialisation exercises, etc. Your onboarding should also cover the accepted work process for the remote teams. It is easier for employees who have been integrated by onboarding to collaborate amongst each other and with different business teams.
3. Build a strong communication culture
With remote working, the success or failure of the team rises and falls on communication.
Since the team does not work in the same location, the probability of miscommunication is higher, which may negatively impact the flow of information and the delivery of a project. Communication tools and apps can be used to aid better collaboration between remote teams.
To build a strong communication culture, the line manager needs to define things like these:
- How many times should remote workers check-in daily?
- Should reports be submitted daily or weekly?
- What is the official channel for communication?
4. Use tech tools
Tech tools are the connective link between the business and its remote teams, and help to provide the solution for a range of tasks and important functions like communication, collaborating on documents, file storage, project management, etc.
Some tech solutions include:
- Video conferencing apps for meetings, e.g. Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc.
- Apps for daily communication, e.g., Slack, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, etc.
- Project management tools such as Asana, Microsoft Planner, Trello, Monday.com, etc.
- File storage platforms, e.g., Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.
5. Deliberately cultivate team bonding opportunities
Communications within a remote team can grow somewhat distant if deliberate efforts are not made to encourage team bonding. HR managers and team leads can come up with creative ways to spur virtual interactions like having virtual birthday celebrations, recognising work anniversaries, virtual happy hour, etc.
Things like these can go a long way in making the team more united into a cohesive force, which supports an overall increase in productivity.