The worldwide Covid-19 pandemic greatly influenced work as we know it. Due to the need for social distance, teams were forced to work remotely as much as possible. For some, it was an entirely new concept that required some getting used to, while for a few others, it wasn’t. However, even as lockdowns ended and the pandemic remote work became more popular. Forbes reports that by 2025, 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least up to 5 days per month.
This popularity, although initiated by the pandemic, stems from the perks of working remotely such as the reduced need for office spaces, reduced commute time, more time spent with family, and increased quality of life among many other varied benefits. Nonetheless, like most good things, it does come with its challenges, including issues with time management, communication, and even teamwork. The challenges don’t take away from its utility for teams that do want to stay remote or have a hybrid arrangement. When managed properly, remote work can increase an organization’s productivity as well as the quality of its talent.
A major challenge of remote teams is communication. The quality of daily communication within the team is important. Communication within the team should be accountable, intentional, and efficient. There should be clarity in communication to make up for the lack of body language. Texts can easily be taken out of context. Therefore, messages should be mindful, concise, and clear.
Continued transparency within the team is a great way to boost team morale, and build trust within the team. It also promotes enthusiasm and strengthens the team bond. Transparency can be maintained through sharing of important updates via short calls/video calls or emails explaining updates. It is important to communicate changes, as well as why they were made (when necessary) and how it affects team members.
Remote teams can collaborate virtually via digital tools to share ideas, work files, and communicate in real-time. A key to effective collaboration is setting clear expectations, objectives, and goals/milestones; syncing this with the time zone and agreeable schedule of team members. This helps team members collaborate better. Milestones can be broken down into smaller sprints which could be weekly or bi-weekly.
It’s important that the team employs the right collaborative tools which are both intuitive and effective and have a set standard for these tools. Finding the right tool for your team might prove difficult at first but it’s important to find one that works for everyone on the team.
There should be recurring meetings to promote collaboration. This way, everyone is able to stay abreast of team progress and brainstorm ideas. These meetings can be set strategically at various times of the project to provide updates, solve specific problems, raise issues, and improve outcomes. However, too many meetings can cause meeting fatigue and drag productivity. Teams can and should experiment with the frequency and format of meetings to see what works best.
Strengthening Team Bond
The importance of team bonding cannot be overstated as the benefits cut across improved communication, productivity, creativity, confidence, morale, motivation, mental health, etc. of the team. There are various tried ways to improve team bonding;
- Introduce virtual watercooler conversations to help reduce tension among teammates and provide the much-needed work break.
- As much as possible, the opinion of team members should be taken into consideration during decision making especially in areas where they’re directly involved. This could be through a group discussion via chat/call, taking polls, etc.
- There should be virtual events that include all members of the various departments within the organization. These events can cut across various needs like a virtual games event to cool off and take a breather, raise issues within the organization, etc.
- There should be plans for team members to meet physically where possible. Physical meetings could be in the form of hangouts, working in the same space, etc.
- Providing support to the team helps make members feel more comfortable within the team. It reduces any tension/pressure they might feel and provides a safe place to go to when questions or issues arise.
Employing digital tools makes it easier to manage remote teams as they can be leveraged to make most aspects of remote work smoother. It is important that team members are comfortable within their virtual work environment and have access to the necessary tools they need for a productive and effective remote team.