The world has changed. We are all working remotely and trying to keep our businesses moving forward. At CRMNinjas, we are no stranger to working remotely. We offer our customers a virtual Salesforce Admin-As-A-Service to help maximize their investments.
If you aren’t familiar, a distributed or remote team is a decentralized group that can work from anywhere in the world. They could be in a neighboring city, a building next door or a totally different country. A distributed team can reduce operational costs, increase productivity and leverage untapped talent. Many people are restricted from being in different geographies or need to work from home for various reasons such as commute, health, obligations, cost of living or other necessities. By working remotely, people can feel fulfilled with meaningful work and be more productive because they don’t have the constraint of going into an office.
With many of us currently working in a socially distant world, many companies are challenged with working in a distributed work environment especially if they haven’t done it before. Here are 9 tips we came up with to help manage and create a performance-driven environment while working in our pajamas.
It is critical to hold scheduled and structured meetings every week. A brief daily meeting will help team members stay connected, ask spontaneous questions and be held accountable for their work. Even a daily email update that encourages group replies may help. Structureless meetings and rambling video conferences are boring and annoying productivity killers. Meetings should be results-driven with a clear agenda. An online follow-up checklist with assignments, due dates for those responsible can be helpful.
Remote work members will have a clear sense of purpose, priorities and collective mission. Effective distributed teams will enjoy free-flowing information because members are willing to share what they know and how to learn it. Traditional companies indirectly encourage the opposite behavior by making certain employees be gatekeepers of valuable knowledge. Distributed team members know that hoarding insights, hacks, and experiences are detrimental. As team members respect and understand each other more, trust will be stronger, communication will flow better, and group cohesion will increase.
Effective project management is key to the survival and thriving of remote teams. Even if the major assignment is an internal project, having a detailed project plan provides a sense of purpose. This plan can include deliverables, individual goals, member expectations, working procedures, and milestone dates. There should be a single point of client contact for external projects. When it comes to remote teams, managers must learn how to allow other team members to wear different hats and try new tasks.
Staying connected may be essential in managing remote teams, but not every team member will communicate the same. Introverted staff may prefer IMs, detail-oriented staff may prefer email and on-the-go staff may prefer smartphones. Managers can facilitate communication by honoring personal preferences while requiring a single, centralized solution. For example, using project management tools such as TaskRay, Trello, Monday, Jira, and more that can track tasks, activities, deadlines, and documentation. Google Docs, Dropbox, and Box help with sharing documents. Zoom, Go-To-Meeting, Webex, and others provide video meetings to allow team members to work together on a project while using different devices. Try to keep things consolidated so it doesn’t fragment communication, but keep things flexible to fix the team culture as you expand.
Remote teams are still people. It’s important to remember that. Even though you aren’t working in the same place, you need to provide for them as if they were. If you used to provide lunches or snacks in the office, try to find a way to offer the same for people virtually. If your team needs an assistant for research, creating documents or other tasks, be sure to add that to the team. Work with a human resources team that can help you with regulations for different locations so you are providing the right benefits and meeting local regulations.
Geographic distance and interpersonal unfamiliarity can make it hard for new members to integrate themselves into the team. Some team members use email introductions with picture and brief bio to list the new team member’s skills and accomplishments. Others always turn on the video for calls. Your team can share a personal anecdote every day. Team members may never meet until there is a special event or a critical project milestone, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get to know each other every day.
Go through the hiring process as if you were working in the same location, but just be mindful of things that will help or hinder their ability to work effectively in a virtual environment. Communication is the key for them to be great virtual workers. Here are a few things to be mindful of channels they prefer to communicate, the ability to over-communicate, and their ability to hit deadlines without oversight. If you suspect any potential problems, then you shouldn’t hire them.
Jumping into the world of remote work isn’t always a smooth transition. Distributed teams may face problems like different styles, time zones, and cultures. Different cultures mean staff will have different values, work ethics, and communication styles. This can lead to misperceptions and misunderstandings. Time zone mismatches mean business meetings will need strong scheduling and follow-up communication. If one decision-maker favors their own time zone, which is inconvenient for overseas team members, this may create conflict. A lack of face-to-face interaction means employees may struggle to read their peer’s emotions and establish a strong rapport with each other.
Don’t forget that tasteful humor is the key to successful management. Appropriate humor encourages people to open up and be themselves. Humor reduces stress, boosts morale, humanizes people and overcomes culture and language barriers. As employees are more relaxed, they will be able to build trust and reveal the authentic person underneath the professional suit.
A Distributed team doesn’t mean you can’t act like a team and be effective. It just means you aren’t in the same location. Overall, try to do what you would do if you were in the same location. Just be mindful to do things virtually. Enjoy this time of being remote and maximize your team performance.
CRMNinjas’ recommended Resources for remote team collaboration (We use these):
TaskRay Project Management
Formstack Online Forms
Zoom Online Meetings
HelloSign Contactless e-signatures