The digital revolution has done a lot for productivity. From project management apps to communication platforms, software has continuously helped teams work smarter and become more organized. It has also given rise to the remote worker, whose office is their home (or virtually anywhere else) and whose hours on the clock can be difficult to pin down.

In a lot of ways, remote workers have helped companies expand their reach and bring on employees who have excellent skill sets but geographic restrictions. At the same time, working in remote teams presents its own challenges. It can be hard to organize meetings, stay on top of due dates, and navigate time zones. It takes a lot of trust, communication, and organization to run a successful remote team. In my experience, successful remote teams have a few things in common.

1. Communicate constantly.

The most important thing for remote teams is communication. Each member of the team has to be willing to answer calls, texts, emails, or direct messages regularly, even when they consider themselves off the clock. If a team member is going to be unavailable for whatever reason, they should send a message to the others to let them know.  

Using platforms like Slack, Telegram, or HipChat are extremely useful for maintaining an open line of communication. Large remote teams should consider creating a general chat room for the entire team, subgroups focused on each department, and one-to-one chats as necessary. This way, there's a constant flow of communication in a central place that everyone can access.

2. Bring on people you trust.

Remote work requires a lot of trust, because it's difficult to hold any one team member accountable for their day-to-day work. Bring on only those people who you know will do their work without a manager looking over their shoulder.

It's crucial that each team member meets their planned deadlines, and does so with quality work that needs very few touchups. Not only do you need to trust them to do the work, but you also need to trust them to deliver quality copy on time. If you find yourself nervous about one team member's ability to deliver, that's a red flag and could undermine the rest of the team's productivity.

3. Be flexible with one another.

Because remote teams are often connected 24/7, especially when they're international in nature, it's important to respect one another's boundaries. If one team member makes clear they have a prior engagement, for example, or are unable to join a late-night conference call (in their time zone), other team members should respect their freedom. Only when this kind of behavior is habitual or critically undermining the team's ability to function should the team member be admonished for it.

A remote team is more than just a working arrangement. It's an ongoing group effort that rarely pauses. It's important to recognize when a member needs and deserves a break, and it's important to do the same for yourself. An overworked team member is an unproductive team member.

4. Use software to your advantage.

In a remote team, software is your biggest ally. I've already mentioned the usefulness of chat platforms, but there are also videoconference solutions, project management software, time and attendance systems, and many other options. These solutions help to organize your team and keep you on the same page through cloud-based applications.

Project management software is a great way to see who is working on what tasks and when their assignment should be completed. It helps break down a larger project into its component parts and keep everyone apprised of the bigger picture. This is especially true for remote teams, which cannot just jump into a conference room for a quick catch-up.

5. Schedule regular check-ins.

Finally, weekly or biweekly conference calls are a must. While you might stay in touch on your group chat daily, setting up conference calls with specific agendas helps everyone stay on the same page and gives them an outline for their responsibilities in the immediate future. Conference calls also create a layer of accountability, because nobody wants to appear unprepared in front of the entire team.

Set aside an hour once or twice a week and circulate a conference call link. There are a number of free conference call services out there, and these regularly scheduled check-ins will help keep your team moving in the right direction.

Published on: Apr 25, 2018