Before we get into the article, here’s a quick rundown of the 5 issues EVERY remote team eventually faces:
1. Issue #1 - Unnecessary (excessive/redundant) live conversation
2. Issue #2 - Blurred rules
3. Issue #3 - Devoid in empathy
4. Issue #4 - Inconsistent processes
5. Issue #5 - Unclear goals
We’re going to look at each of these and also provide a potential solution you can immediately apply to remedy each issue.
Real-time communication over chat or call, either one-to-one or as a team, can lead to wasted time when teams work remotely. Now, when working remotely, communication is important to maintain a personal connect between the team. That being said, real-time communication between remote members almost always takes more time than between teammates working within the same office. For an organization, it is important that processes take the same amount of time when teams work remotely as it would when they work in-office. Otherwise, the whole step of going remote becomes inefficient.
The answer to reducing redundant real-time communication is conducting asynchronous communication instead. ‘Asynchronous communication’ is when different team members respond to a request at their convenience rather than in real-time.
For example, consider a daily standup meeting. Conducting the daily standup meeting in real-time would mean waiting for all members to come online, asking each member the standup questions, getting answers one participant at a time while others wait their turn, and finally creating a report with all answers. Conducting this same meeting asynchronously would mean publishing the standup questions to all participants and continuing with other tasks. Each participant answers the questions independently and at their own time (within a time frame). In this scenario, each member does not need to wait around for others to finish, and the entire process moves along more efficiently.
You can take this a step further by automating asynchronous communication. There are tools available that let you automate asynchronous meetings and run them without any manual intervention.
P.S. If you use Slack, you can use Dixi to automate recurring meetings. Find out how it works here - The Best Way to Conduct the Daily Standup With Remote Teams.
Working from home can create a relaxed atmosphere that could be conducive to leniency. Certain rules like log in time, hours to work per day/week, dress code, etc are alleviated. There are certain rules that don’t directly affect productivity, like dress code, and managers can choose to ease them. There are some rules, however, that directly affect productivity. Especially rules that are derived from SLAs signed with clients.
For example, if a support team has to pick a ticket within fifteen minutes of its creation as per an SLA signed between the company and the client, not doing so is a breach of contract and is punishable. The team has to abide by this rule irrespective of their work location. How can a manager or team lead ensure all important rules are being followed when teams work remotely?
Firstly, by clearly communicating the important rules AND the consequences of not following them. Secondly, by including these rules in each member’s KRA. Taking the same example, if one KRA for the team is to maintain 99% SLAs, they automatically understand the importance of this rule and its impact on their performance rating.
Conversations between team members can become robotic and lack empathy, especially if all communication is happening over chat. It is important for teams to maintain morale and a personal connect, both for personal support and for work productivity.
Teams can maintain the sort of camaraderie in-office teams have scheduling video conferences once or twice a week. These can be purely catch up calls or can also be work related meetings conducted over video calls. Seeing the team in real-time and face-to-face is a great way to build empathy between team members.
Similar to the breakage of rules, workflows and processes also get affected when teams work remotely. It’s difficult to track what each employee is doing and how they are doing it, and this loss in transparency can lead to a lapse in processes.
For example, it may be a business process for teams to document version changes made to an application being developed. When working from home the environment is always relaxed and team members can be forgetful of small processes (like documenting every change made) which seem presumably inconsequential. Missing a change documentation on a normal day when the app works as expected is inconsequential. Missing a change documentation on a day the app breaks is a whole different scenario.
Just like with rules, processes can be enforced by one clearly communicating them and the consequences of breaking them, and two by including them in the team’s KRA.
A one week job getting dragged for a month is not something new when remote teams are involved. There are a lot of redundancies that get included when teams working on a project are working on it remotely. For example, two employees who have a dependency on each other will take much longer to finish a job when working in different time zones than two employees who work in the same office.
Giving each team member a clear goal and a timeline will help maintain accountability within the team. There are many task management tools (Asana, Jira, etc) available today that let team leads track goals (as tasks). You can also use Dixi to automate and run a daily status meeting to get an idea of the team’s progress.