A Guide to Operating a Remote Team10 min read
You never forget your first time.
The anxiety, the stress… Would your equipment work properly? Would your boss really believe you were working when she couldn’t see it for herself?
Many of us have been on both sides of a remote team—as a manager or individual—at least once in our careers. It could just be a day where your car was broken and you had to join calls from your cell phone. Or maybe you are like 70% of the global population who choose to work at home to avoid the commute, the lost time, or maybe just to take a lunchtime nap.
It can be hard to feel connected when you’re not in the office, but fear not! In this guide to remote work, I will take you through some remote working tips including:
- Remote team communication
- Remote team collaboration
- How to win at remote team building
- Managing a remote team or employee
- Predictions for the collaboration 2.0 movement
Remote working tips
So you’ve decided to go remote… Off-the-grid, become a nomad, work at the beach, at home, on a plane, on a train, with a Cat, with a Hat… you get the idea. If you have already been working remote then you’ve probably already developed some of your own ways to be productive and succeed, but if you are jumping in as a new grad or recent convert from a big corporation this remote work guide can be a helpful way towards your remote work dreams.
READ FIRST: The most important first remote working tip is to prepare to retrain your brain completely on how to work by yourself and interact with others in a work setting. In school, movies, sitcoms, and previous office experiences we are taught to operate with others in a certain way. We learn to interact face to face, to discuss the latest Game of Thrones episode at the water cooler, to talk about sports or vacations over lunch and even enjoy working with others. The emotion and connection of those things are all still possible in remote work, but just need to be worked on in a different way. This remote worker guide will give you some ideas to get you started.
Remote team communication
These tips may differ a little depending on where you are on the remote working spectrum, but a key component of success is communication.
At different points in my career I have managed global remote employees and contractors. Generally it was significantly harder to meet live on a video or conference call all the time. It usually ended up in an early morning or late night meeting, which is less than ideal. Working remote gives people the option to work any time—9 to 5 is not something typically said in the remote world. Due to that, it was difficult to find the right time to talk.
Plus, there’s another factor to take into consideration… Time zones. If you think they are a pain when it comes to flying, you haven’t seen the brunt of it. Proper communication among your team can help ensure no meeting goes unattended and no conference call is left with silence on one end.
Tools like Zoom, CloudApp, Slack, and others can connect you visually
Remote team collaboration
When you work in a physical space, collaboration is almost effortless. All it takes is a simple walk to someone’s desk to ask them a question or start a conversation and voila! When it comes to remote work, it isn’t that simple. Since remote work has become increasingly popular, however, the digital world has taken the hint and adapted.
Long gone are the days when you would send a remote team member an email and just hope they get it and respond. Let’s not even think about the days where your email threads were 12 messages long—and that was just to set up a call. When it comes to collaborating with your remote team, the digital world has your back.
So how can you up your collaboration efforts?
Pick the right tools for team building
Going remote in the 21st century has never been easier. There are endless resources to improve communication, effectiveness, productivity, and efficiency.
Not keen on giving up text-based communication, but also want a more efficient means of doing it? As you may have guessed, Slack is an essential tool for remote teams. Messaging streams can be divided up by functions within your team—developers, designers, etc can all have their own designated chat.
Sharing documents and navigating the archive is also incredibly simple and the interface only pushes that simplicity—making it easy to use for anyone no matter their “tech-level.”
Slack can even be used to create your virtual ‘water cooler moments’—set up a #random or other channel that encourages workers to share where they’re working from, what they did on the weekend, or just the latest funny meme they’ve found.
Communicate with your coworkers with Slack
Okay, it’s time to get real and vulnerable—organization can be downright difficult for remote teams. Whether you are running an entire team or amass project after project on a daily basis, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and lose track of it all. Asana is a scheduling software that goes beyond what a regular calender can do. It allows you to view what has been started, what is pending, deadlines, stages, and even what your team is doing. Organizing your team’s tasks creates a structure based on achieving goals in a creative and simplistic manner.
