Sir Richard Branson is one of the many businesspeople who believes that one day ‘offices’ as we know it will be a “thing of the past”. For many reasons, remote teams are becoming a more common thing with each passing year. Remote workers tend to log more hours each day and are more likely to be more engaged in the work they are doing. Remote teams also allow businesses to employ the world’s specialists, not dependent on where they live. Benefits for these employees include a much healthier work-life balance which will lead to increased mental health and efficiency in the long-run.
For businesses, a remote workforce makes a lot of sense for quality of work and productivity. However, at present managers are having some teething problems with effectively managing teams which are not in the same room all day. So what can be done to solve this issue and create a sense of ‘teamwork’ when apart?
Choosing the Right Team Members
Although many people would love to be given the freedom to work remotely, it takes the right sort of person to function well in a working environment with little or no structure. The characteristics the right team would possess include self-motivation, great communication skills, and openness and honesty. It is of the utmost importance that team members are selected on their ability to self-motivate themselves and based on their enjoyment of working independently rather than working in the environment where everyone is working on similar projects, and where there is someone encouraging you to get the job done. With face to face contact on the limited side, workers who intend to work remotely should be able to communicate flawlessly with their manager and others working on the project. They should also know how to use technology such as Skype or Google Hangouts and be very comfortable in using them.
Team Management Apps
As one of the main components of an efficient geographically dispersed team is excellent communication, it is important to have access to the right tools which can help this flow of communication for smooth running of the project. As much of office work, remote and practical in 2016 occurs with the help of the internet, it seems apt that these tools are online and computer based- in the shape of app. Examples of tried and tested apps for the purpose of project management include Trello, Slack, and Realtime board. Each of these apps have functions which allow seamless online communication. Slack provides an online instant messaging platform, where conversations can take place with two colleagues, or a whole group. It allows you to send files, videos and images, and allows you to search and find these messages again if you need them. Trello is a more visual based platform which is very beneficial for work delegation. On this app, you can create intuitive boards and cards which allow you to assign different tasks to different colleagues. It has a very collaborative design and function which allows everyone to update different projects’ boards as specific tasks are completed. Realtime board is also very visual, and allows the team to create visual story boards to brainstorm and enhance projects. Why not try out a couple, and see which works best for your team?
Feedback is crucial for the performance of any team and for the general morale of a project, and this point applies for a remote team even more. Without the tone of voice to gauge progress of a project and constant encouragement of a line manager or equivalent, workers can find it difficult to gage their performance in any given project. This can prove hard to proceed long term. Additionally, with lack of feedback, common mistakes can be repeated over and over, decreasing productivity and efficiency of a team. Again, communication here is essential. In an office environment managers can circulate the space, giving workers praise and encouragement at their desks. You need to find the remote office equivalent of this.
Promoting team bonding is important for the success of any project. However, this is harder to do when the team is based in different locations. Office teams have the opportunity to go for after-work drinks and occasional lunches together. However, it is harder to bond as a team when some colleagues have never even met each other face-to-face. As the project manager for a geographically dispersed team, why not be creative about how to get your team together? Depending on your budget, you could maybe try and get the team together at least once a year so the company can put a face to a name, and get to know a little about their colleague through various team building activities. Other ideas could be building a virtual team room, where team members can share more informal information about themselves to their peers. It is very important that team members are on good terms which will make the communication that much easier. And finally, being aware and sensitive of language barriers can help teams bond and grow their working relationship. When remote teams are based in different countries it is very likely that they speak different languages too. Guidelines for language for phone calls and teleconferences can make things more natural and uniform. Having meeting notes from all verbal communication can help people whose native language was not used in the conversation.