Remote Work 101: Best Practices & Tips for Remote Teams
Remote working is transforming productivity as we know it and is shaping up to be the most significant factor that will determine the future of work.
And why not?
It’s healthier for the environment, gives everyone more time to spend with family, prioritizes work-life balance, and if done well, helps build more dynamic relationships between remote team members.
Even if that doesn’t convince you, the numbers should: according to Buffer’s State of Remote report, just over 99% of workers interviewed stated they’d love to work remote at least some time for the rest of their careers.
Now, recent unfortunate happenings (COVID-19) have only served to drive remote working more mainstream, but beyond that, the figures tell us three things:
- Remote work is big, and blowing up
- Working remote offers significant benefits for every team
- You already are, or may soon be working remotely
But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Like with everything else, there are issues that may come up with working remotely and you, either as a manager or a team member, will have to address them to make remote work for your team.
Here’s the definitive guide to remote working, the issues both team members and managers face, and the tips to get you to surmount them.
Issues faced by remote team members
It’s important to understand that while remote work comes with various pluses for a team, there are several issues individual team members will face. This can either affect their productivity, mental health, or technical capability, all resulting in lower productivity across the team. Some of these issues include:
Once a team goes remote, it’s immediately clear that the environment is different from the onsite where everyone’s acclimated with. Without that physical environment where you can look up from your desk and see someone taking a break, it’s easy to assume everyone is working nonstop, and as a result, you have to do the same to stay true to your team.
And that proves to be damaging beyond comprehension.
In an effort to stay super-productive, members of a remote team may find themselves trying to juggle larger workloads than they know they’re capable of.
Eventually, that often leads to mental and physical burnout that takes a while to recover from.
Easy fix: Understand that as a member of a remote team that your productivity might take a hit at first; take enough time for yourself, family, and social life. Discuss adjusting your workload with your manager.
Differing time zones and work schedules
One of the biggest perks of working remotely is the freedom to choose your own working hours and pace. As long as you can deliver targets within your team’s wider time bracket, it’s all okay to move at your own speed.
But that brings up an interesting problem: how do you achieve consensus when team members are spread across various time zones and everyone works at their own pace?
If this isn’t handled intelligently, it might damage the team’s cohesion and make it impossible to work together effectively.
Easy fix: create time windows within which team members have to be available to at least receive and reply messages; design this with everyone’s time zones in mind. This way, you can build a communication framework that works for everyone.
In a physical workplace, the problem of human-human touch is efficiently solved—it’s either you’re tapping shoulders and starting conversations or vice versa. Because everyone’s in close proximity, it’s easy to reach out and engage 1:1 as often as possible. As a result, loneliness is kept at bay and the entire team maintains higher mental health, etc.
Remote working, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. With the race to stay maximally productive across screens, the human-human connection can be lost quite quickly and as a result, everyone’s work suffers.
Once that human-human connection is lost, it’s difficult, if not impossible doing your best work around people you can barely relate with.
Easy fix: It’s important for a remote team to have a detailed plan for building the human touch so every member of the team can create personal relationships with one another. It’s easier to function at peak capacity with people you have an emotional bond with.
Best practices for remote team members
If you’re working on a remote team, you are probably looking to give your best to see your team’s targets delivered.
To do your best work without burning yourself out, here are some of the tips and tricks you can apply to achieve that.
Creativity—learn to tinker around with problems long enough until you solve them
Unlike an onsite workspace where you can head over to someone’s desk and tap their shoulder, remote work is quite different. Remote brings up the possibility that everyone might be busier more often doing deep work.
As a result, in order to serve as a plus for your remote team, you must put on your creative cap. Poke around problems more often, think more critically, and try even unorthodox means long enough to see a way around any issues that come up.
Transparency—make your opinion known as clearly and friendlily as possible
Remote only works in an atmosphere where people are open and as transparent with their opinion as possible.
In an onsite workplace where everyone can interact face-to-face, there are fewer barriers to doing your best work and it’s easy to get back on track if you derail. Why? Because it’s natural for you. You’ve worked onsite all your life and our brains have been programmed to think accordingly.
On the other hand, remote working is totally new ground where it’s imperative that you do your best to get things right the first time.
In order to maximize the opportunity to work remotely, every team member must ensure they:
- Make a positive input into every conversation they’re part of,
- Offer solutions to any problems that come up—even unorthodox ones,
- Feel free to challenge ideas you notice might be ultimately detrimental, and above all,
- Doing all of the above respectfully and with empathy.
