Just because remote work is growing in popularity doesn’t mean that it comes without challenges.
An OnPoint Consulting study looked at roughly 50 remote teams and determined that 27% were “not fully performing”. That’s more than one out of every four teams missing the mark when it comes to getting their job done.
As much as employees love the flexibility to work from home in their pajamas, remote environments can also leave them feeling disconnected and disenfranchised. When left unchecked, these frustrations can turn into decreased morale that disrupts performance and increases turnover.
The solution? Savvy management leaders know that they need to invest in maintaining team alignment. These nine strategies will drive remote success.
Strategy #1: Develop a Compelling Mission
If you want greater alignment among your in-office workers and your remote team members, make sure you’ve created a compelling mission that everyone can buy in to.
If you don’t have this yet, invest in creating and disseminating one. It may take some time and iteration, but the end result will be a shared vision that remote workers can believe in if they’re struggling to feel connected to the rest of the team or the company.
Here are 17 examples to inspire you, as well as a guide to developing your own compelling mission statement that resonates.
Strategy #2: Hire “Super Communicators”
This one’s kind of a no-brainer. If you want your dispersed team to be successful, hire those who are well suited to remote work.
But how can you tell who’s going to do well in a remote environment and who may struggle? Brian de Haaff, co-founder and CEO of Aha writes on the Aha blog that two characteristics that suggest someone will be a good remote team member are being “super-responsive” and a “super-clear communicator.”
You can measure this in the interview process. Do candidates respond quickly and enthusiastically when you reach out to them? Are their responses clear and easily understood?
If candidates can’t cut it at this early stage, communications-wise, they’re not going to magically get better once you start working with them on a remote basis.
Strategy #3: Create a Team Charter
A team charter isn’t the same as a mission statement. It’s a code of conduct every member of your team agrees upon that governs how you’ll work together.
Take advice from Evernote General Manager, EMEA Beat Buhlmann’s HRZone article. “To be successful you need to agree as a team how you want to work together and set clear expectations that can be used to build trust.” A few example charter standards from Buhlmann include “No checking emails after 8 pm,” and “No blind CCs (bcc’s) in an email conversation.”
Choose your guidelines based on your particular working arrangements, project requirements, and personal preferences – and keep the conversation open and ongoing. You can always add new standards or adjust existing ones as your team evolves.
Strategy #4: Empower Accountability
Once you’ve set your charter standards and agreed to abide by them, empower your team members to hold each other accountable.
Let’s say you’ve agreed that on-site team members shouldn’t conduct one-off brainstorming sessions excluding remote employees from being on the same page. If these kinds of conversations are happening, employees need to be able to raise a red flag without worrying about facing repercussions.
Upholding standards and accountability should be the responsibility of all team members. This way everyone contributes to supporting team success.
Strategy #5: Document Everything
The best way to avoid remote team mishaps is to over-communicate. It’s critical that all team members have access to the same information. Otherwise, you risk doing double work, balls being dropped, and assumptions being made.
Document as much as possible. Add this rule to the charter and set standards regarding how updates and information are shared.
Tools like ClickUp help eliminate these knowledge gaps by creating a central “source of truth” for all documentation. As long as you have processes in place that ensure your documentation is updated regularly, having a single repository that remote team members can turn to for status information means no one’s ever left behind.
Strategy #6: Facilitate Social Connections
If you can meet in person periodically, do it. There are plenty of great examples out there of teams like Buffer that regularly conduct all-team retreats to bring out of office team members together.
Don’t have Buffer’s budget? Video conferencing can be a great way to build face-to-face connections on a regular basis – no matter where in the world your team members are. Use it not just for regular work communications, but for online “get-togethers” where team members can catch up and forge relationships.
You don’t know how valuable casual office chatter is until you go remote and spend all day, every day, working on your own.
Remote team members may not be able to gather around water coolers to catch up, but forming strong social connections is still important when it comes to maintaining team alignment.
Adopting instant message chat tools that allow workers to connect informally can help, as can building time for personal updates into regular team meetings.
Strategy #7: Check-In Weekly
Don’t let remote team members be “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s tempting to assume they’re handling their responsibilities, and that they don’t need managerial hand-holding – that is why you hired them in the first place.
But checking in at least once a week goes a long way towards building strong relationships and mentorship opportunities. Make sure employee’s needs are being met, and that they’re feeling positive about their job and their work arrangements.
Strategy #8: Focus on Results
When checking in with remote team workers worry less about hours worked and more about results produced. You don’t have to go full ROWE – Results Only Work Environment, but remember that a lot of employees seek out remote engagements because of the perceived flexibility they offer.
Are your employees getting their work done? Is your team meeting its objectives? If so, there’s no reason to require remote team members to account for where and how they spent every minute of their days.
Strategy #9: Practice Remote Work
One of the biggest mistakes remote team leaders make is treating remote management the same as remote work.
You can be a great manager of on-site employees, but if you haven’t had to manage workers located outside of your office, it’s easy to miss some of the nuance required to lead effectively from a distance.
Remote team leaders should have experience working remotely. If you don’t, give it a try. Practice working remotely until you fully understand the experiences of your remote team members and know what they need to remain aligned and successful within your larger organization.
Don’t Wait to Improve Remote Team Alignment
If you manage a team in any capacity, you already have plenty of responsibilities on your plate – all of which are competing for some of your limited attention. But avoid waiting until you see evidence of remote team alignment issues, such as diminished productivity or disengaged employees to implement fixes. Make adopting the strategies above a priority. It’s easier to keep happy employees satisfied and productive than it is to right a ship that’s veered significantly off course.
Are you using any of these strategies or others to create stronger remote team alignment? Share your experiences and suggestions by leaving a comment below!
Jamie Davidson is the Marketing Communications Manager at Vast Conference, a provider of HD audio and video conferencing services.