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Remote teams are, for the most part, the new reality of doing business today. But what does that mean for daily work life, and how can we make sure we’re working together as well — or better than — we do when we’re all in the same office?
To help you do just that, we offer the following rules for working together when your team is remote. Break them at your own risk!
- Respect everyone’s place and time (zone). The people on your team may span multiple time zones and come from diverse cultural backgrounds. Take the time to get to know your teammates, learn their office hours, understand their roles, and figure out their approach to work. Kicking off your day by asking for updates and expecting immediate feedback will frustrate colleagues who are powering down and getting ready to walk out the door for the day. Scheduling meetings during off-hours is equally frustrating. You’ll work better together when tasks, deadlines, and other communications are pre-planned and timed appropriately for everyone involved.
- Leverage a messaging app, but escalate to live video when needed. You may find yourself often taking calls and firing off emails from early morning to late into the evening. But before you dial, email, chat, or pop open a video call, think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Often you can rescue your inbox from an ever-expanding email string by solving problems in real time with a messaging app. You can also use chats to keep work flowing, allowing team members who may be in meetings or on deadline to jump in and catch up when it’s convenient. Conversely, if chats are piling up and important points are getting lost in the mix, a quick video call can clear up misunderstandings.
- Know when to go face to face. It’s not hard to fall into the habit of messaging back and forth all day, or sitting passively on voice calls. But certain situations call for face to face meetings, like onboarding, project kick-offs, complicated exchanges, or conflict resolution. If it’s not possible to meet in person, video calls are the next best thing. With video conferencing, you’ll be able to respond to the facial expressions and body language of others in the conversation. In general, a good rule of thumb is to get your team together weekly for a video call to strengthen team relationships, reduce misunderstandings and stress, and ultimately get a productivity boost. Some companies keep a video call open all day to work ?together. This practice helps keep teams feeling connected, and it’s a great way to keep water cooler conversations going.
- Don’t lose the human touch. As tempting as it is to get right down to business on a call, in a chat, or during a video conference, it’s vital to maintain rapport with the other folks on your virtual team. You should know who has a dog and who likes to go rock climbing. It’s important for your team?s productivity that everyone gets to know everyone, just as you would if you sat 10 feet away from each other. Ultimately, people want to feel like part of a team, whether or not they’re sitting in the same office.
A Stanford study bears this out, concluding that ?even subtle suggestions of being part of a team dramatically increased people’s motivation and enjoyment in relation to difficult tasks, leading to greater perseverance and engagement and even higher levels of performance,?Click to tweet
- Keep everyone accountable. When you’re working remotely, it’s even more important to pay attention to what people are saying and doing. You won?t be bumping into folks in person later, where you can clear things up or throw around ideas. It may sound counterintuitive, but you can save a lot of time simply by reading emails carefully or taking a minute to catch up on what your teammates are saying in team chats. Be sure to ask questions in meetings to make sure you completely understand project ownership, next steps, and expected results. Keep meetings productive by assigning tasks to folks at the end. Then follow up to make sure things get done.
Next?we’ll dig a little deeper into rule No. 1 above, taking a page from Cal Newport and his book Deep Work. We’ll explore how we approach our jobs, what that means for our remote work relationships, and how people with differing personalities really can collaborate effectively.