With increasingly better and more diverse software tools available to facilitate communication and collaboration between teams, more and more companies are embracing remote work practices. And rightfully so. Virtual teams – such as Nearshore teams – can be a great resource for businesses, as managers are able to bring on board the talent and the expertise that may not be available within the organization, the same city or even the same country.
However, effectively managing remote teams can be a challenge. Without face-to-face contact, it can be harder to connect and build trust amongst team members. Communication issues are often common in these teams, due to the lack on non-verbal cues.
We believe in the power of remote work.
With that in mind, here are 9 tips to help you manage a highly productive, well-coordinated and engaging remote team:
#1 GET EARLY ON AGREEMENTS
One of the most important things to do first as a remote team leader is to define (with everyone’s agreement and input) a few basic rules:
- Working hours: it’s important to agree on a team’s normal working hours, to ensure everyone’s work-life balance isn’t affected. The schedule should take into account possible time zone differences;
- Team meetings: how often is the team going to meet during the week? In remote teams, scheduling regular group meetings are a good way to foster a stronger connection between members;
- Notification of absences: when working in the same physical space, leaving for a doctor’s appointment or taking a day off is a non-issue. However, in remote teams it’s important to define how to notify the team, to avoid situations when some members might be expecting answers from an absent colleague.
#2 ALLOW SCHEDULE FLEXIBILITY
One of the advantages of remote work that most employees praise is the schedule flexibility. When managing remote teams, it’s important allow some flexibility in the working hours to accommodate the members’ personal engagements and obligations. It makes them feel trusted and they will most likely reciprocate in a future situation when there’s a need to work outside normal hours.
#3 SHOW AVAILABILITY
When working in a remote team, it’s easy for small issues with the team to go unnoticed. As a manager, it’s important to show your team members your virtual door is always open. Here’s how:
- Offer help and assist them whenever needed. By being there for them, you show your team you’re someone that can be dependable;
- Schedule regular one-on-one meetings. Individual meetings with each team member are a great way to collect feedback on how the project is running, understand each person’s frustrations and detect any unspoken issues that might have arisen.
#4 COMMUNICATE IN A CLEAR, CONCISE WAY
Due to the lack of non-verbal cues, miscommunication is a common issue with remote teams. Brush up on your writing skills and learn to communicate in a clear and concise way, so as not to confuse your teams. Consider investing in group communication tools so as to encompass different types of contact (e.g. e-mail for more official requests, instant messaging for solving quick issues, video conferencing for meetings, etc.).
#5 COMMUNICATE IN A HUMAN WAY
When interacting primarily in writing or through virtual tools, it’s easy to forget small communication details, which might go a long way to creating a good working environment:
- Say “hi” and ask how your team members are doing in the beginning of each e-mail or chat conversation. Address them as people and show them you care about them and not just the work they’re doing for the project;
- Leave room for small talk in the beginning of group meetings. These five minutes of chit chat can greatly help improve team bonding.
#6 ESTABLISH A VIDEO-FIRST CULTURE
Prioritize video meetings instead of voice-only. There are several advantages to video conferencing:
- Non-verbal cues: a substantial portion of human communication is non-verbal. Video group meetings enable manager and team members to use observe facial expressions and body language, which are helpful in conveying messages;
- Encourages people to participate in meetings from a professional, quiet location, leading to fewer distractions and less time wasted;
- It encourages people to get dressed and get out of bed to work.
#7 COLLABORATIVE DOCUMENTS
Make use of online collaboration tools to encourage a collaborative environment in the team. It’s an important way to build team culture and it’s easier than constantly e-mailing and downloading documents in need of editing from several people.
#8 PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Invest in a project management software tool to help keep track your project progress, pending and future tasks and deadlines. Most tools allow you to comment and reassign tasks, attach documents and have a chat option to facilitate communication. It helps you coordinate your team and track productivity.
#9 MEET FACE-TO-FACE AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR
Despite all the available technology, nothing really replaces face-to-face contact. Once in a while, organize an offline team building event and encourage everyone to join. It’s important to build relationships and boost team morale.