Technology makes it possible to plug in from anywhere, but it can be hard to create a collaborative environment when working with a remote team. When the people you work with most often don’t share a physical space, effective communication and organization become key.
Here are three tips to help overcome the challenges of working with a remote team.
1.) Use Collaboration Tools:
We’re transitioning from WebEx to Zoom, and it’s working out well. Zoom has so far proved user-friendly and ideal when we want to play around with video and share our screens. Here is a write-up from the ID Solutions blog about some of Zoom’s benefits: Why Businesses are Choosing Zoom Over WebEx
We’ve also used Trello for keeping each other up-to-date on major account opportunities. It works as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool that allows my teammate in another state to view the notes I’ve added to an account we’re working on together. I’m sure it does a lot more, but, just like with Zoom, I am still learning the ropes.
2.) Share Weekly Activity Reports:
Every Friday, I send a “highlight reel” of our Major Accounts Team’s top priorities to everybody that might be involved in the project or affected by the outcome. It’s a simple Word document that includes estimated program values, timelines and a short summary of the latest developments. This ensures everyone has the background available if they’re involved in the project now or in the future.
3.) Make Time for Small Talk:
I don’t think we fully appreciate the value of brief conversations at the coffeemaker or when a co-worker stops by your desk to say hello. Small talk gets a bad rap and I don’t often seek it out myself, especially early in the morning. But just sitting here writing this, I can remember three occasions over the past few years where a random, unplanned encounter changed the course of a project or the way we were thinking about a department initiative.
So, how do you replicate these serendipitous situations without being the weirdo who calls your remote co-workers out of the blue to ask about their hopes and dreams?
We tried monthly check-ins for our entire team but the schedules got too crazy, resulting in an average of one successful call per 10 attempts. So we scaled back to one-on-one weekly calls with our direct supervisor. These cover any issues that might otherwise go unmentioned because they aren’t urgent or directly related to a specific opportunity. Because he has a higher-level view of the company as a whole, this has helped us make connections across departments and ideas.
It also doesn’t hurt to show your co-workers that out of sight doesn’t necessarily mean out of mind. If you come across an interesting article or offering about something they enjoy – for example camping, video gaming, basket weaving – send it along. They’re sure to appreciate, might reciprocate and – before you know it – you’ve gained not just a professional pal but a new appreciation for the origins of basketry.
How do you connect with colleagues across North America and around the world?
Please weigh in with comments on working with a remote team or how you handle telecommuting.