More than 75% of Americans work remotely at least once a week, 43% work remotely at least half time, and 20% work remotely full time. According to Gallup, that trend is only going to continue to grow.
Working remotely has numerous benefits including increases in productivity, employee retention, and diversity. A study by Stanford University found remote workers actually add an extra full day’s work of productivity per week compared to their collocated colleagues and those telecommuters were also 50% less likely to quit their jobs.
While there are benefits to working remotely, being distributed can also cause challenges for team collaboration, including insufficient face-to-face communication, lack of visibility, and working in different time zones.
However, advancements in tools, technology, and best practices have helped to lessen some of those challenges and made collaborating with distributed teams more seamless.
Use video and audio to improve daily communication.
When working remotely, people often communicate with each other using some form of text, such as email or Slack. Text communication has its place and can be effective in the right situation, however, by making use of video and audio, team member conversations become more human. With video, you can see your colleague’s body language and whether or not you have their attention, and with audio, you can get a better sense of stress and sarcasm.
At regular intervals, the team should reflect on how to become more effective.
Retroing is important with collocated teams, but might be even more important distributed teams. Your team should schedule regular meetings to discuss process and how you, as a team, can work to improve those processes. When you work remotely, you might find yourself working in a way that best suits you, without considering how your style affects the rest of your team. By opening up feedback channels, you can work together to become a more cohesive team.
Ensure you have working hours that overlap.
One potential benefit of distributed teams is having a diverse workforce based in different cultures throughout the world. One potential obstacle with that, though, is having employees working in different time zones. On an episode of 404 Podcast Found, Johanna Rothman explains the best way to collaborate across time zones is to make sure you have some similar working hours. If you’re based in New York City and you have team members based in London, you might have to make yourself available a little bit earlier in the morning and those Londoners might stay available past 5 p.m. However, it’s also important to set boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Compromise and planning will help you work better together.
Get to know your colleagues personally.
Most people spend around 40 hours working with their teams each week. For some of us, that means more time with our work families than with our real families. By taking the time to get to know someone on a personal level at work, you’ll be able to build trust and better enjoy the time you spend with them.
Working remotely certainly has its advantages for both employees and employers, but take the time to properly train your teams on how to make the most out of the tools they have available to them to collaborate even when they might be thousands of miles apart.