Advanced Tactics for Collaborating with Remote Teams

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August 23, 2023
Remote Working

Working in IT headhunting allows me to speak with experts and leaders in the IT field.

I regularly pick their brains as many of them have become close associates and friends.

Recently, I got the opportunity to discuss how to collaborate effectively with remote teams.

Many years ago, the traditional office settings and the nine to five work mode were the only way to go.

With technology and of course, the need to stay safe, remote working is becoming increasingly popular.

Not only does it save tons of financial resources and time, but the benefits have also been evident in low-stress levels for employees.

Different software developers can now administer their skills from different time zones, effectively seeing a project through.

But it takes more than just having a bunch of tech talent in various locations to get a task done.

Collaborating with each teammate that is hundreds of miles away can become a total nightmare without proper planning and the right tools.

That said, if you are going to effectively collaborate with your remote teams and maximize productivity, here are some tips on how to go about it.

You may have heard of some of them. Some might even sound like a cliche, but trust me it's the little things that make a difference.



Communication

commu

Sounds like a cliche? The truth is, one of the greatest challenges that came with the remote work style is communication.

If you've been working remotely for a while, yet have communication challenges with your teammates, you are not alone.

That's because remote communication can be challenging if you don't plan it right and with the right tools.

If you can relate to these examples then you have a few revamps that need to be done with your teams' communication dynamics.

  • You get a text or email from your teammate at past 11 pm, but you are wondering why they have to request something official at odd hours.

  • As a team manager that organizes regular virtual conference meetings, you are confused if a team member is always using the mute button as an excuse to deliberately delay responses or they are not just paying attention.

  • You send tasks to your team members but are not sure if they are working on them or they've even seen them in the first place

  • You cannot quite place the tone of the email you just read.

The fact is, we now live in challenging times. What could be the problem with reading simple emails and getting to work with the instructions? Body language is missing.

Also, you can't read people's tones from emails, making interpretation almost limitless. Also, the time lag between responses can be frustrating, distracting, leading to second-guessing.

On how many occasions have you sent emails but wondered how the recipient would interpret them?

Trust me, misinterpretations can be costly as they may affect teammates' morale and ultimately, productivity.

For teams to collaborate effectively, every team member ought to be on the same page with the style, timing, and modalities of communication established by the company/team leaders or managers.

So, here are a few things to adopt if you don't have them already.

1. Adopt video means of communication

comm

If email is the only means of communication, it might be time to enable video conferencing tools alongside your usual platform for handling workflow/tasks.

It's a better approach to establishing rapport with team members.

It's easier to communicate empathy and the right tone with video.

Video meetings can be followed up with an email or text that summarizes all the points discussed during a virtual meeting. This way, you clear ambiguity.



2. Brief communication isn’t always clear communication

Yes, "simple and clear" is much easier to understand. However, in an effort to achieve less complexity in communication, fewer or abbreviated words can come with unclear terms.

Don't just come up with a shortened style of text and assume everyone on your team understands it because this is the trend of the 21st century.

As a team leader, if you must use special abbreviations or special characters in your email communications, establish them and bring everyone up to speed about their meanings.

Make sure they become an in-house thing and not just your thing. The same goes for every team member.

3. Establish norms & try to avoid bombarding your team members with messages

Instead of following up with repetitive annoying emails asking if they got your previous request and to confirm the status of the job, establish a mode of communication.

For example, team members should respond or give feedback immediately when they get a task, check in when the job is almost near completion, and if there are challenges.

As a team leader, you need trust here, otherwise, you'll end up frustrating the team with micromanagement.

4. Remember time zones and set work boundaries

boundaries

If you and your team members are in different time zones, you also want to establish times of communication as things can quickly become unmanageable.

Since work and home are virtually the same, it's tempting to send work and communicate at any time.

Just because team members work from home doesn't mean they don't have rest times.

It could get even more challenging if you have individual team members working in relatively different time zones.

