There are so many great reasons to work with a remote team … access to a global talent pool, flexibility for team members, less office overhead, travel time savings – just to name a few. But despite these advantages, distant teams also have their challenges. Different time zones, lack of intercultural communication, visual and verbal communication signals can make productivity challenging.
With a remote team, you can not just call an immediate meeting in the boardroom, take someone over for coffee, or walk past their desk to get an idea of what your team is doing. Remote team productivity depends on setting up the right system to allow everyone to work at their best.
Here are 6 ideas for increasing the productivity of remote teams
1) Agree to “Core Hours”
Flexibility is great, but a lot of time can be wasted if team members don’t work within the same hours. Everyone works without it 9 am-5pmFind a middle ground from which everyone agrees to work 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (Or whatever your team agrees with). Outside of this window their times may be flexible but this way you will always have a good time to collaborate with team members in real time.
2) Share daily action plans
When teams work together in the same office, it’s easy to feel good about what everyone is doing. But with distant teams, that’s not the case. Lack of transparency can easily create mistrust in the team and people can easily waste time working on things that are not top priority.
To avoid this, urge each team member to note down a few things they are going to work on for the day. (Writing it down and having a defined focus actually makes people much more productive.) You can do this with Action, Google Sheets, Trelo, Slack, or any other tool. Knowing what everyone else on the team is doing creates a high-performance environment and a better sense of working in a team towards a common goal.
3) Understand when to use a tool
There are plenty of online communication tools available but deciding when to use each one can make all the difference to the productivity of the remote team. Maybe you have a team video call once a week, hold a weekly one-on-one audio call with each team member and use chat to work 1: 1 on a project. You may also want to keep some guidelines so that if things go off-track and communication to one channel fails, switch to another channel. (Texts can often be misinterpreted and a voice or video discussion can eliminate any confusion.)
Use your regular team meetings to check in with your team and understand how communication is flowing. Maybe a transfer is needed for certain types of communication.
4) Simulate water cooling
Just because your team works remotely doesn’t mean it’s important to build a strong team culture. In fact, it is more important that you take deliberate steps than ever before! Teams that know and respect each other work more productively and achieve greater results. After all, no one wants to disappoint a friend.
To achieve this, you need people to share personal information about yourself and as a team leader, you need to set an example. Be sure to tell your team about your family, your holidays, your hobbies and talk about both good and bad.
This may sound fantastic, but you also need to create “water-cooler conversations” within your regular communication. For example, perhaps during your weekly meeting, each group member should share their weekend highlights. Or on a Wednesday afternoon, everyone shares what they are cooking / buying for dinner. Or you can use such random prompts to build group culture and change conversations. Little by little, these snippets of information create strong bonds between team members.
5) Share daily earnings
Don’t you hate it when members of the remote group disappear and leave for days? Instead, to make it happen, create a system where everyone checks in with the team before the clock is off.
But they just don’t say goodbye to everyone and leave! They should give a brief summary for the day and what they have accomplished and no problem should hold them back. This habit of “showing off your work” has a huge impact on the productivity of remote teams. Like the Daily Action Plan, these quick notes reveal a lot of information and really help a team to work together and be extremely productive.
6) Share business perspectives and goals
It’s easy to assume that your team members focus only on their specific roles, but most people find it even more motivating to understand how they fit into the big picture. In your regular meetings, share and discuss business perspectives – think about what the future might hold and how it will impact each department.
Also discuss business goals with your remote team. Share the win (and of course, miss), so everyone knows what they’re trying to do.
In place of such systems, and of course, with the right team members on board, it is easy to operate a highly productive remote team.
About the author
Fiona Adler is a writer and serial entrepreneur with an MBA. He recently created and sold the largest business review website in Australia. Fiona is currently building Action.com – a productivity tool for teams, and writes on DoTheThings.com while in France with her family.