Remote teams are fast becoming a way of life for many businesses, as they move away from the traditional office environment in a bid to reduce overheads and gain more flexibility when hiring employees.
As remote staff can be located anywhere in the world, it’s not unusual to have a team of people working together across different time zones. Such geographical challenges mean that effective communication is paramount, and the vital ingredient that will determine your success.
Not only is it important in getting the work done, but it’s important in forming the personal relationships that lead to productivity, efficiency, good morale and team spirit. Without the ability to ask and answer questions, have meetings and share documents, a remote team simply cannot function.
As a small business owner, and the leader of your virtual team, it’s your responsibility to create the right environment for effective communication and good teamwork by:
- Providing detailed instructions and procedures
- Encouraging a culture of asking questions
- Providing good feedback and constructive criticism
- Managing projects and ensuring accountability
- Scheduling regular meetings
- Having good tools and systems in place
That last one is the most important. When you’re working online, tools and systems facilitate all the other elements, so it’s crucial to get them right. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Sharing documents and procedures
Dropbox/Google Docs: Any remote team will need to have a safe and secure way to share documents, and these are two of the best cloud options. Both can be installed onto your desktop and synced to any mobile device you have.
Asking and answering questions
Facebook groups: Facebook groups can allow you and your team members to share ideas, images, and questions in a message board type of environment. Great for allowing your team to get to know and support each other, and is especially useful if you’re all in different time zones.
Asana/TeamworkPM/TriggerApp: It’s best to keep all project-related communication in one place using project management software (as opposed to cluttering up everyone’s email inboxes). This will also allow you to monitor progress, delegate tasks and ensure acountability and traceability.
Email: Whilst its best to use a forum such as Facebook for quick questions and general chat, and a project management system for task-related communication, you will always need email! Its important to provide detailed feedback to your team on a regular basis and email allows you to do this individually and privately.
Virtual team meetings
Skype/Google Hangouts: Even when you’re working virtually you can still do face-to-face! This is really important for building relationships and making sure your instructions have been understood. As well as voice or video meetings, you can also use these apps to send instant messages, share documents, and share screens if you need to show a team member what to do in real time.
Are you part of a remote team? Or are you just beginning to build your team? Share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments!