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How to make remote teamwork work

 

Distributed teams, working remotely, define the modern workplace. Content marketing teams more often follow, rather than defy, this trend.

Managers might assume that remote teams threaten productivity. But we’ve actually found that allowing more flexibility around work schedule and working location actually strengthens communication flow between team members and improves the productivity of the team as a whole.

The best remote teams function like well-oiled machines, while still preserving the freedom and flexibility of their members — despite those members’ sometimes odd working patterns.

How is this possible? The answer: good management, good technology and a tiny bit of magic.

 

The role of trust

When a job such as writing and publishing a blog post can be performed virtually, the creative writer has the freedom to do it from anywhere in the world – including her own couch.

Just as long-distance relationships need truckloads of trust, so do long-distance teams. Managers that give space to their employees also endow great trust in them. Remote workers reward that precious trust with responsive communication and timely delivery of high-quality work.

Once mutual trust and responsibility are firmly established within remote teams, productive workflows can flourish.

 

Set the ground rules

A solid long-distance relationship must have basic rules — whether verbally agreed upon or simply understood — that provide a framework within which each person can get what they want.

Similarly, a remote team needs a strong basic framework of rules that applies to everyone at all times, and that is based on commonly agreed values.

A stable and transparent working process is essential. It gives the needed structure and direction to the whole remote team, including the manager. If the team cannot meet as a group of collaborators on a daily basis, each and every member should be aware of the basic rules that govern the long-distance work relationship.

The ground rules are likely to include things like:

  • working hours
  • reaction time to important notifications
  • commitment to regular virtual or office meetings
  • clearly defined workflows between the different functions and team members
  • a healthy work ethic in terms of personal and team workload

 

JNFerree / Foter / CC BY

The tools that make remote work possible

You may wonder how long-distance lovers coped with the limitations of love letters before there were tools like Skype.

Luckily, remote teams today can benefit from mobile connectivity and all the great apps that facilitate effective communication and information sharing.

Among them it’s worth mentioning task management apps such as Asana and Trello, HelloSign for contracts and e-signatures, and FreshBooks for timesheets and invoicing.

Google Docs and Gmail don’t even need to be mentioned. With all the goodies offered by Google, it’s a good idea to make use of the Hangouts as well, which are a great option for video chat that allows for multi-party screen sharing and much more (it’s a good idea to check your hairstyle before you get on the next video Hangout).

Get personal  

Long-distance lovers and remote team members alike should keep one very important tip in mind – that a good relationship of any kind needs healthy and regular communication.

We’ve found that establishing some kind of personal contact with each remote team member  (such as knowing their pet’s name) goes a long way towards working well with that person, even if you get to see them once a month or only on video calls.

Weekly Google Hangouts are essential, as are regular project meetings, whether in the office or virtually.

Setting up a group chat or a Facebook group is a great way to streamline more informal communication. Here at Hop Online, we have a jolly good time within our Facebook group. There we share more personal stuff, exchange information about cultural events, make weekend plans together, and simply enjoy each other’s (virtual) company.

Ultimately, the feeling of belonging to the group – even in the context of a remote team – is the tiny bit of magic mentioned earlier. The sense of a shared vision and a common goal is the invisible substance that can make it or break it for your free-spirited, creative bunch.

Do you have any experience working successfully (or unsuccessfully) in remote teams? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Ralitsa Golemanova

Ralitsa is a Content Marketing Creator at Hop Online with diverse background ranging from media and communications through European politics to social research. Passionate about writing and photography, she likes to roam the mountains whenever possible.

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