From giving team members a chance for collaboration to making a productive office setup, here are 13 tips on how to work effectively in a team, remotely.
Set Up a Virtual Meeting Place
Working effectively in a team remotely can be tricky, but one useful tip is to establish a virtual meeting space. Setting up video conferences or instant messaging sessions allows team members to share information and decisions with each other quickly and easily.
For example, if you need immediate feedback from your group about ideas during your project, try using a whiteboard app instead of emails that can get lost among everyone's inboxes; the digital whiteboard will display all the details of the conversation concisely in one place.
This unconventional approach gives team members the chance to collaborate live on whatever task needs their attention most and enhances the sense of connection, as each individual can express themselves without interruption.
Over-Communicate to Solidify Expectations
Communication is more limited in remote workplaces than in the alternative. Slack definitely helps, but even then, people do not always see their Slack messages right away. When working remotely, you can not ask a simple question while passing someone in the hallway. You usually have to wait longer for the answer. Therefore, managers of remote teams need to ensure that all team members are clear about expectations.
If you are the manager, this involves what may feel like over-communicating. For example, you can repeat important instructions periodically, provide written instructions even if you have already explained them verbally, and conduct periodic one-on-one meetings with your team members to give each of them your undivided attention as they ask questions and provide feedback. Information can easily slip through the cracks in remote working situations, so the manager needs to ensure this does not happen.
Understand Which Software You Need Per Task
One critical component of successful remote working is understanding how certain tools or software can assist with specific tasks, and taking the time to trial and test your approaches to as many tools as possible to ensure that you have the most efficient setup prior to remote working beginning.
Once working remotely, it's then much less efficient to test various processes, as naturally, you're also having to still try to work effectively alongside them.
Set Check-In Times, Stop Monitoring Otherwise
The biggest tip I have is to stop treating remote work like in-office work, a habit that the vast majority of managers I'm familiar with are having a massive problem with. Making sure that everyone is green on Teams or Slack, randomly calling people without setting a meeting beforehand, and trying to micromanage while separated by that much distance is not only ineffective, it is actively detrimental to team performance.
What you should do instead is just set one or two daily check-in times—a morning "stand-up" is usually enough—and aside from that, let people work on their own schedule and pace. Make yourself available for questions, kind of like a professor during office hours, but trust your people to do their jobs.
Establish a System for Consistent Feedback
Juggling communication and schedules with a remote team can be challenging, especially with team members working in different time zones. Thus, establishing a clear and consistent system for feedback is crucial. You should routinely solicit feedback from your team to understand how to best drive performance, identify areas for improvement, support remote employees, and build trusted relationships remotely.
Allow for Flexibility
Working in a remote environment means you can adapt to the different needs of the team and projects. This requires room for flexibility, as not everyone is going to be working on the same schedule, and communication is going to work differently among each team member.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you need to be open to new ideas, as remote work opens up the possibility of working with team members across different cultures. Of course, you will also need to adjust your schedule to ensure that some hours can overlap with members outside of your time zone.
This can also be used to your advantage, as work doesn’t have to stop if team members work across many time zones. Being flexible in a remote work environment allows for freedom of collaboration and productivity.
Know and Understand Your Coworkers
Working effectively in a team remotely begins with understanding your team members. Make sure you schedule regular video meetings so everyone can stay informed and in sync. When working from home, keep your team updated on your work—don't wait until you need something from them. Tell them what you're doing when anything changes or if you make progress.
For example, consider setting up an auto-updating document that any member of the group can update as needed. This helps create transparency around everyone's workload. Doing this saves precious time for more productive tasks like brainstorming or problem-solving and helps ensure they account for all efforts throughout the project cycle.
Use a Project Management System
I've worked remotely on and off for eight years. One item that I've found essential for my success is setting up an effective project management system that tracks progress, deadlines, and responsibilities.
I use Trello as my primary project management tool. Trello has amazing automation features, such as automatically notifying someone and sending a comment when a card moves to their section of the board. By using Trello, everyone remains aware of their responsibilities while knowing what needs to be done to keep things moving smoothly.
Another advantage of a project management system is that it acts as a central repository for information. For instance, I upload content briefs to an individual card in Trello, ensuring that all the information my writers need is in one place. This way, I can communicate well with my team members and stay on top of what's happening in my work.
Build Connections Through Strong Leadership
I believe it's less of the employee's responsibility and more of the manager's responsibility to create intentional interactions and conversations to help remote teams work effectively.
Some level of in-person interaction and some level of remote work is how it should be and how it looks like it'll be for many companies in the future. With that comes a lack of collisions and passive conversations you get throughout the average day in the office.
You just don't get those opportunities all the time working from home because you learn many things through osmosis. It's on leadership to create scenarios and be intentional around setting time so that your remote employees don't feel like they're not learning or developing at the same rate as those in the office.
It's vital to check in with all of your employees regularly. Schedule one-on-one calls, send emails, and ask around. As a leader or manager, it's your responsibility to keep them engaged and make them feel valued.
Create Virtual "Water Cooler" Group Chats
Even the most ardent proponents of remote working admit that it can feel isolating. Although collaboration software does much to connect colleagues professionally, that informal “water cooler” chat can be harder to emulate remotely.
Therefore, I strongly recommend creating informal group chats where people can just chat, rant, joke, and otherwise connect socially. This requires explicit support from managers, letting employees know that a “water cooler” chat is essential to team-building, not wasted time. This provides a much-needed social avenue for remote workers, helping to reach parity with office-based workers who readily chat socially.
By encouraging small talk and friendly conversation, you sow the seeds of friendship and meaningful connection, vastly improving the effectiveness of any remote team.
Keep Communication Clear, Concise, Considerate and Kind
Teamwork, when remote working, seems like an oxymoron. However, remote working has become so popular in recent years that it is absolutely necessary we adapt to this movement. One big tip to work with a team remotely is communication. Communication is absolutely vital to all businesses. But it has to be clear, concise, considerate, and kind.
Working remotely already comes with its challenges, so in order to meet goals, handle the workload, and create relationships with team members, we must be clear and concise with what we say and how we say it. Because of the different environments of remote working, being considerate of working hours, productivity, and mental health is extremely important, hence kind communication.
Establish Healthy Boundaries
It is critical to maintain a routine and a boundary throughout this period. It will be difficult to "clock out" or take a break without the typical workday cues. Staying hydrated and doing things for yourself, such as working out, will be difficult to sustain. Create a routine and a boundary that works for you and your preferred timetable.
Give Yourself a Dedicated Workspace
To be focused and productive while working from home, I believe it is essential to have a designated work area. Find somewhere to work in your house that is peaceful and free of distractions.
Make sure you have a stable internet connection and anything else you need to complete your job. Make sure you have a comfortable and productive setup in your office.
Cindi Keller, Communications Coordinator, Criminal Defense Lawyers
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