Seven habits of highly successful remote teams

Remote working can lead to disengagement and low productivity. But when done right, it is highly beneficial for morale.

Remote working has been around for decades, but with a growing emphasis on work-life balance and flexible arrangements in recent years, having the option to work offsite has become increasingly sought-after.

But a recent survey revealed that remote workers face a whole host of challenges, much more than their on-site colleagues. Their problems included being the subject of petty gossip, having co-workers lobby against them and even team members making changes to projects without consulting them.

So if your organisation is currently working out of a co-working space where employees are scattered all over a premise, if you have a work-from-home policy, or even an activity-based workspace (where team members sometimes sit on different levels), then here are seven tips for ensuring that no one person is slacking away or left out of the loop.

1.       Frequent and Consistent Check-ins.  Most successful managers check in frequently and regularly with remote employees. The cadence of the check-ins may vary from daily to bi-weekly to weekly, but they are always consistent and usually entail a quick standing meeting or a scheduled one-on-one.

2.       Face-to-Face or Voice-to-Voice.  Make it a point to visit your remote employees or schedule a mandatory in-office day once a week, month, quarter, or year. You may also use this time for team building. If in-person meetings are not possible, at a minimum, use video conferencing technology or pick up the phone to ensure colleagues occasionally see one another's face or hear one another's voice.

3.       Exemplify Stellar Communication Skills. Most offsite workers emphasise the importance of general, stellar communication with co-located teams. The most successful managers are good listeners, communicate trust and respect, inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging, and err on the side of over-communicating.

4.       Explicit Expectations. When it comes to managing remote teams, being clear about expectations was mandatory. Managers who are direct with their expectations of both remote and on-site employees have happier teams that can deliver to those expectations. People are never left in the dark about projects, roles, deadlines, etc.

5.       Always Available. Successful managers are available quickly and at all times of the day. They go above and beyond to maintain an open door policy for both remote and onsite employees—making themselves available across multiple time zones and through multiple means of technology (WhatsApp, Slack, Skype, email, phone, text). Remote employees can always count on their manager to respond to pressing concerns.

But getting too reliant on any one chat platform can also backfire. Just look at what happened to WhatsApp last Friday (November 3), when the entire planet freaked out (at least that's what it felt like) after the service went down for less than an hour. Read our analysis of the crash and what it means for HR here.

6.       Technology Maven. Successful managers use multiple means of communication to connect with their remote workers. They don't just resort to phone or email, but are familiar with video conferencing technologies and a variety of platforms like Skype, Slack, WhatsApp and more. They often tailor their communication style and medium to each employee.

7.       Prioritise Relationships. Team building and camaraderie are important for any team and co-located teams are no exception. Good managers go out of their way to form personal bonds with remote employees. They use check-in time to ask about their personal lives, families and hobbies. They allow team meeting time for "Water-cooler" conversation so the whole team can create personal connections and strengthen relationships.

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