What started with the pandemic is now becoming a normal part of the everyday workforce. Today, 58 percent of Americans can work from home at least once a week.
Although working remotely is a major advantage for most, there are also a few disadvantages that come with it. One such challenge is teamwork and collaboration. Not surprising since it's harder to build human connections virtually.
Team working activities like brainstorming, problem-solving, or simply sharing ideas are naturally easier face-to-face. So how can you improve teamwork and collaboration in your remote workforce?
In this article, we'll uncover the benefits of teamwork and share tips for making the most of your global talent. Let's get started!
Why teamwork is critical in remote teams
First and foremost, it's essential to recognize why teamwork is so critical. Effective teamwork not only helps you reach goals faster but also helps foster an environment of trust and respect between coworkers.
Trust and respect between coworkers in a remote setting are especially important because you can't just walk over to their desks to chat about something. Instead, you need to be able to rely on each other to communicate effectively and be respectful of each other's time.
Additionally, excellent teamwork leads to a sense of camaraderie and mutual accomplishment. With this power duo, remote workers stay motivated and engaged in their work. However, the opposite applies as well. A lack of teamwork leads to inefficiency, frustration and loss of motivation. It can lead to employee churn, too.
Ultimately, having a remote team that works well together is critical for business success. Ensuring your team has the best chance to succeed starts with the right conditions.
Conditions that foster collaboration
The most significant impact on collaboration isn't what you might think. It's not personality or attitude but a few specific "enabling conditions."
A term coined by Richard Hackman in the 70s, these five enabling conditions are still as relevant in our digital age as they were decades ago. He found that maximizing the potential of your team means focusing on the following:
- Clear Direction: Team members must have a clear understanding of the goal. Having a clear vision is a fundamental part of achieving success as an organization. To succeed as a team, focusing on a common goal is essential. It's like a hundred arrows shooting at the same target. Now that's efficiency! Without clear direction, team members will quickly get frustrated and lost, with conflict and loss of motivation following close behind. Give your team a map to follow to ensure your team remains focused and productive.
- Structure: Team roles should get assigned and tracked. Now that your team has a goal to shoot for, what part will each person play? Team members need to understand their specific roles within the organization. With a designated structure, your team can move ahead at full speed.
- Support: Team members should feel supported by their colleagues and members of management. Let's face it, when you're working remotely, you feel like you're on your own most of the time. For some, this setup is ideal, but others prefer more support. A feeling of support from coworkers, especially management, will help reduce ambiguity and build a stronger team.
- Competent Coaching: Extra help is available to get through rough patches and take advantage of timely opportunities. Give team members access to coaching when needed, and let them know they can contact their team manager for extra support. Encourage them to contribute in meaningful ways, make responsible decisions and take the initiative when it counts the most.
- Acting as a Real Team: Members are interdependent with strong boundaries and stability. It's vital that a team actually functions as one whole. Clear boundaries and expectations ensure that everyone sticks to their part of the agreement. Team members should also be interdependent, meaning each individual relies on others for successful completion. This builds trust among colleagues and encourages collaboration.
For remote teams, these conditions are more challenging to facilitate than with on-site workers. That's where teamwork skills come into play.
Must-have teamwork skills for remote workers
As we mentioned, effectively hitting all the above conditions requires a particular skill set. The must-have teamwork skills to maximize collaboration in a remote setting include:
Team members should communicate clearly and concisely. For remote teams, this means traditional verbal communication and the ability to get ideas across virtually. Poor digital communication is often reported as a barrier to work, causing misunderstandings and a loss of productivity.
Active listening involves taking in and understanding what your teammates are saying (or emailing) to ensure everyone is on the same page. If there are any doubts, it's important to ask clarifying questions until you understand the situation better. Team members should also be willing to restate their points or provide more details on their ideas.
A good rule of thumb in a verbal conversation is to listen twice as much as you speak and pause for the other person to respond. By actively listening, team members show each other that their opinion matters. It also shows respect and encourages collaboration among remote workers.
Empathy is putting yourself in another's place and standing in their shoes. It understands where another person is coming from and looks for common ground. Without empathy, factions can form within the team, which in turn, affects communication and collaboration.
Empathy is especially handy when working with individuals from other cultures and backgrounds. It's important to understand that not everyone works under the same conditions or thinks like you.
