How to work effectively with remote teams

By Ross Coverdale

Remote Working

The benefits to having people working remotely are huge. There’s less lost time because of travel, it can help employees balance home and family life with work, and thanks to the advantage of the internet and high-speed data transfer, we can for the most part collaborate on projects online, even when dealing with multiple documents and files, no matter the size.

With every upside though, there are downsides, but with a bit of work you can overcome these obstacles and make sure that you reap more of the rewards and suffer less of the negative consequences.

Communication is key

If you’re not in the office often, or at all, communication is absolutely critical to maintaining a healthy remote working life. Just because you’re not in the same room or building doesn’t mean you can disappear without contact for days on end.

Collaboration and chat software like Slack, for example, are a great way to facilitate remote group conversations. You don’t need to worry about losing your place in an email trail, and files shared are archived and searchable which can save tons of time.

Take the time to talk to your colleagues via email, or better yet, pick up the phone. Update your manager with what you’re going to be working on at the beginning of the day, or even the week, and update with what you’ve achieved afterwards. The simple act of showing up even to say good morning assures everyone that you’re in and available to be reached. Slack is a great way to do this, it’s far less formal than a ‘good morning’ email.

Keep Consistent Face Time

Meeting face-to-face often isn’t always possible depending on the distances people work apart, but if you can keep the odd meeting to get around the same table every once in a while it’ll do wonders for everyone. Sometimes it’s just easier to hash out problems or brainstorm when you’re working together (post-its don’t send very easily by email) so take the chance to meet up from time to time..

If you can’t meet up in person regularly, you’re probably suited to two-way or conference calls. While phone calls will be a regular part of your schedule, try to work in the odd Skype call with your colleagues. Video chat is a great way to have everyone ‘in the room’, albeit virtually, and will help you keep strong working relationships with your colleagues.

Trust

This is one of the biggest barriers to remote working that employers face. How can they be sure that remote workers are actually working, and not just watching Netflix and relaxing at home?

Harking back to the point above, effective communication is really the only way to not only earn trust from your boss, but for managers to learn how to trust their teams too.

Let’s make something clear – this isn’t about covering your back, and starting from a place of distrust is only going to make the process more difficult, but at the end of the day you have to make the effort to earn a level of trust when working remotely.

Keep your diary open and transparent. If you have an appointment that means you won’t be at home, put it in your diary, and if you think someone might want to contact you during that time, give them a heads up. The same goes for doctors appointments and so on. Simply keep everyone in the loop so there’s no doubt in their mind that you are where you say you are.

Stay Accountable and Do the Work!

Finally, one of the biggest ways to maintain trust, and to keep a harmonious remote working relationship with your colleagues is to do what you’re supposed to do. If you’re accountable for your workload and communicate regularly enough when you’re meeting objectives then this shouldn’t be a major problem, but there are a few things you can do to help with working remotely.

If you live the ‘laptop life’ you’ll almost certainly need some form of remote access. If your organisation is of a certain size you may already have facilities in place for this (think VPNs, remote access and such) but even on a smaller scale, consider using online cloud solutions like Dropbox or Google Drive for maintaining access to files from wherever you are. Whatever the case, try to clear whatever solution you’re going to be using with your IT department – you don’t want to run the risk of any IT security stumbles.

If you’re sharing files with your teams these solutions are really helpful – not only will you eliminate confusion over which file version you should be referring to, but you can maintain clarity of who has done what.

Also, when things aren’t working so well for whatever reason, don’t be afraid to speak up. This applies to those not working remotely too, but the problem can double down when working remotely because of the isolation that comes with working on your own all the time. Open a dialogue with colleagues when you need help with something, and set out clear expectations for what you’re going to achieve by a given date.

If you work remotely or have people in your team that do, what challenges have you had to overcome? Share your story!

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