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How To Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote

September 02, 2021
How To Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote

Remote employees are becoming a regular part of business operations. As a manager, you’ve had to learn how to collaborate effectively in a world where you’re not able to physically work next to your team. Thankfully, if your organization is still struggling to adapt to changes in team communication, there are strategies and tactics to help:

  • Set predictable schedules
  • Meet technological needs
  • Maintain and communicate performance standards
  • Manage expectations

Let’s dive into how you can make your remote work more collaborative and efficient.

Why Is It Important To Collaborate Remotely?

As business started to transition into the remote world, it became evident that figuring out how to excel at remote work team collaboration would become integral to future success.

While technology has provided answers to some communication problems, there continues to be a challenge to incorporate collaboration into the remote working world. The early days of the pandemic showed businesses very quickly that they could either adopt new processes for communication and remote team success or be left behind.

Collaborating remotely is still incredibly essential, and companies now know the possibility of remote work more than ever before. Thankfully, the business world has come a long way in creating processes for remote team success.

The Three Keys to Remote-Team Success

The playing field is different when working with remote teams compared to in-office workers. In order to truly develop remote team success, managers need to identify how their teams work best. Getting to know each employee, understanding how they work, and how they best communicate can’t be ignored when trying to create a coherent workflow. All things considered, here are three key steps to remote-team success.

1. Set Schedules

Remote work generally comes with more freedom and flexibility. That being said, one of the most common hurdles of navigating work as a remote team manager is figuring out how to communicate with each individual team member. To help with this, you need to incorporate set schedules and expectations with each member of your team. Helpful points to remember when doing this include:

  • Incorporate non-working hours in calendars– When working with remote employees, it’s easy for the work day to extend beyond the typical 9-5. This can quickly lead to burn out and exhaustion. As a manager, you should interview your team members and work on boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Once these are set, have your team implement working hours in their calendars so that meetings are not scheduled before or after a certain time.
  • Have employees set tasks events in their calendars– A great way to maintain insight into what employees are doing is to set what tasks and projects they may be working on during the day. This helps with the flexibility of working remotely as well. It may also be helpful to encourage your team to keep their calendars up to date with personal appointments, errands, etc. so you’re aware of when they’ll be unavailable during the work day.
  • Maintain a respectful meeting cadence- If your team has frequent meetings, it may be time to take a look at the overall frequency and cadence. The more meetings you can cluster into one to two days, the more time your team has to be focused on projects during the remainder of the week. It’s important that each team member feels that their time is respected!

2. Meet Technological Needs

While most computers, tablets, and mobile devices have collaboration capabilities, as the manager, you will need to ensure your team has the tools they need for success. Technological tools that are needed for remote working include:

  • A central cloud hub– There needs to be a source where employees can find documents, projects, and other assets. Some of the most general cloud solutions include Google Drive and Dropbox. These are solutions for basic cloud file management and storage. Another great solution is a digital asset management (DAM) software solution. A DAM solution offers more than Google Drive or Dropbox as it provides a storage solution with added features such as advanced search capabilities, tagging, security, link expirations, and more.
  • Communication solutions- Without a doubt, you need a way to communicate with team members and clients effectively. In today’s market, there are numerous options to accomplish this from video conferencing apps such as Google Meet and Zoom to chat apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams. An important factor when deciding what platform will be the communication driver for your team is not so much the platform itself but how your team will manage it. With so many levels of communication in the workplace today (email, chat applications, project platform comments, etc.), it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the different outlets of communication. If your team has multiple communication solutions, establish standards on what and when each one should be used.
  • Project management tools– As mentioned above, we recommended that remote employees put what projects/tasks they’re working on in their calendars. However, these projects/tasks need a place to live. These tools allow remote workers to collaborate to accomplish their work tasks effectively. Depending on what your team is doing will determine the project management tool you use. For example, tools like Asana and Trello may be for teams with basic work projects and collaboration, whereas GitHub and Jira are for more technical, software-related projects.

3. Maintain and Communicate Performance Standards

Part of managing a remote team is ensuring the quality of the work remains at a certain standard. It’s easy to get hung up on the activity of remote team members and not necessarily the outcomes. When maintaining and communicating performance standards, try to remember to:

  • Focus on the output– Remote workers operate with the freedom of someone not looking over their shoulder and making sure they’re on task. As a remote team manager, it’s easy to always want to be checking for their “green light status” during the 9-5 workday. A better way to handle this is to focus on their output of work and not activity. With that being said, be sure to set the appropriate standards on the maximum time they have before they need to reply to a coworker or client. Additionally, be sure to set reasonable project deadlines and continually monitor if they are able to reach them.
  • Employees can’t read your mind– Even if you have implied standards for communication and performance, employees still may not be on the same page- especially in a remote setting. Having most of our one-on-one communication through an instant messaging app and not face-to-face can make it difficult for your employees to read the playing field. Make sure you are continually reiterating what you expect from your team. This could be through monthly task reviews or a weekly message laying out what you expect from each member of the team.
  • Remove obstacles where you can and provide resources– Whether your team has been remote or has had to transition to remote work, it’s always important to remove obstacles where you can and provide resources. As nice as it is to work in your PJs all day, remote work can be difficult. Not having a team member right next to you to ask questions, the feeling of physical and emotional isolation, or not having the right technological equipment to get the job done are just a few examples of the obstacles remote workers face. As a solution, try and figure out these pain points. Create anonymous surveys in Google Forms to get the responses you need to create resources for the team. Also, it could be extremely beneficial to ask your team members (in one-on-one meetings) if there are any work struggles they may be facing.

Learning how to collaborate effectively when your team is remote is a process that will take time. However, brand management software and collaboration tools can help ensure communication remains clear and project goals stay on track.