This is a guest post from Degreed’s Global Head of Comms, Content & Client Advocacy Teams Sarah Danzl.
As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work and it’s a priority for all team leaders. Especially given the past few months, when all of us were suddenly flung into unprecedented times and had to upend our working practices in a matter of days. Make no mistake, remote and hybrid working will remain a core part of our new reality. Indeed, 85% of people wish to continue working remotely some, or all, of the time post-pandemic. This poses unique challenges in fostering a close-knit team — especially when they’re based in different locations and time zones.
You have to be more intentional about work/life balance, sharing personal experiences, and building strong working relationships. But the benefits are tremendous. For starters, you can pick the very best talent from across the world. Geography is no longer a limiting factor in your recruitment. You also broaden your diversity of thought and experience. It can enable people to work who otherwise may not be able to access a workplace, like neurodiverse individuals or those with caring commitments. Finally, it offers greater flexibility and autonomy to your team.
This is something I’ve experienced for a long time. I lead a team of 14 people based in six time zones and four countries. Some of them have never met their fellow team members in person. Here are some of the ways I’ve ensured that they feel (and support each other) like a traditional team.
Have regular meetings
My personal preference is to hold a weekly team meeting along with one-on-one meetings with each team member. This way, you can update your team on everything they need to know and also get dedicated time to discuss their work, any blockers or concerns, and long-term career growth.
Key to a successful team meeting is having a structure that allows for team updates alongside social discussions, spontaneous questions, exchanging ideas and troubleshooting. Setting an agenda beforehand is a must, to focus people on the task at hand. I also recommend having 10 minutes at the start or end of each meeting for informal chats and to discuss how everyone is feeling that week.
Be results driven
In an office, it’s easy to equate performance with time at work. In a remote environment, people may not always be at their desks all day, or at the same time. Your measures of good performance need to evolve. Looking at output instead of time at work is an effective way to get the results you want, without micromanaging someone or setting specific working hours. Of course, people do need to be available to collaborate with their team members or answer questions. So there does have to be a way to asynchronously communicate (through a messaging platform like Slack, for example) or agreed availability hours that everyone knows about. In my team, we have ‘Slack’ hours when we’re available for quick chats and questions in real-time. As for results, we have team and individual KPIs (key performance indicators) that we update quarterly. Meeting these goals are more important to me than time at a desk.
Make your expectations clear
This links closely with my KPI point above. By communicating what you expect of someone in their role, you’re ensuring that they meet those expectations. If they don’t know what you want from them, they’re working blind. Write and speak clearly, so your instructions are not misunderstood. Because in a remote team, it can be easier to overlook a task or deadline.
Hire the right people
Being part of a remote team isn’t for everyone — and that’s okay! But make sure that the people you hire have the aptitude and skills to thrive as part of a remote or hybrid team. Good time and project management skills are a must, as is a self-motivating attitude as you won’t be there all the time to guide and push them.
Set time boundaries
Work/life balance can be a challenge when working remotely, particularly if your home computer is also the one you use to socialise and relax. It can be too tempting to answer one last email… at midnight. Let your team set their boundaries, when they are logging off and will answer any emails or messages in the morning. Ensure they know that they can disconnect. And let the rest of the team know when someone is and isn’t available. This is especially important when working across multiple time zones.
All work and no play is, quite frankly, draining. Your team will work better if they socialise together too. This doesn’t have to be in-person. My team has recently done cocktail and cooking classes. The wider Degreed team have held virtual casino nights, workouts, yoga and more.
For more on working from home, read our previous guest post from Question & Retain’s Annabel Dunstan, featuring advice for balancing work and home life.
Heading back to the office soon and feeling nervous? Check out advice from mental health professionals on how to prepare for your return to in-office working.