Asana is an application designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work
It’s easy to picture a boring black and white calendar when we think of organization. Update: organization can actually be fun—crazy, right? Airtable has a unique interface and similar to Asana, aims to provide teams with the organization needed to improve workflow and collaboration.
Airtable provides a great way to share collaborative calendars remotely
A picture is worth a thousand words. So that must mean a video is worth… well, a lot more than that! I have to toot my own horn here when talking about all CloudApp does. CloudApp gives a very personable feel to any interaction, allowing remote team members to visually communicate with each other, no matter where they are. The screen recorder allows for visual explanations of things—no more trying to figure out the best way to word something and hope people understand!
CloudApp enables collaboration through sharable videos, GIFs, and screenshots
Pick the best medium for managing remote teams
When it comes to communication, there are so many ways to do it—video, text, GIFs, face-to-face. When working remotely, it’s important to pick the right medium. Do the tasks at hand possess a lot of visual aspects? Can instructions be delivered in a matter of a few words? Do you opt for video, not only because it’s convenient, but because it gives you a chance to subtly flex your new home office decor in the background?
Choosing the medium that best aligns with the goals and matters at hand is a great way to optimize overall workflow. It’s also good to set up a priority level for each. E.g:
Email-Low; Slack-Medium; Text/Phone-Immediate, etc…
- Slack is a great medium if you are looking for instantaneous responses and the ability to create multiple channels without getting confused.
- Email may be considered old-fashioned but let’s face it, it’s still a great tool when it comes to professional communication.
- CloudApp and Zoom take on a more visual approach that can aid in projects and presentations that just can’t be put into words.
- Text or phone are great for reaching people when your issue is urgent enough to interrupt whatever they’re working on.
Create relationships: professional and informal
There are a bevy of options when it comes to connecting with your remote team or as a remote freelancer and the best news is that these options are right at our your fingertips. These include;
- Facebook groups
- Slack channels
- Twitter chats
- LinkedIn groups
Relationships built with your team don’t have to be 100% professional at all times. Create friendships and bonds. Your team members are there to help you, and vice versa. Creating these relationships can help reduce any friction and awkwardness, making you and others more receptive to open lines of communication and collaborations.
Creating outlets as a remote manager
Handling a remote team requires a lot of responsibility and beyond delegating tasks, it also requires creating that sense of collaboration, even if you are thousands of miles apart. Regardless of distance, your team is still made up of individuals who, at times, may need to work together. Creating open streams of communication and adding a personable element can allow for team members and freelancers to truly feel like part of the team.
How can remote managers do this?
Create groups, create informal streams, create GIFs and personable videos and make your team members or freelancers aware of these mediums; encourage them to engulf themselves with the team.
Predictions for the collaboration 2.0 movement
Remote work continues to become increasingly popular. Being able to work from anywhere and operate on your own hours is an enticing lifestyle for many. Businesses are taking note and jumping on this bandwagon, welcoming more and more remote and freelance workers. What does this have to do with collaboration exactly?
As remote work grows, so too will the need for strategies and tools to enable collaboration.
With the growth of remote work, businesses are adopting new models in efforts to better collaborate and improve upon workflow when it comes to remote workers. Video software has turned remote collaborations more personal by replicating in-person interactions. Slack revolutionized standard messaging and simplified the way we share and receive information from our remote team. All in all, businesses are continuing to expand their efforts in the realm of online collaboration, making remote work more effective.
Looking at today’s trends, it would be ludicrous to assume that remote work won’t become vastly popular. While there are some jobs that cannot make the shift (a virtual mechanic isn’t much help), the ones that can are promptly revamping their efforts to make remote work a more accepted and appreciated means of working in the 21st century.
Operating a remote team requires a certain level of responsibility and a high desire for collaboration, despite spacial differences. However, with all the resources and tools out there, it’s on track to becoming the norm when it comes to day-to-day work.