Remote Teamwork: How to Productively Work Together When You’re Not Together

by in Best Practices, Technology

As companies around the globe continue to have their staff work from home, some organizations are transitioning into a hybrid work model with a mix of in-office employees and remote workers. Many are finding that building a cohesive company culture and keeping employees productive and engaged is more challenging than ever with a distributed workforce. In addition to feeling disconnected and isolated, remote team members may also lack motivation when not surrounded by their coworkers.

The following are some of the biggest challenges to productivity that remote teams encounter and strategies for overcoming these obstacles.

A guy is waving to his computer while on a video conference call 

Remote Teamwork Is More Important Than Ever in the COVID-19 Pandemic

The current uncertainty and unknowns relating to COVID-19 can weigh heavily on our mental health, leading to increased feelings of stress and anxiety. The longer companies are working remotely, the more important it becomes to build culture and community within their teams. Virtual hangouts, video conferencing and chat apps are all great resources to help strengthen remote teamwork. These tools not only boost productivity, but they eliminate isolation and encourage togetherness among coworkers.

Maximize Productivity with These 8 Remote Team-Building Strategies

To maximize productivity and experience continued growth, you’ll need to overcome these obstacles and uncover better ways of doing business. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies you can utilize to improve remote teamwork and create a more cohesive environment among coworkers.

1. Prioritize face-to-face interactions

Face-to-face communication is an irreplaceable part of company culture, which is why it’s essential to prioritize face-to-face interactions and conduct team meetings over video calls as much as possible. Facetime with your fellow remote coworkers not only shrinks the feelings of physical distance, but it creates a more engaged, less isolated work environment. 

2. Establish remote workplace norms

When transitioning to a distributed workforce, it’s good to form clear and concise workplace norms to set your team up for success. For example, try planning weekly video meetings during everyone’s working hours, and establish team forums for communication (like Slack or Teams) that are efficient and include everyone.

3. Provide avenues for informal communication

Another central component of team culture is casual communication. Since remote coworkers can’t gather around the proverbial watercooler, you’ll need to explore other options to chat about things unrelated to the workday. Consider opening each meeting with an informal question, setting up Slack channels for #workfromhome commentary or even arranging virtual happy hours.

4. Employ collaborative tools

Collaboration is a fundamental part of any well-functioning workplace, and it can be even more important for remote workers to implement. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to help you integrate collaborative efforts into your daily operations. From whiteboarding sessions to video conferencing and G Suite’s many platforms, collaboration among your team is now easier and more accessible than ever.

5. Clearly establish goals that incorporate the whole team

To reach the most productive level of work performance, each team member needs to understand the collective group goals, as well as their respective individual goals. Clearly defined goals are helpful in maintaining focus and boosting morale; they unite everyone under a common vision and outline objectives the whole team can work toward together. To help track your goals and stay on task, you can use project management tools like Asana, Jira or Monday.com.

6. Set deadlines for team goals

Deadlines are a necessary ingredient for productivity because they make goals less abstract. Working within a designated time frame is a tangible, proactive way to help team members stay motivated and on task. Ideally, goals are within reach while also providing a challenge for the team to tackle. 

7. Develop a process of accountability

Without a dedicated effort in accountability, there’s really no assurance work is being accomplished on time (or at all). For this reason, it’s vital for managers to regularly follow up on the team’s progress. Whether it’s with midweek check-ins or end-of-the-week video calls, find whatever process works best for your group and stick with it as the project progresses.

8. Don’t leave any team members out

When following through with accountability, managers need to make sure they’re reaching out to every team member. Remote teamwork hinges on inclusion, so it’s imperative to touch base with each person. No one should be left out or unaccounted for, but instead, there should be a solid network of support for everyone. 

4 Reasons Remote Teams Struggle with Productivity

With a major change in our normal daily habits due to COVID-19, confusion and therefore a lack of productivity were inevitable. Outside of the pandemic, there are many reasons that remote teams may struggle with staying focused and productive. Here are the top four:

1. Lack of communication

Remote teamwork requires remote communication, which differs greatly from collaborating in a shared office space. Employees who are used to walking over to a coworker’s desk or catching a teammate in the breakroom to have casual and impromptu conversations may struggle with communicating effectively in a remote work environment.

