As a remote leader, your challenge is to get people - often thousands of miles apart - collaborating as if they’re together.
Technology is a great help, but it’s just a tool. Making remote collaboration succeed requires a shift in the way you work. However, the benefits make it worthwhile. When it works, your teams can improve their performance in a happier environment.
However, remote work can also present some challenges, such as maintaining communication and collaboration between team members. There are a few key things that can help remote teams to work more effectively together.
First, it's important to establish clear lines of communication. Everyone on the team should know how to reach each other, and there should be a designated space for discussion and sharing ideas. Second, remote teams should make an effort to build relationships with each other.
Getting to know your team members on a personal level can help to create a more cohesive working environment. Finally, remote teams should schedule regular check-ins and stand-ups. These check-ins provide an opportunity for everyone to stay up-to-date on the project and share any concerns or obstacles they may be facing. By following these simple tips, remote teams can set themselves up for success.
What is remote collaboration?
Simply put, remote collaboration is working together on a project when you’re not in the same room. It can be as simple as two people working on a document at the same time or as complex as an international team coordinating the launch of a new product.
The rise of remote work has made remote collaboration more important than ever. With 16% of companies are fully remote globally it’s no surprise that companies are looking for ways to encourage and support greater remote collaboration.
Why is remote collaboration difficult?
There are a few reasons why remote collaboration can be difficult. The first is the obvious one: when you’re not in the same room, it’s harder to communicate. You can’t just turn to the person next to you and ask for their opinion.
This lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings and frustration on both sides. It’s also easy for remote workers to feel isolated and left out of the team.
Another difficulty is that remote collaboration often requires different tools and workflows than traditional collaboration. This can be a challenge for companies who are used to working in a certain way.
Finally, remote teams often have different time zones, which can make coordinating meetings and deadlines difficult.
Here are five ways to up your remote collaboration game:
The importance of communication in remote collaboration
To enable better collaboration in remote teams, leaders need to communicate clearly, without leaving gaps in your communication and without subtext. But also, as a leader, you also need to foster this spirit of open communication in your team.
Show your team how they should communicate with each other. Help them get used to the changes that come with asynchronous working. Manage their expectations around what they should demand from their team members. For example, you wouldn’t expect a team member to respond immediately to an email if they’re in New York and you’re in London. Your team members, in turn, shouldn’t ask for the impossible.
A mainstay of remote collaboration and any form of remote management should be weekly or bi-weekly video calls with your team. These calls shouldn’t be about work – they should be about building relationships. Get to know your team members on a personal level. Ask them about their families, their hobbies, and their weekend plans. These small talks will help build trust and understanding between you and your team.
Foster a mindset of accountability
Remote work is all about trust. You trust your people, and they trust you back. But if you’re doing everything you can to live up to that trust, your people must do the same too. You don’t know what they’re doing when you’re not watching, but they can’t take this freedom for granted.
Once your people are clear about what you want them to do, give them the responsibility to complete their tasks before the agreed time without interruption. Let them take ownership and give them recognition when things go well.
If there are problems, help them solve them without micromanaging.
The remote work environment can be tough, and it’s easy for people to feel like they’re not doing a good job. As a leader, you need to give your people the space to grow and learn from their mistakes.
Encourage collaboration, not competition
In dispersed teams, it’s easy for people to feel like they’re in a competition with their teammates. They might feel like they need to prove themselves or that they’re being judged all the time. This feeling of competition can lead to conflict and resentment.
To avoid this, you need to encourage collaboration, not competition. Help your team members see the benefits of working together and demonstrate how to collaborate effectively. Show them how they can help each other and how their skills can complement each other.
Keep your tech stack tidy
You’re likely to use many different remote collaboration tools that include:
- Communications apps
- Shared drives
- Specialist software (e.g. design solutions)
With many people using these solutions, and different teams using different combinations, the organisation often gets out of hand, meaning people can’t find what they need. Worse, there can be version control mistakes that waste time and slow projects down.
As a remote leader, your job is to remove obstacles from your team’s path so they can complete tasks on time to the best of their ability. While we’re not saying you should go into these solutions and start cleaning them up yourself, you should consider ways of ensuring everyone uses their tech with others in mind. For example, think of how your shared drive can be organised using folders so everyone can quickly find the files they need.
Remote collaboration can be difficult, but with the right mindset and tools, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone involved. With a little bit of effort, you can create a remote team that’s just as high-performing as a traditional team. And who knows, you might even find that your remote team outperforms your traditional team!
Your team members need to get on well in order to work well together. Sure, they need to buy into your vision and values, communicate well etc. But, most of the time, work flows better when all sides have a smile on their face.
Encourage your team to talk about other things than work. Schedule time for one-to-one sessions where people who work closely together can build a relationship. Ideally, you want your team members to feel comfortable asking each other for help, while they can also feel comfortable saying ‘not right now’ if they’re overwhelmed.
As Jason Morwick, Head of Remote at Cactus Communications told our Leading Remotely podcast:
‘I've had people tell me that, when I do show up in the office, say it's one day a week, I find that I'm not really getting any ‘work’ done. In fact, what I'm doing is I'm meeting people that I haven't seen in a while. I'm building relationships. I'm using that time to meet with new people on the team that I haven't met in person before.
‘So it's really being very conscious of using that time wisely, saying, if I'm going to be face to face with people, what do I want to do? I don't want to just jump into a simple task that I could do while I'm remote. I will use that time for something more difficult to do while I'm virtual.’
One way remote leaders can encourage their team to build relationships is by organising bonding experiences. These don’t have to be big or expensive – they can be as simple as local meetups for those in close proximity, regular offsites, or playing an online game together.
Bonding experiences help people feel like they’re part of a team, rather than just a remote worker. They give people an opportunity to let their guard down and have some fun together. And, when people feel like they’re part of a team, they’re more likely to trust each other and work better together.
Heading off problems among your remote team
Proactively look for problems in how your team work together. It can be hard to spot relationship issues when you’re not in the same space and can see visual cues. However, little problems can snowball into bigger ones - if someone in your team isn’t doing their fair share of work, for example. Check in on your team members regularly to spot problems before they become significant.
On the other hand, you need to spot when your team members are in danger of burning themselves out. When you work from home, you can literally work all day and night if you don’t stop, which is no good for anyone. Look for signs of overwhelm and encourage your people to take regular breaks and look after their health.
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