In the modern workplace, remote teams are becoming commonplace. Many of us now work with colleagues in different buildings, cities, and even countries. We may be in different time zones and sometimes even speak different languages. Some remote workers meet in person on a regular basis, while others haven’t even been face to face once. No matter how remote teams are organized, ensuring that everyone stays on track is no easy task.
Telecommuting is beneficial because it minimizes overhead costs while giving employees flexibility. Geographically dispersed teams present challenges for management, however. How do you supervise employees located in different locations and time zones? How do you build trust and help remote workers feel like they’re a part of a team? How do you communicate effectively with remote workers?
At Add-On Products, we have a development team in Vietnam. Working and collaborating with our team in Vietnam on a regular basis has helped us learn what it takes to successfully manage and communicate with a remote team in a different time zone, country, and culture. Having access to our own collaboration tools for Microsoft Outlook® has proven crucial to our success. We’ve learned specifically what’s needed to keep remote team members from feeling isolated and help them stay on track to reaching our company objectives.
Communication is central to effectively working with a remote team. A simple misunderstanding could have a significant impact on your productivity. For example, if you don’t fully understand a message that a remote worker sent before he ended his day, you won’t be able to get the work done until he comes back the next day.
The most effective remote teams communicate clearly and often, even if they feel like they’re being repetitive. This helps prevents miscommunication and misunderstanding. Having a team calendar system, like WebTeam Central, enables good communication because remote team members can quickly and easily determine the schedules and availability of their colleagues. They can then use the same interface to book meetings and videoconferences with their team members via Resource Central. Team calendar software makes it easier for teams to set up meetings in advance as well as meet spontaneously.
Most of the communication in a remote team is written, as putting it in writing is is far more efficient than videoconferences or phone calls. Written communication is also searchable. You can search for the information you need later, so you don’t forget anything and can hold everyone accountable.
It’s important for managers to create open communication channels with their employees. They should set clear expectations, such as determining how quickly they need to respond to emails, which days check-in calls should take place, and how remote workers should follow up after meetings. Managers also need to communicate effectively in order for remote workers to feel connected and not forgotten.
When there’s a physical distance between employees, it can sometimes create a feeling of “us vs. them.” It’s important for management to treat remote employees the same way and not refer to them any differently to avoid creating rifts. In order to build trust and familiarity, managers need to get to know their remote workers on a personal level by reserving the first few minutes of videoconferences and calls to make small talk about weekend plans, kids, pets, and other personal topics that you normally discuss at work. These personal details help your team feel connected and get to know each other better.
Tight-knit remote teams have access to effective tools that facilitate and enhance communication. It’s important to have regular, personal contact with your teammates in order to build a sense of camaraderie and create a unified sense of purpose. The tools you use, from meeting booking software to team calendar software, should support easy, fluid communication that strengthens interactions and relationships between team members.
Managers should evaluate remote workers’ job performance in the same way that they assess that of their on-site co-workers. It’s easy for remote workers to feel like their actions aren’t noticed or like they’re invisible. Managers can generously praise remote employees to make them feel recognized and let on-site employees know that their remote counterparts are pulling their weight.
While projects are in progress, it’s crucial for remote teams to communicate frequently with individual team members and as a whole. Cloud-based collaboration and resource planning tools and software keep everyone on track and in sync. They allow project managers to coordinate assets, assign responsibilities, and keep track of the details of various projects in order to be able to adjust work priorities as needed.
Using collaboration tools makes remote employees feel less remote. Giving employees the ability to easily communicate with one another and have those “water cooler” moments is crucial to facilitating spontaneous workplace conversations that build a sense of camaraderie and connection.
Tools are important in remote workplaces because they keep everyone on the same page and organize team members. In a traditional office, you can just round everybody up and have a meeting to get everyone on track, but in a remote working environment, you need to have collaboration software to ensure that everyone stays informed and in the know.
Remote teams are isolated physically, so facilitating their collaboration efforts is vital. Add-On Products offers tools for Microsoft Outlook® and Exchange that keep remote teams engaged and productive. Exchange Central is a team calendar for Outlook that improves collaboration by providing user-friendly overviews of your team’s calendars. WebTeam Central has the same features as Exchange Central, except that it’s web-based, so you can keep track of your team’s schedule and update your calendar, even while you’re on the move. Contact Add-On Products today to request a demo or download a free trial of our tools!