With COVID-19 creating a cloud of panic, uncertainty, and confusion, it took companies by surprise and shifted the way of working around the globe.
Workforces were forced to work from home which was something new for the majority of them and the sudden disconnect from their teammates created an environment of uneasiness.
Companies needed a strategy to tackle this but they were unable to create one because of the suddenness of the change.
Consider this blog your guide to improve employee engagement and collaboration and to manage them even better than what was possible in the pre-pandemic era.
- What is a Remote Team?
- What makes a successful Remote Team?
- How to communicate with a Remote Team?
- How to keep a Remote Team Connected?
- How to manage a Remote Team?
- Best practices to manage a Remote Team
- Tools for managing Remote Team
- The way ahead
What is a Remote Team?
A Remote team is a group of professionals who work together from different geo-locations on similar projects to achieve a common goal.
There is a stark difference between working from the office and working remotely. When you work remotely, there is very little transparency on employees’ work habits and this might cloud your judgement.
The main aspect of a remote team is trust and your focus should be to enable an environment where employees are comfortable and can function better. Check whether they have the right software by their side to assist them. Ask whether they need any new facility that can smoothen their work processes.
Since employees are connecting from different geo-locations, it will not make sense to hook them with the same Internet Service Provider as the speed may vary across the region.
If just one person is late to a meeting, it can impact the schedule of all the team members. Check with employees if they have any connectivity issues and if so, provide a solution to it. Likewise, there are tons of problems such as remote work infrastructure, training software, business processes, workflows, team collaboration, and communication, etc.
Address all these problems to create a successful remote team.
What makes a Successful Remote Team?
Remote work has been around since the 1970s. In 1979, The Washington Post published “Working from home can save gasoline”. Fast-forward to today, we know that working from home will save lives. In 2018, nearly 70 % of the employees already started to work remotely at least once a week.
As of 2021, 1 in 4 Americans are working from home and by 2025, more than 36.2 million people will be working remotely. This is 87% higher than the pre-pandemic levels.
Businesses are also realizing that they can save a lot of money with remote work but to enable that, they need an efficient remote team. Managing adversities such as this empower organizations, preparing them to face such situations in the future. Here’s what makes a successful remote team:
a. Ensuring a Dedicated Workforce:
We hear a lot about a positive attitude and the right mindset in the workspace. This is way more important when employees are working remotely.
You must have people in the team who will get the job done irrespective of the situation. because in the remote environment, you need people who are accountable to themselves rather than to managers.
Such people will create an impact and environment which will motivate other employees who are struggling with the new remote setup.
b. Having Trustworthy Employees:
If, as a manager, you are worried about your employees’ worth ethics and habits, then you’re spending valuable time on something that you cannot control. You could have spent this time strategizing and planning for better business outcomes.
c. Overcoming Social Barriers:
Companies are taking initiatives to engage teams with social activities but irrespective of what you do, sometimes people get uneasy with the social barrier.
To overcome this challenge, you need employees who can create their own social support system and sustain themselves in remote environments.
Your team might look disintegrated but with time you will notice that some of the employees live in the same district, city, or town. You can arrange (socially distanced) get-togethers or social events for this group which will act as a refresher and will provide much-needed interaction to relieve them of stress.
How to communicate with a Remote Team?
Working in a physical location along with your teammates makes communication really easy. It creates an environment where the employees can share their thoughts, opinions, and suggestions freely and instantly.
Ideas are conveyed easily and dependencies are sorted with one tap on the shoulder of your colleague. However, in remote setups, the free flow of communication is hindered. People are physically and emotionally distant from the team. Further, there are frequent delays in response which sends mixed signals and creates a lack of trust among team members.
So, what is the best solution to overcome the communication problem?
i. Video Calls:
You can use video calls to conduct meetings and have the closest to live interaction. This will increase the familiarity, help people to know the other person better.
Regular video calls will help them to emotionally connect and understand their colleagues better.
ii. Communication Protocols:
When employees use chat applications like Microsoft Teams or Slack, they either tend to talk using technical jargon or else they talk too casually. This could lead to poor understanding or misinterpretation.
The ideal way would be to create a protocol for employees to follow to help them communicate better in these messaging applications.
Employees must make it a habit to explain the context, agenda, expectation, and outcome of the conversation while initiating a conversation.
This will eliminate confusion. Sometimes messed-up communication can consume hours of someone else's time until they get a proper clarification. So, what may seem like a small issue can actually have a huge impact on your business processes.
How to Keep a Remote team Connected?
Loneliness is also a huge problem while remote working. It can make employees unproductive, disengaged, or worse, it could cause employee turnover.
The only way to overcome this is to create a social bond and ensure an environment where people can discuss their issues with colleagues and HR before it becomes too big. Asynchronous team-building activities can be carried out to make remote work a little more fun for employees.
Asynchronous team building - Remote teams are often spread across multiple locations. Being able to connect and bond as a team without all gathering at the same time is a great way to promote team connections. This includes random meet-ups, a virtual water-cooler channel in Slack, and games like Zoom bingo, where you try to capture the same kind of environment you would have at an office dinner party.
Apart from asynchronous activities, you can perform other activities too. The type of activity conducted doesn’t really matter. What matters is that employees genuinely connect to each other and forget that they’re miles away from each other.
How to Manage a Remote Team?
Even if you have state-of-the-art remote tools and facilities by your side, it can still be challenging to manage a remote team. Eventually, a strategy and roadmap are needed to bring people together and help them understand the bigger picture: your organizational goals.
