We strive every day to solve our customers’ problems and help make their job just a little bit easier. When everyone on the team does support, everyone gets to hear the voice of the customer. We’re major G Suite people, and we use Quip for internal documentation, but we’ve recently moved toward Coda. Designed to combine documents, spreadsheets, and app features like Kanban boards and mini databases, Coda’s main focus is on detailed documents. This is the place where we surface important conversations that might get lost in the fast-paced Slack.
In the absence of the kind of watercooler conversations that routinely take place in a traditional workplace, teams can find ways to replicate that experience virtually. Zapier, a distributed software company, fosters connectedness with weekly virtual “hangouts” where team members get together just to talk. They also have a “Pair Buddies” program which randomly pairs teammates for a 10- to 15-minute phone call that enhances a sense of community and connectedness. Managing remote teams is in Felicia Kohlenberger’s professional DNA. Throughout her HR career, she has worked for multiple remote-friendly companies, including Cellular One, PwC Consulting, CNA Insurance, PepsiCo and McDonald’s. Her experience dovetails with research cited by the Remote Leadership Institute showing that 70 percent of managers at Fortune 100 companies have at least one remote team member.
Unlike text or voice-based tools, video conferencing platforms allow participants to see visual cues, gestures and expressions — just like real-life conversations. And without using a variety of these tools, you limit the effectiveness of your virtual team. Remote teams that work across different time zones can use common availability hours for real-time collaboration. You can offer stipends for co-working spaces for employees who don’t have a home office or cover costs to send employees to business conferences and professional development courses. Don’t postpone celebrations until you have achieved your big, long-term goals. If your employees strive to deliver good results and don’t get to celebrate the impact their efforts create, they might feel discouraged about their performance.
It can seem too time-consuming at first, however, it will pay off in the long run. Utilize different channels in team chat apps to strengthen both official and informal communication and keep all team members in the loop. However, for the vast majority of remote organizations, the problem of remote team disconnect slips under the radar for way too long due to its intangible nature. Create a general chat room for employees to make it easier for them to get to know each other closer. This lets them exchange professional tips, news, jokes, and even pictures of their fluffy pets that interrupt team individuals as they work at home. The Operations team has even created daily meetings specifically to talk about anything but business.
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Neither is furniture, or electricity, or business-level internet access . We were lucky that, as far as collaboration goes, things were business as usual and we were able to move quickly and without interruption.
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Also encourage remote workers to work without distractions for blocks of time each day – even if that means turning off certain communication channels – and to take breaks as needed. Workers that can get into a “flow state” with their work, and take their scheduled breaks, will be much more effective than those who are constantly connected. Measure engagement with tools that can garner feedback anonymously, such as TINYPulse, so employees feel empowered to truly speak their minds. You can also invite feedback in a public setting, such as an all-hands meeting, and encourage honest feedback on the direction of the company or how work gets done. You can, and should, encourage remote workers to let their personalities shine through in these communications.
Just imagine the cracks through which things can fall when your full team is working remotely. And it’s not just that these casual opportunities to connect are less frequent, it’s the familiar exchange of team information that’s been fully disrupted. One easy way to mitigate that is to have folks on the team get paired up with one other teammate or two at random each week for a short pair call. We use Donut in Slack for this to chat about life, work, or whatever random thing seems interesting. Sometimes cool new product features come out of these, other times it’s just good fun. Help Scout is the tool we use to support our customers day in and day out. We also have a list of Slack apps, and ideas for Slack channels, which can help promote connection and collaboration with remote workers.
Promote a sense of camaraderie and community by highlighting and celebrating each other’s achievements. Share the report in a company chat app and let other teams join the celebration. One of the best strategies to reignite motivation and connection among your remote teams is to introduce an element of play and make the work fun again. For additional motivation, assign accountability work buddies to add to the responsibility factor, and gamify the entire experience. Consequently, open communication fosters improved collaboration and productivity. Namely, connected and aligned teams form more meaningful work relationships which then create better cross-functional communication and lower the risk of developing team silos. Each team is encouraged to set up a workflow that works best for them.
While fully remote models offer complete flexibility, hybrid models can provide a balance between personal interaction and remote efficiency. “We need to get everyone involved and make them feel like they are part of the larger organization. We can’t afford to forget about the people working in the field,” Kohlenberger said. You’re establishing the rules for how your team operates and what the expectations are for each member. Usually this is just one person jumping on a flight to visit another person or, if more than a couple of staff members live in close proximity , they’ll have impromptu co-working sessions.