Since the start of the pandemic, working from home has become ubiquitous, but the road to remote work has not been an easy one for some workers.
While the shift away from the office has represented a significant adjustment for employees, remote work has also presented a unique set of challenges for employers. Many team leaders are wondering how to create a cohesive team when members are physically separated from one another.
So what do the most effective remote teams have in common? Keep reading to find out.
8 characteristics of effective remote teams
It’s helpful to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for remote work success. Different employees need different things, but in general, effective remote teams share these eight characteristics.
1. They understand expectations
Whether you’re in the office or remote, it’s impossible to do your job without an understanding of the expectations required. As a manager, it’s your job to lay them out as soon as possible. Make sure employees understand company guidelines, team priorities, individual performance goals and milestones.
Managers must also set expectations for availability. Team members should know how and when you expect to reach them, as well as the policies regarding after-hours correspondence. The line between personal time and work time often becomes blurred in remote environments, so making sure your team knows what is or isn’t expected of them can help avoid burnout.
2. They communicate effectively
If communication is critical in the office, it becomes even more crucial in a remote work setting.
Without effective communication, it’s impossible for team members to be aware of deadlines, manager expectations, employee resources and more.
Communication channels will differ depending on the culture of your company and team. Some teams prefer phone calls, while others prefer email, video calls or group chats. Here at JobAdder, we’re obsessed with Slack chats and video calls, but it all depends on the team and how they prefer to keep in touch.
Also, it’s good to remember that the amount of communication employees need can differ. It’s vital to strike the right balance between too much and not enough, as nothing is more frustrating than constant interruptions when you’re trying to concentrate. So how do you find out? The easiest way is to simply ask your employees their preferences.
3. They have a shared company culture
Company culture happens more naturally in an in-person setting, but it’s not impossible in virtual environments. It just requires more intention.
Still, having a shared company culture is critical because it creates a sense of belonging and makes people feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.
Every company should craft a clear set of values describing the importance of its employees and how it’s working to create an excellent workplace for them. As a manager, your job is to model these values.
4. They connect
Connection is more critical than ever, as remote work can cause workers to feel isolated. Lots of employees report missing the water-cooler talk that helps them develop friendships in the office, whether it’s about a great new sandwich place or an addictive reality TV show, which is why it’s vital to encourage those connections.
Many managers start group calls by leaving a few minutes at the beginning for non-work things, like discussing the weekend or catching up. Others make sure to celebrate birthdays or host a virtual pizza party every month (where every employee receives a pizza at home during the video call, please sign us up for this immediately).
The best way to connect is unique to every company and every team member, so brainstorm different methods of forging connections among remote teams. And remember, for an entirely remote team, meeting in person once or twice per year can make a huge difference when building personal connections between members.
5. They avoid micromanaging
It can be tempting to micromanage employees, especially when you aren’t seeing them in person. But the best thing you can do when managing remote teams is to trust the people on them. As long as you hire the right people and provide the right structures, the vast majority of employees will do what they’re supposed to.
On the contrary, micromanaging creates a frustrating work experience for team members. To put it simply, most people just don’t enjoy being micromanaged. It may cause your team to become unengaged or stressed, which kills productivity.
6. They use voice and video as much as possible
As so much of our communication is nonverbal, it’s easy for our intentions to get lost when emailing or messaging. Remote team members don’t hear the tone of your voice or see your body language. Only relying on emailing and messaging could hinder communication or lead to significant misunderstandings.
The most effective remote teams avoid this pitfall by using voice and video to collaborate as much as possible. Doing so allows everyone to experience the visual cues they would have in person. Video calls also help reduce the isolation people feel working from home. Plus, they’re the best way to discuss a sensitive topic with an employee.
7. They are open to feedback
No remote team manager is perfect, but the truly good ones are those who willingly accept feedback—and implement it when needed.
But being willing to hear feedback is just one part of the equation. Your employees need to know that you want their opinions, and they also need to know the best way to give them. Should they send an email? Discuss concerns over a video call? There is no right or wrong answer, but whatever the answer is, let them know.
8. They have managers who are available
Employees need to have access to their managers to do their job, and sometimes, being remote requires you to go above and beyond. You may have to employ multiple means of technology or make yourself available at odd hours to accommodate employees in different time zones.
The bottom line
Managing an effective remote team presents a different set of challenges than managing a team in person. Even the most experienced managers will have to fine tune their approach, but a little awareness and practice go a long way towards fostering a tight-knit, effective remote team.