How To Build an Efficient Remote Team?
The advantages of remote work are becoming common knowledge, as many companies have found that introducing permanent WFH positions has had a positive effect on employee satisfaction, productivity, and efficiency. These, along with the pandemic crisis, have lead to businesses around the world reorganizing the way they operate and assigning an increasing number of employees to remote positions.
This situation has produced a new challenge for managers: how to build an efficient remote team? Maintaining team efficiency is challenging enough when you can have all team members sitting at the same table, so how do you do it when all (or some) of them are working from their homes?
Although this is new terrain for most people, the same basic principles for building efficient teams still apply, with the addition of a couple of tweaks.
Choose The Right People
Hiring or assigning employees to a project is the first and arguably most important step. Naturally, you want people with complementary character traits and skills, both in terms of technology and interpersonal relationships. While they may be assigned different tasks, they will all share a common goal and defined objectives.
Apart from the usual criteria when selecting team members, such as expertise and qualifications, considering the specificity of working in a remote team, discipline, reliability, and the ability to work autonomously also need to be emphasized.
The reasoning behind this lies in the fact that managers will not be able to supervise their work directly, so they will need to manage their own time and deliver results. In addition, the team members will not be able to count on the same level of support compared to working in an office, so they may need to make some decisions on their own and think on their feet.
Choosing the members and structuring the team is only have of the work, though. Once you have the right people for the job, you will need to make sure they are motivated and as efficient as possible.
Establish Clear Instructions and Expectations
Setting clear goals and guidelines is vital for optimizing team efficiency and establishing expectations to be met. Since goals, guidelines, and expectations can vary considerably depending on the nature of the project or task, your best bet is to stick to the same principles that govern in-office team organization, with the addition of a few that are specific to remote teams.
If necessary, specify work hours or times when the team members are to be available online, as well as how often they should check in. This way, you will know when you can reach any of them if the need should arise, as well as set up an input and feedback dynamic.
Another important step is establishing individual and team goals. These can be short-term, mid-term, long-term, or any combination thereof, and will make it easier to evaluate progress, as well as allow them to stay on track and self-evaluate. Make sure the goals are realistic, though, as setting unachievable goals will hurt the team’s morale and self-confidence.
Finally, designate a contact person for specific matters or issues, as well as the means of communication to be used in certain events.
Establish Communication Channels
Unimpeded communication is crucial for any corporate environment, and even more so for remote employees and teams. Establishing communication channels for regular team meetings, correspondence between team members, and vertical reporting will ensure everyone is on the same page and that communication runs smoothly at all times.
The communication platforms you designate for this purpose will depend on several factors related to the nature of work and communication needs. Some of the most common types of communication channels used by remote teams are direct messengers, project management tools, video call tools, and email. They all have their best uses, and most businesses use all of them combined, each for a different type of information sharing.
Apart from the obvious purpose of circulating information and coordinating work, establishing communication channels also contributes to employee engagement, as it creates connections between remote workers and helps them feel a part of a larger organizational unit. Employee engagement is another challenge of remote work that we’ll cover later on.
Facilitating communication within and with a remote team will require you to rely heavily on technology. However, it shouldn’t be a difficult task, considering all the options available to you and the general computer literacy of most employees and managers.
Provide Them With the Tools They Need
Providing the remote team with the right tools will have a great effect on their productivity, efficiency, and general performance. Apart from communication and project management tools, there may also be some job-specific hardware and/or software your remote employees will need in order to be efficient.
Consider the tasks and needs of each team member and how various digital tools could help them organize, streamline, and complete different aspects of their job. Asking for their input regarding the tools they will need and meeting their requirements if possible is probably the best course of action, as they are probably more experienced and adept at using some tools, and are likely to know which ones they will need access to.
Consulting them on this subject will also show you care about their opinion and value them as professionals, which contributes to their engagement levels.
Although several subscriptions to digital tools may cost you some money, they are a good investment in most cases, as they will automate some of the work, while significantly boosting the efficiency and productivity of each individual, as well as the team as a whole. Besides, you can think of it as reinvesting the money saved on in-office expenses.
Keep the Team Members Engaged
Working from home for long periods of time can lead to a feeling of isolation and disconnectedness from the rest of the company. In turn, this can result in a morale drop and affect the efficiency of your remote employees. In order to keep your team members engaged, you should try to simulate an office experience and check in with them from time to time.
Scheduling regular team or department meetings is a good place to start. Make sure to use these meetings to discuss everything business-related, but also take the time to inquire about the well-being of the team members, ask for their input, and acknowledge their ideas. An engaged employee will be far more productive and useful both for the team and the company.
Company culture is an integral part of employee engagement, so make sure you communicate the company’s mission and values to all employees. Granted, that may be more difficult when it comes to remote teams, but it is just as (if not more) important. Incorporate company culture into every interaction with the team, whether it’s a team meeting or a one-on-one video call. Finally, and most importantly, lead by example.
Company culture and team chemistry are also factors you should keep in mind during the selection process. After all, it’s much easier to build and maintain employee engagement and company culture when the team members understand and identify with it, while also functioning well together.
Encourage Team Bonding
Developing connections between remote employees can be a bit more challenging, but is possible, and more importantly, beneficial for their general efficiency. If at least some of the team members already have a history of working together, you won’t have as much to worry about, but you should definitely facilitate building and maintaining the relationships between all members of the team.
If it is possible, organize periodic congregations, especially if meeting in person is feasible and makes sense. An alternative is to use digital communication tools to build relationships in an informal environment. Having positive relationships with other team members will go a long way in building commitment to the team and reinforcing the sense that they are a part of a larger organization.
Use team meetings to encourage open communication between them and find ways they can collaborate on various tasks, even if it is not entirely necessary. Knowing that they depend on each other to fulfill their goals and complete assignments will encourage team members to work more closely together and form professional relationships, even if they have never met in person.
As a result of your efforts to encourage bonding, you will get a closely-knit team, ready to adapt to each other and achieve more through a joint effort. After all, we all want to work with people we like and respect, and getting to know someone both personally and professionally takes some time and effort, especially in a virtual work environment.
Building and managing an efficient remote team is not an easy task by any means. However, with the technology and digital tools available today, it is far from impossible and can be an efficient business model for many organizations.
The diversity of team members, flexibility, savings, and increased productivity remote teams can facilitate should be enough to justify the initial organizational efforts.
With the right methods and approach to building a remote team, you can ensure the commitment, efficiency, and loyalty of all team members, and witness the team truly becoming much more than a sum of its parts.
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