COVID-19 has completely changed the way companies operate. Remote teams have existed for a while now, but the current pandemic situation around the globe has forced a majority of employees to work remotely. Compared to pre-COVID-19 times, companies now have realized that remote teams are highly productive.
“It’s critical for business leaders to understand that large-scale shifts are changing how people work and how business gets done,” says Brian Kropp, distinguished vice president, Gartner.
A remote work environment allows companies to hire the best talents without any geographic limitations. There are various pros and cons of remote teams when compared to the traditional office-based workforce.
However, one key challenge is managing a remote team. For example, in a regular office, you can talk to your colleague face to face if you need some help. But the situation is not the same in a remote team. You might have to wait for hours before you hear back from your teammates. In an live office environment, you know who is available and how occupied they are. But same is not the case in a remote team. How would you know what your team member is working on if they themselves have not messaged or talked to you?
We also need to understand that remote working comes with its limitations. Creating trust and rapport online requires a different amount of effort and cannot replace the face-to-face interaction. While sharing information is easy, building trust among team members is tougher.
However, when your remote team members trust each other, it creates a highly productive, intelligent, smart pool of people with unique competencies ready to build great products and deliver the best services.
To understand why trust is so important in every team, we need to look at our armed forces. Members of the military trust their group and partners with their lives. No matter what happens, they stand by each other only because they believe in each other.
Tips for Remote Teambuilding
Let’s explore we can build highly productive remote teams that trust each other.
1. Integrate asynchronous communication.
It all starts with a conversation; it is the only way we feel connected. Lately, everyone is talking about asynchronous communication. Just in case you heard it for the first time, it’s a kind of communication that does not take place in real time. It takes away the need for people to respond to each other at the same time. With specific rules, every team member is free to respond when they are ready. Asynchronous communication boosts a team’s productivity as employees are free to work as per their time schedules. No one is necessarily expecting an immediate response unless it’s an extreme emergency. All you need is some ground rules to effectively implement asynchronous communication within your team.
2. Set up occasional chit-chat meetings.
When in an office, individuals can walk up to a person and discuss how they are feeling. It does not have to be necessarily about work but could be anything personal, as well. We do this to build healthy working relations and know our colleagues better. But in remote teams, we often talk about work all the time, be it in group chats or calls. To effectively know each other, set up short one-to-one meetings occasionally with your team members and discuss anything other than work. Missing water cooler conversations from the office? then try an occasional chit-chat meeting and feel how well you can connect with your peers. This will immediately boost your trust while working with those colleagues the next time.
3. Understand the challenges of the new normal and share your challenges as people open up when you are vulnerable.
Remote working has become the new normal, no question about it. But adjusting with the new normal is challenging for everyone. Every team member needs to understand that his or her colleagues might be facing some challenges while they try to work remotely. Instead of getting angry with someone for not completing a task, try to understand why he or she was not able to do it. For example, some team member might not be equipped with the necessary home environment, systems and tools, or knowledge to operate. That actually is the case with everyone—we might be best at one thing and average in a few other things. It’s the same with the rest of the team. So try to help your colleagues overcome remote working challenges. Share your challenges and show them how you overcame them. Let your team members open up and share their problems before you judge them for not being efficient.
4. Make it easier, provide support.
In the current pandemic situation, almost everyone is working from home. Schools are temporarily shut down, and even the kids are taking classes from home. This creates a situation at home where there will be a lot of disturbance and distraction as every family member is trying to do his or her job from home. Parents have to work around their children’s schedules. Your team members might have kids they need to take care of, so be supportive and cooperate with them. Make it easier for your team members to manage their work while they struggle to handle their family responsibilities.
5. Ask for a calendar that works—not everyone can sync in the same times.
You may consider it an advantage or disadvantage, but working remotely means not all team members work in the same time zone. Due to time zone differences and the basis of work priority, every team member might be working at different hours of the day. However, to smoothly function as a team, there has to be communication—preferably verbal communication at the least, if not face-to-face communication. Therefore, it is essential that when scheduling meetings to figure out a time that suits all members of the team. Try to adjust your time schedule to attend calls so the whole team is in sync. Before setting a meeting, check if the needed team members will be available at that time.
It is up to the team leads and managers to establish a work culture based on trust to allow each team member to engage and collaborate effectively with the rest of the team. Building trust in your remote team will help build a highly productive remote team.
Anurag Singh is Inbound Marketing manager at zipBoard.co, a visual review software company that supports businesses create great products using the power of visual feedback. He is passionate about the power of visual review and client feedback. In his current role Singh likes to research and write on topics around e-learning development, Web development collaboration, remote working, and team collaboration. Founded in 2016, zipBoard has helped business improve the feedback loop cycle by introducing a cloud based SaaS software to manage client feedback. For more information, visit : zipBoard.co