Responsibility and accountability—do what you should without being told
As a member of a remote team, the place of accountability cannot be overemphasized.
Simply, accountability requires that you do what you’ve been assigned without being nagged or shadowed by the team lead or manager. Accountability requires that you hold yourself responsible, as long as it’s within your power, for seeing a project or task completed successfully.
Accountability demands that you take appropriate steps to deliver the part of the team mission dependent on your input so the project or target at hand can be delivered with zero lapses.
Accountability also requires that someone owns up when something goes wrong; it demands that each member of the remote team begin to see themselves as integral members of the team’s mission so they can do what’s required for success without being pushed.
Issues faced by remote team managers
As the center of the remote team, any responsibility the team faces will be magnified 10x for the manager.
Unfortunately, anything that comes the team manager’s way affects the entire team’s performance and might stall the team entirely. Some of these issues include:
With the need to do most of your work digitally where everyone can instantly have access to, tech overload forms one of the biggest challenges facing remote teams.
In fact, not addressing this might cause the team’s productivity to take a significant hit since everyone’s spending more time trying to wrangle through 15+ SaaS apps to manage their work, files, discussions, etc., while still trying to get their best work done.
For you a remote team manager, this now becomes an even bigger headache.
With a team of, say 8-15 experts all working across a bunch of different tools, churning out all the messages, notifications, and updates they can, directed at you, staying in the loop can get difficult.
Death by meeting
Meetings, standups, daily scrums, and a couple other names we call them.
Meetings have a mixed reputation among teams. When done well, they can serve as a platform for conveying the knowledge the team needs to do their best work faster.
On the other hand, 87% of meetings in today’s corporate world end up as time-wasters where intelligent people gather and make lengthy plans that no one ends up following.
Sounds familiar? Yup, Death by Meeting—and in this case, it’s all on you since the manager is responsible for aligning everyone else around the team’s mission.
Time-sucking, unproductive meetings take away time and resource from more productive activities and offer a ‘legitimate’ excuse for a remote team to perform below its peak capacity. Severely limit or avoid them entirely.
Best practices for remote team managers
While remote team members are responsible for each doing their best work, the remote team manager is responsible for ensuring everyone works in sync and delivers as a cohesive unit.
How do you achieve that?
Here are proven best practices remote team managers can leverage to make working remote a better, more productive experience for their teams.
Maintain a people-first culture that emphasizes the human touch
It’s a tested and trusted truth across every human field: people can only do their best work around those they respect.
So, if your team is working remotely or intends to do so soon, you need to start building good human-human bonds that’ll make your work as a team flow better.
That team spirit is what effectively transforms your team from a bunch of highly capable experts to a cohesive unit that plans, executes, and hit targets faster.
A few actionable tips for a people-first remote culture include:
- creating a platform for team members to get to know others better,
- require team members to point out and celebrate others when they perform above and beyond—starting with you, of course,
- emphasize the fact that everyone’s opinion matters.
As a remote team manager, you must prioritize developing the human-human touch among your team members. That way, everyone will be more eager to go above and beyond for the team since they now see themselves as an integral part of it.
Refine meetings—more substance, less routine
While we’ll admit that meetings have a crucial part to play for a remote team, in order for meetings to actually help your team deploy their potential, you, as the manager must pivot from:
- lengthy meetings filed with minutiae
- having meetings with an unclear agenda,
- a meeting model that focuses on you alone telling your team what’s getting done
to a meeting structure designed to be:
- result-centric with clear agendas,
- participatory so your team can follow on and actually enjoy it.
Model your meetings around your team so you can connect to them and get work done, not just follow a corporate guideline.
Center all your work around one simple, easy-to-use digital workspace
A single, easy-to-use platform for managing all your work offers an interesting solution.
It drastically reduces the time-to-knowledge so you can know what’s going on across your team as quickly as possible, make decisions faster, and deliver on projects with ease.
As a remote team manager looking to keep your team running at peak, or even increased capacity, do your team and yourself a favor:
Find one place to put all your work.
Kissflow offers a unified digital workplace where your remote team can manage all your collaboration. From team updates to internal processes for streamlined efficiency, Kissflow makes it easy to switch to remote with minimal friction.
You can focus on doing your best work while Kissflow unites all your team into one source of truth.
Take Kissflow Digital Workplace for a spin right here!