Often lack of understanding, communication, and support can cause a problem that could have easily been avoided. With time, if these problems are not addressed, they could crumble the foundation of the organization.
So, to solve this problem we have some quick tips for you to follow.
1. Set Expectations and Boundaries
When new employees join the organization, it is important to set expectations that the company has from the new hire. Doing so in the early stage will make them aware of what they need to do to satisfy these expectations and give them a head start.
Set expectations for work hours, communication channels, meeting hours, project approach, and objectives of employees.
Now that the expectation is set, it is time to set boundaries. Sometimes businesses get carried away and take the employees’ time for granted. In a remote environment, most employees work in different time zones but that doesn’t mean we can disrupt their daily way of life with untimely phone calls, messages, or emails.
So, discuss work schedules with your team members and ensure that no one is disturbed during their free hours to create an optimal work-life balance.
2. Establish Daily Check-Ins
A manager must schedule daily calls where all employees are present. This will help you get updates and understand the project dependencies of employees. Schedule these calls at a particular time so that it becomes part of their daily routine.
Amy, The Founder of Painted Porch Strategies reveals
This doesn't need to be a 30-minute meeting. In fact, with practice, you could knock them out in less than 10 minutes. These AM Check-ins and PM Reflections (or check-outs) help ensure teams align with the current mission, understand each others’ priorities for the day, identify any opportunities to help one another, and plan ahead for what could derail good intentions.
For the AM Check-in, each team member answers the following:
- What is the most important activity I must complete today and why?
- What will happen if I do (or do not) complete it?
- What do I need to do (or not do) to accomplish this? What could interfere?
For the PM Reflection/Check-out, team members must answer:
- What did I accomplish and do well today?
- What is left undone?
- What/How can I improve or adjust for tomorrow? What or who could help me?
- What OBSTACLE did I turn into an OPPORTUNITY? How?
3. Invest in the Right Training Software
Traditional training methods, for obvious reasons, will not be helpful for training and onboarding your remote employees. Most employees are working in different time zones and may not have time to be trained together online.
So, to counter this, you need to follow best practices for remote employee onboarding. However, that alone is not enough as a training method and software too plays a crucial role in determining a remote team’s success.
An optimal solution would be a blended learning method and an on-demand learning platform where they can access training content as and when required.
Further, they can access it as many times as they want which helps to reinforce the learning and as a result enhances their skill.
There is other training software like Digital Adoption Platforms which are very flexible and a great choice for training employees on any web-based application, remotely.
The software helps you train and onboard employees on any application while they do their job and the best part is that they can start right away. It guides them from one-step-to-another to accomplish their tasks. It also helps businesses analyze where employees are struggling within the application, and based on this you can improve existing workflows to make them more efficient.
Another interesting aspect of Digital Adoption Platforms, like Apty, is that it consists of a data validation tool that helps maintain business compliance and standards within the organization to ensure accuracy of data that is valuable to the company.
All this can be done remotely and the deployment time of the Digital Adoption Platform only takes few days. It is also easily scalable.
Now that we know how to communicate and manage remote teams effectively. It is time to explore tools that help companies stay on track. These tools will help you manage your rapidly growing team without being physically present in the location.
- Jira: It is a project management software and used by many companies around the globe. It helps you create tasks, assign employees to those tasks, track their progress, performance, and time spent. It also helps to generate reports, share documents, arrange meetings, and map the journey of the project. It is one of those tools which make the managing of remote team seamless.
- Adobe Sign: There are usually tons of documents in an organization that needs to be reviewed and approved. This requires signatures from multiple stakeholders. Normally, you would have to print out the documents, sign them, scan them, and send the signed copy back to the person in charge. This requires a lot of manual labor and hinders employee performance. It also becomes next to impossible to execute such tasks in a remote setting. So, to solve this problem, you can use a cloud-based online signature service like Adobe Sign. It will help you legally sign documents from any place or device.
- Okta: A big enterprise or a rapidly growing organization has hundreds of applications that they use. It is almost impossible to remember the passcodes of several applications. A simple solution to this is Okta. It helps you store all passwords in a single hub and allows seamless access to all saved applications with just one common passcode. Employees can access this from any location or device without any hassle.
- Zoom: In this pandemic, video-conferencing apps have risen to the occasion and helped organizations simplify employee communication. Most organizations use it to conduct meetings and webinars but it is not limited to it as teammates can hang out with each other as well.
- Slack: One of the go-to professional messaging applications is Slack. It helps teams stay connected at all times. You can share your thoughts, ideas, and documents in a blink of an eye. It removes the formality out of the equation which is the case with other communication channels and helps the employees connect with each other as friends. You can also create separate channels for each department, group, or project to reduce noise. This approach helps the employees stay focused on their job and also assure them that help is just a chat away.
- Apty: Remote employees need training and organizations usually opt for remote training channels like online training, or LMS. However, as we have highlighted, these training channels do not come with an option where you can measure business impact generated out of it. It is almost impossible to Understand if the training was impactful. In order to overcome this, organizations have started using Digital Adoption Platforms, like Apty, which not only guides employees through applications but also helps you measure and analyze their usage of the application. This insight can help you smoothen existing processes and be more efficient. The hands-on training approach allows users to work from day 1. Apty takes you beyond Walkthroughs and tooltips so you can focus on business processes, outcomes, and employee performance.
The Way Ahead
Going forward, remote teams will become a necessary part of organizations’ strategy and for most of the companies, it already has. To make remote teams more successful, you need a proper plan, the right tools, and an understanding of employees’ needs.
Everything you have learned from this blog will prepare you and your organization to face any kind of disruptions in the future, confidently.