How to Build Strong Teams When Several Members Work Remotely?

Remote work and virtual offices are one of the few positive transformations that were brought about by the pandemic.  Operating regular offices in such a situation became one of the most challenging aspects in the last two years and led to the emergence of work from home culture. The success of a team working remotely relies on various factors such as access to updated and advanced technology, communication amongst the employees, team building exercises, etc. Gradually and with experience, team leaders have learned the methods and practices they need to adapt to make a successful remote team.

It is indeed challenging to manage multiple team members working from their homes and ensure productivity as well as the well-being of all members. When employees have a strong sense of association with their team and leader, they tend to perform better, take accountability and see their growth and the organization’s growth as one. According to a 2018 ADP Research survey of 19,000 employees, workers who work as a team and feel closely connected with their colleagues are 2.3 times more likely to be engaged and productive. Hiring a virtual employee is not only cost effective but also refines the work quality you receive. The ADP Research study also suggests that physical proximity is not necessary to create a successful team. Working from the comfort of their homes has in fact increased the productivity, engagement and performance levels of employees.

Building a remote team and ensuring it runs smoothly takes constant effort and communication. It is now believed that a good team leader and an effective team can perform and contribute to the growth of their organization. This can be simply achieved by practising certain tried and tested methods designed for virtual teams.  Team building activities can differ from one team to another and can be modified as per the nature of the team members and the work they do. However, it remains crucial that each team has their own culture of connecting, communicating, building a rapport and working together.

Some common tips and methods that can enhance remote team bonds and work standards are listed below:

- Compensate for in-person interaction: Employees might start feeling alienated when they work from home. If the minimum level of interaction among the team members is missing, it can make them feel disconnected and as a result, they may end up delivering sub-standard quality of work as well.

Work as well as non-work communication is essential to maintain coordination and produce quality work. In-person interactions can boost creativity and help a team leader in assessing the talent and potential of each member.

- Constant virtual chat rooms:  Virtual chat rooms often referred to as the ‘water cooler moments’ are a necessity for the new work model. These chat rooms are aimed at bringing teams together to have conversations at regular intervals. These conversations can be work oriented as well as generic. The idea is that each member should feel connected, supported and heard, which are all essential characteristics of a growing team.

- Email and chat overload: Be wary of email and chat overload while working with a remote team because it can overwhelm and confuse your team members. They might even miss out on important emails and messages due to an overload. Additionally, team leaders should encourage employees to turn off work chats and emails after office hours. Employees need to feel that they get sufficient break from work.

- Most important forms of communication: It is important to be mindful of the mode of communication you use while communicating with your team. The order of preference should be -Video – Audio – Chat - Email. Video communication is the most effective and a quick way of sharing briefs, ideas, feedbacks and answering any queries. Second in order are audio calls; you can communicate and get your message across with a certain level of clarity. Then come chats and emails. They should be used less often and as a last resort. Apart from quick and effective communication, audio and video calls also bring a personalized tone to your communication, allowing employees to feel connected.

- Video conference technology: Video conferencing apps available to us are extremely helpful for remote teams to come together and share information and ideas. Team leaders can utilize these to communicate and provide information to their teams at once without having to send separate messages. It is also a great way to arrange group calls to celebrate special occasions and team achievements.

- Establish a meeting schedule: Team leaders must set a daily/weekly meeting time when they can get an update on each project and its progress. Team members can also get a sense of direction if they need it and give an account of their tasks.

- Effective collaboration: When multiple members of a team need to collaborate for a project or assignment, they should share information on the cloud for others to see and make edits as well as suggestions. This method saves time and enables remotely working members to come together and work in a hassle-free manner.

- Set up and use a project management system: A well-documented and updated project management system is absolutely necessary for remote teams. It keeps all members in the loop updated and informed. It also lessens the chances of any overlapping information or confusion.

- Implement systems: An organized and established system that all team members are familiar and comfortable with should be used on a daily basis to get work done on a daily basis - a software to record work, a step-by-step process to get projects approved and shared with clients, a tool to regularize attendance and leaves, etc. These systems become much more substantial while working remotely.

Apart from the above-mentioned practices, flexible working hours help employees manage their domestic and personal engagements without compromising on work. Also, quarterly reviews of each team member and constructive feedback provides them with a framework for future work expectations and improvements. Successful remote teams can be built by adapting to the changing work culture, recognizing the benefits of this change and maximizing their benefits. A team can be as good as its leader and also its members. An honest joint effort to reach the set professional milestones is possible with a remote team just as much as it is with regular offices.

Hiring a virtual employee comes with its own set of apprehensions and benefits. Companies and businesses understand the cost effectiveness tied to this concept and often want to opt in for the same reason. However, this is certainly not the only benefit of working remotely or building a remote team of employees. Strategic and effective use of communication and tools available at our disposal today has made it possible for organizations to run virtual offices and produce similar, perhaps even better results. The management and support of a team leader plays a significant role in this new work format as well. Team leaders have the responsibility of supporting, including and encouraging the holistic growth of each member of their team in order to make a virtual team thrive.

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