The COVID-19 pandemic led to a shift in how teams work; many companies had no choice but to adopt a work-from-home model. In fact, close to 70% of full-time employees began working from home in 2020.
While working from home has many benefits, it is not without challenges. One of the biggest hurdles is how to collaborate and communicate effectively. When employees work from different locations and across multiple time zones, it can be more difficult to work in teams. In 2020, for example, 20% of survey respondents reported difficulties with teamwork and communication while working remotely.
Though remote work can be challenging at times, effective teamwork is definitely possible. In this article, we will discuss some advantages of remote work and why companies might want to rely on a distributed team even after the pandemic. Then, we will examine some steps you can take to ensure your remote team members work together effectively.
Advantages of Remote Work
Remote work offers many advantages. Even though the pandemic drove its adoption, many organizations are likely to continue relying on distributed teams. Firms that cannot make the shift to full-time remote work will likely adopt a hybrid model.
Here are some of the benefits driving this behavior:
Remote work gives access to a wider pool of talent
A company that employs remote workers can hire employees from any part of the world to find the best fit possible for a position. What this also means is that your new hires are likely to bring fresh perspectives. People from different cultures and backgrounds can often bring complementary skills and viewpoints to the table which can enrich and diversify your company.
Remote work is productive
Another advantage of remote work is that it’s more productive than you’d think - and it keeps getting better. In an article in Businesswire, independent researchers reported a 30% increase in productivity in remote workers since the pandemic began. Similarly, 94% of 800 employees surveyed by Mercer stated that their productivity level is the same or higher than it was before the pandemic.
Working from home saves on costs
Working from home saves money for both organizations and employees. For companies, having people work from home means saving money on office space. It also means saving money on utility bills like electricity and the internet.
For employees, working from home means saving money on transportation. In fact, working from home translates to savings of about $500 a month for many employees! As an added bonus, it also puts less of a strain on the environment.
How Remote Teams Can Collaborate More Effectively
Now that we’ve looked at some of the reasons why you might want to continue with a work-from-home model even after the pandemic, let’s look at ways to level up your remote teams.
Here are 5 tips you can use to improve your team’s collaboration:
1. Set clear guidelines and expectations
Whether your workforce is fully remote or hybrid, managing it and ensuring effective partnership will be much easier if there are guidelines to follow. Questions you might ask include:
When will we have video conferencing calls? How long will they last? Considering the different time zones, is it convenient to have everybody involved? How should we structure our meetings? What are the deliverables? And so on.
By asking these kinds of questions, you can better focus everyone’s time. As a result, you will be able to do away with unimportant things and ensure your meetings proceed smoothly.
Furthermore, by taking suggestions on timing and considering each person’s situation, you will be ensuring nobody feels left out. This is important to maintain the team’s spirit.
2. Use collaboration tools that make sense for your business
The rapid adoption of working from home resulted in increased demand for collaborative tools. And to deliver the best collaborative experience for remote workers, these tools are constantly evolving.
If your company has remote teams, you’ll likely want to adopt some of these tools. They can help ensure that every one of your remote employees stays connected. Some of the most popular tools that remote teams use to communicate and collaborate are Slack, Zoom, Trello, and Asana.
3. Schedule regular one-on-one calls with your employees
If you are managing a remote team, you should try to hold one-on-one calls with your members regularly. There are many reasons for this, including the following:
These calls are a perfect opportunity to discuss challenges with remote work and what you can do to help your employees improve.
The calls also provide an opportunity for you to check on your people, ask about their work-life balance, and make sure they’re taking good care of themselves.
Calls like these communicate to employees that you care; they also provide a safer space for talking about concerns than group meetings do. By scheduling one-on-one time with your employees, you’ll not only keep them engaged and accountable, but you’ll also get a handle on potential issues before they become a problem.
4. Incorporate team-building activities into your remote work routine
Even though your team is working remotely, it’s still important to engage in team building activities. In fact, it may be even more important than before. With remote work, people can easily feel isolated and alone.
By introducing and maintaining the human factor, you’ll help ensure that everybody feels like they’re part of the team. They’ll be more likely to hold themselves accountable for assigned work and support their coworkers, too.
5. Set aside time to communicate in bursts
Humans naturally share information in bursts. This means we have moments of rapid communication followed by moments of relative calm, when we’re focused on other tasks. Communicating in bursts helps participants concentrate their energy, flesh out their ideas, and conclude on certain issues.
To include this type of communication in your team’s routine, try to identify a period where everyone is available and can have a video or voice call at the same time. For example, you can use a calendar tool (from tip #2) to identify periods of shared availability.
Just make sure that every meeting has a clearly defined purpose and try not to overdo it. Employees understandably get frustrated when they’re forced to sit in on too many calls where they’re not needed.
Working from Home is Still a Team Effort
Remote work is here to stay. However, despite its various advantages, it still poses a few unique challenges, like communicating across different time zones and ensuring that employees don’t feel like they’re working on islands or in silos. Collaboration remains one of the biggest challenges to remote work, but with the right tools and attitude, your team can work together effectively.