Problem-solving skills are an asset in any area of life. A problem solver is especially good at being open-minded and thinking outside the box. When on a team, a problem solver takes the initiative, analyzes the situation, and comes up with solutions everyone can accept.
Teamwork isn't as effective if one person is always in charge. Instead, team members should strive for mutual understanding and consensus on decisions. They should also be able to resolve conflicts that arise within the team. This includes identifying and addressing problems quickly and communicating effectively about potential solutions.
To keep a remote team running smoothly, everyone must understand how to manage their time properly. Team members should be aware of deadlines, set realistic goals, and track progress to remain productive.
15 tips for improving teamwork in your remote team
Teamwork skills don't always come naturally and need some nurturing and practice to master. So here are 15 of our best tips to help your remote team become collaboration rock stars.
1. Establish clear goals and objectives
Start on the right foot by setting clear, achievable goals. Outline team objectives for collaborators to ensure everyone is working towards the same purpose.
2. Clearly define roles and responsibilities
Set clear expectations for everyone on the team. Make sure everyone understands their responsibilities and company expectations.
3. Keep everyone informed and updated
Schedule regular team meetings to stay connected. Make sure and discuss progress, any problems and upcoming tasks.
4. Encourage communication
Regular communication is key to successful collaboration in a remote team. Developing and encouraging good lines of communication between team members helps to foster a sense of connection, even when you can't meet face-to-face. Team members should check in regularly and keep each other up-to-date on progress and new developments.
Use video conferencing software to facilitate real-time communication whenever possible. Digital communication is ripe for misunderstanding, and video helps eliminate potential problems and misunderstandings.
5. Foster a culture of trust
Building trust is essential for any successful team. Team members should feel confident that their work and ideas have value. In addition, team members should feel comfortable discussing their insights, ideas and feedback with each other.
6. Handle conflict quickly and effectively
Conflict can arise in any team environment, but it's imperative for remote teams to handle it quickly and effectively. If a disagreement arises, address the issue head-on rather than letting it fester or escalate.
7. Celebrate successes
Even if you don't work in the same office as your team, it's a good idea to celebrate successes together. Whether you host an online virtual celebration or just send out a congratulatory email, be sure and recognize hard work and accomplishments regularly.
8. Practice constructive criticism
There's no room for negative or destructive criticism in a remote team. Encourage team members to provide constructive feedback that's direct but respectful.
9. Encourage accountability
Accountability is key to ensuring everyone on the team is doing their part. Team members should be accountable for meeting deadlines and delivering quality work.
10. Establish remote policies and procedures
Establish a remote work policy and workplace norms to ensure everyone is following the same protocols. Team members should have guidelines for communication, collaboration and task management.
11. Provide collaborative tools
Using collaboration tools like Google Workspace and Slack to manage projects will help your remote team stay organized and on top of tasks. So, take advantage of available tools and technologies like video conferencing, project management tools and communication platforms to ensure collaboration runs smoothly.
12. Set realistic deadlines and expectations
Managing deadlines remotely can be tricky, especially if your team is in different time zones. Make sure you're setting realistic goals for yourself and the team and providing enough time for collaboration.
13. Create a virtual watercooler
Take time to just connect as people, not just colleagues. Whether it's a regular virtual happy hour or setting aside time to chat about random topics, having an informal space to connect can help build relationships. It'll also provide much-needed breaks from work.
14. Make sure no one gets left out
Every team member brings unique skills to the table. Make sure you're leveraging everyone's talents to benefit the entire team. Encourage everyone to participate in team activities, provide feedback and contribute ideas.
15. Have fun!
Teamwork doesn't have to be all work and no play. Find ways to inject fun into the process, whether via online team-building activities or friendly competitions. Make it enjoyable for everyone involved! Show your global talent they're part of a positive and supportive environment that celebrates successes and encourages collaboration.
Build the perfect remote team with Outstaffer.com
Creating an effective and collaborative remote team requires effort and dedication, but the rewards of having a connected and engaged team make it all worth it. You know the saying, "teamwork makes the dream work." With teamwork and collaboration, anything is possible!
At Outstaffer.com, we make it simple to hire, employ and equip the best employees from around the world, so you're sure to have employees with the team working skills you need. Plus, our solutions, like Managed Devices, Real-Time Employee Monitoring, and VR Workplaces, make it even easier for everyone to collaborate and stay on the same page. Ready to get started? For a free demo, contact us today!