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Remote Working

A 5-step Strategy to Communicate Better Within Remote Teams

August 18, 2015

If you work(ed) as a part of some remote project team, you know it isn’t easy to get things done. While the perks are far and wide — you get to work with people from diverse backgrounds, specialists in the field, people from different vocations and even nationalities at times — issues aren’t any less either.

For starters, location is the biggest hurdle one has to battle when dealing with remote teams. Communicating across time zones is a task that requires a whole lot of planning ahead of time just so things keep moving the way they are supposed to. And on some days, it’s even a challenge to pick out which medium the team ought to communicate with — a Google Hangout, a Skype call or an email thread that keep sprawling back and forth a whole heard of people.

And even if you do figure out the communication plan, there’s no way to know what someone is working on. Flake outs are very common in remote teams — big or small. And unless a formal ticket is issued or an all-new chain of email(s) is created just to track the progress of a task, it’s not easy keeping tabs on whether work (effective or otherwise) is being done.

That’s one too many emails being shared.

Not only are emails of this nature intrusive, but they sap away the team’s productivity if all one does is keep track of each other’s task lists by reading through the swarm of emails that pile away in their inbox.

Oh, and should someone from the team quit, finding and hiring a new remote talent becomes the new overbearing challenge for the team lead.

In a matter of speaking, managing a remote team is a matter of taking the leap of faith — everyone in the team shoulders it every day that they work together. Then again there are ways to optimize (to speak the jargon) and ensure that there’s more calculated efficiency than some blind leap out.

Essentials for communicating better with a remote team

1. Ensure there are clearly established goals to work with

Having goals clearly laid out — on paper — for everyone to see is the first thing required for onboarding a project team. Timelines are vital to the cause; for, there is no good way to ensure deadlines are being met. Goals exist so that the idea of the whole project comes to life and purpose is understood across the board. Aimless task lists and short-term requirements only nurture transactional outcomes. Transformational ideas come from the vested belief in the purpose of the whole activity which unites the team in the first place.

The value of clearly communicated goals is tremendous.

2. Underscore appropriate stakeholders at every step of the project process

What’s crucial in a team activity is that every stakeholder is clearly identified across at every stage of the project process — accountabilities and deliverables clearly mapped out so that the flow of output isn’t obstructed at any point. If everyone knows what they are responsible for and how their outcomes will impact the outcomes of others, and the larger project too, it makes trailing after the task a lot clearer.

It is easy to work on something when you know where your work will indicate results.

3. Employ a communication platform that helps collaboration easy

Depending on the needs of the team, choose a communication platform that best helps with collaboration — be it video chats or emails or open chat rooms.

A key thing to ensure here is that everyone comprehends which particular channel is a most useful for an event. Over dependence on emails is a common symptom across most remote teams, especially the smaller ones. And while using emails is an easy thing to do, communication tends to get lost if a whole swarm of emails keep getting exchanged over a period of time between multiple people. Imagine having to hunt down a particular line of requirement from a chain of emails that’s 75 messages long!

To aid the cause, a project management system comes in quite handy. A project management system or a workflow management system is designed to help onboard the entire process of a project onto one shared platform where communication and deliverables can be shared easily. Not only is a tool like this far more productive, it also helps gauge the process and progress of the task with far more clarity.

A good channel of communication allows for easy and free transmission of information and actions.

4. Set up a routine

The most harrowing thing about a remote team is to manage collective effort at a time and place everybody is most comfortable with. And it isn’t easy, especially if you are trying to collaborate across time zones. This is where work structures and routines really come to the rescue.

Managerial systems and conventions can simplify collaboration.

5. Ensure you build an engaging work culture

One of the more understated things about working with remote teams is that people do not keep bumping into each other and a lot less time is wasted in random shenanigans. But this situation also necessitates the need to make the team feel that they are ‘real’. For this, it helps to have an open culture, where teams can interact not just professionally but personally too. A culture which is interactive, open to novel thought, and is one that generally gets people to ‘gel’ helps build a strong team where everyone knows each other’s quirks and strengths alike. For one, such teams fester wholesome work esthetics and the level of attrition is noticeably low.

The people we trust help overcome any overbearing stress.

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