How to Work Effectively With Globally Distributed Teams
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Remote work offers amazing possibilities — Companies can save costs on architecture, hire top talent without location limitations, and offer a better work-life balance to their employees. But managing globally distributed teams can be nothing less than challenging if you don’t have the right remote work strategies and tools by your side.
An effective remote team requires running great meetings, establishing clear project goals, communicating clearly, leveraging the individual and collective strength of team members, and collaborating closely.
To improve the productivity and efficiency of your remote team, you need to first understand the main challenges faced by remote teams and then take steps to overcome those very challenges.
What Are Distributed Teams?
A distributed workforce  is a workforce that reaches beyond the restrictions of a traditional office environment. A distributed workforce is dispersed geographically over a wide area – domestically or internationally.
The top challenges for globally distributed teams
1. Cultural and collaboration challenges
When the majority of your communication and collaboration happens online through messages and emails, it doesn’t take much for miscommunications to develop within the team. Even small misunderstandings that could easily be resolved with the right body language or gestures can snowball into huge problems for remote teams. Add culture differences to the mix and you’ve got yourself the perfect recipe for disaster.
Remote employees don’t work from the same office everyday which can make it difficult for them to connect and understand each other. Moreover, when remote team members work from different parts of the world, their cultural differences can create a big collaboration and communication barrier.
How to resolve it:
Avoid using any slang or colloquialisms when you communicate with your team members. You should also avoid using any culture-specific references in your team communication channels that everyone may not be familiar with. Using vague references doesn’t just make it difficult for team members to understand the context of your message, but it can also make them feel left out.
2. Time zone differences
Time zone differences are pretty common for globally distributed teams, but the way your team deals with them can make all the difference to its overall productivity and efficiency.
When you wake up and start your workday just when your team members are going to bed, you can’t always rely on them to be available to answer any urgent queries or pressing questions. It can lower the team morale immensely, make it difficult for team members to work together, and inadvertently affect the quality of work.
How to overcome it:
Even if you have major time zone differences in your team, make sure you can find at least two-hours of overlap every day to keep things in sync. You can use this overlapping time, when all of the team members are available online, to schedule team meetings or discussions and keep everyone in the loop.
The team should also decide how long team members can take to respond to an email or message. This way, no request or query will go unattended for long and the employees won’t feel like they have to respond to every message immediately.
How to work effectively with global remote teams
1. Collaboration is the key
Remote communication can often distort the normal pace of conversations and the delay in messages can directly affect team collaboration.
As a result, the first thing you should do to build successful distributed team collaboration is centralizing all the communication among team members. With a shared space for sharing their opinions, updates, and queries, all the employees can always stay in the loop and collaborate effectively. Give close attention to team relationship building and create a process to ensure optimum collaboration.
Here are a few ways you can collaborate effectively with your remote team:
- Be crystal clear while communicating
- Keep most communication asynchronous and move to audio or video calls only for important meetings and discussions
- Offer honest feedback
- Over communicate, whenever needed
- When in doubt, ask specific and detailed questions
2. Encourage team bonding
When you are separated from your team by thousands of miles, bonding with your team members can become a unique challenge. Human connections through efficient team bonding can make remote employees feel like they are a part of the team. Understanding your team members on a more personal level and building a camaraderie can also build trust and confidence among the team members.
Here are a few ways you can improve and encourage team bonding:
- Create a shared virtual space for celebrations where you can congratulate employees on achieving important work milestones and send birthday wishes
- Encourage team members who don’t usually communicate on a daily basis to schedule one on one virtual meetups
- Organise virtual team building activities.
3. Leverage the right tools
Technology is what makes globally distributed teams possible. For working effectively with your remote team, you will need the right remote work tools in your arsenal, but it’s also important to remember that not every tool is going to be a good fit for your team. You should research thoroughly to ensure that the new tools you are introducing in your team actually suit your team’s requirements.
Moreover, adding dozens of digital tools for different collaboration and communication purposes can often confuse and overwhelm your team members, while making it difficult for them to keep up.
Instead, you can incorporate a unified digital workplace to manage all the project, processes, communication, and collaboration in one place. The idea is to use a digital workplace to integrate your existing IT infrastructure and make it easier for remote team members to access all of their work data and conversations through one single dashboard.
Bridge the communication gap among remote team members
As remote work becomes the norm and more and more of our interactions happen in the digital world, we will continue to see new forms of misunderstandings and miscommunication. The solution doesn’t lie in implementing new technologies for every new challenge. It lies in bridging the gap between different technologies through unified digital workplaces.
While the concept of digital workplace isn’t new, it has gained popularity in the last few years with the sudden spike in the number of SaaS tools used by companies around the world.
More tools do not mean more efficiency for remote teams. In fact, implementing too many tools can have a negative effect on the overall efficiency and productivity of the team. Digital workplace like Kissflow can help resolve this challenge by offering a single platform to access all the work tools, information, and communication, and in turn help remote teams collaborate effectively.