2. Scheduling

Unlike teams working within the same walls, remote teams don’t always share the same schedule with their coworkers. While in-office team members typically have set hours, those working from home may have differing availability, including less traditional hours during nights and weekends. With all of these differences in time (and possibly time zones), scheduling conflicts can arise and interfere with what you’re able to accomplish.

3. Technological issues

Working from home relies heavily on the use of technology, so when devices succumb to technological difficulties, remote team members can be left in the dark while trying to connect with their coworkers. Whether it’s a low battery, weak WiFi, internet problems, computer issues or a lag during a conference call, technological troubles can definitely curb your productivity. 

4. Facetime and culture-building

In contrast to email exchanges, interacting face to face provides quicker responses and less confusion overall. But while face-to-face communication is an indispensable asset, it’s unfortunately lacking among many remote teams. Not all remote staff place value on this type of teamwork, which means they’re missing out on opportunities for enhanced clarity, connection  and culture-building.

Lifesize: The Ultimate Video Conferencing Solution for Remote Teams

As the premier video conferencing system for enterprise companies, Lifesize delivers a reliable way for remote teams to interact face to face each and every time they meet. With high quality collaboration solutions and integrations, Lifesize has made remote teamwork both practical and productive.

Video conferencing software & hardware

When it comes to video conferencing equipment, Lifesize has created “smart devices for smart collaboration.” Lifesize’s award-winning line of audio and video conferencing equipment is built for plug-and-play simplicity and designed to connect you with your team and get out of the way. 

The Lifesize app lets you easily host or join video meetings from any smart device, anywhere you can connect to the Internet. Guests can join Lifesize calls directly from their web browsers — no software or app downloads needed. By merging high quality conferencing hardware with Lifesize’s cloud services, you get a truly superior video conferencing experience. 

Calendar integrations

Calendar and scheduling integrations from Lifesize make it easy to send out meeting invitations from your Microsoft or Google calendar.  Additionally, Lifesize adds best-in-class audio and video quality and advanced communication and collaboration technologies to your existing workflow. This streamlined calendar integration is a great time saver when you feel like your workload is already at capacity. 

Screen sharing & collaborative tools

Lifesize Share seamlessly connects a range of technologies, including the option for wireless screen sharing. This allows anyone in the meeting to share their screen in real time, without the need for extra cables or dongles. A collaborative whiteboard feature is also available for capturing a detailed, digital image of your whiteboard session that everyone on the video conference call has the ability to view.

Conclusion

People depend on regular face-to-face interactions, but the fatal flaw of many remote teams is in neglecting this fact. Without consistent facetime, teams become unfocused and productivity declines. The key to sustained success is setting clear goals and deadlines, establishing accountability and prioritizing face-to-face communication. If your team leverages these skills, they can stay productive and engaged in a remote work environment. 

Remote Teamwork FAQ's

For those working remotely for the first time, or those who need some new tips on how to be more productive, here are a few frequently asked questions about remote teamwork.

How do you build a strong culture with a remote team?

One word: communication. To build a strong remote culture, have your team set up weekly virtual meetings to discuss tasks and connect face-to-face. Make time to dive into topics unrelated to work to better understand team members and get to know them on a personal level.

How do you celebrate with a remote team?

There are several ways to celebrate with your remote team. Send an appreciation video, create a recognition channel on Slack, and share wins both big and small during weekly virtual meetings. 

How do you build team morale while working remotely? 

You can build your remote team morale by scheduling virtual team meetings on a weekly basis as well as asking for regular feedback on how the company can support each employee. Some companies find virtual off-sites as a great solution to connect with the entire team, while also getting some work done. Hosting friendly cross-team competitions after a stressful period of heavy workloads is another surefire way to help blow off some steam and get to know each other on a deeper level.