Meaning, work hours and rest times will be different among members.

While it can be challenging getting them to attend virtual meetings since some of them might be at sleep at the scheduled time, you can also use different time zones to your advantage.

You can adopt a round-the-clock operation because as some go to end the day, others are up to begin work. This way you'll save time and resources.

For example, if a team of developers works in a time zone and submit their work for review, the reviewers can check at the off-time of the initial team.

It will undoubtedly cut down delays and speed up turn around time of a software development project.

Altogether, as a team leader, let your team have a home/work balance, even though it's difficult to physically separate the two.

If you are going to drop a task during odd hours, bear in mind the recipient may not see it until the normal time.

For example, you send a task in by 11 pm and want it done in 12 hours.

If the recipient has gone to bed, chances are, they won't see the update until morning and also won't have enough time to turn in the task at the set deadline.

Therefore, set clear boundaries that will allow them to enjoy their non-work hours.

5. The recurring meeting strategy

discuss

If you are going to call for a meeting anytime the need arises, you will not only clash with your team members' productive time, you may also not get everyone on board in time.

To make things work, agree with your team and establish times for recurring meetings. This way team members know of the meeting times and can schedule their work around it.

For a software development team, there should be daily meetings to ensure every team member understands their deliverables in the next hours.

The meeting should also discuss possible hurdles that may prevent them from completing tasks.

Unless you have a relatively large team, you should ensure this meeting doesn't last too long as it should be scheduled at the start of the day.

Furthermore, remote teams should have one weekly sprint meeting to set the structure and expectations for the week ending.

The meeting should answer what milestones need to be reached and how the goal will be accomplished.

6. Make your internet connection faster with a VPN

vpn

With all the advanced tools of real-time communication and collaboration, a poor internet connection can make things less effective.

If you've been in a conference meeting where zoom isn't working properly, I'm pretty sure you have an idea of how frustrating that could be.

While you may get reasonable results after running a speed test on your connection, it may be that your ISP is throttling your connection.

With a VPN or virtual private network, you'll encrypt all your internet traffic. This way ISP can't decipher what kind of traffic it is. Meaning, they can't throttle it.

Working with an effective VPN client can improve your connection speed for faster collaboration and also provide a boost in security if you are working with clients' sensitive data.

7. Have a system of work that encourages regular collaboration

If you are running a large operation, perhaps you have many developers working on multiple software development projects at the same time.

A good approach will be switching up the work to encourage collaboration.

If you have a set of people working together on the same type of project all the time, it will naturally lead to isolation and burnout among that team.

However, switching up your teams and work allows regular collaboration and bonding to achieve a common goal.

Support each team member

When it comes to collaborating effectively, this tip is by far one of the most important.

The truth is, every member of your team won't be the same. While your job as a team leader is to ensure fairness and optimum capacity functioning of your team, still, you can't ignore the obvious.

Some team members may require extra encouragement, appreciation, and extra time to turn in a project.

Some team members may be single, while others may be working moms or dads with kids to care for.

In conventional office settings, there may be periods you will allow a mom to close early or take the day off to attend to an issue at her child's school.

Similarly, consciously make efforts to ask them for their challenges and how they can be managed to get the work done with other teammates.

Because it's not uncommon for remote work operations to flow in only one direction: team lead sends tasks and developers turn them in.

Members often feel like mere tools for completing a task. In this regard, allow an open channel of communication and encourage members to use it in presenting their opinions and challenges.

Not only will this tip help in effective collaboration, but it will also help in maintaining transparency among your team.

1. Initiate virtual team-building activities

Let's face it, a team that bonds together will naturally collaborate effectively during work operation.

Therefore, don't allow your remote team to collaborate for work only. Allocate some time for fun and celebration.

It's crucial for members of a team to participate in fun activities as it helps in building relationships that'll make cooperation in other areas seamless.

Not to sound like a cliche, team-building exercises have proven to be effective in promoting collaboration among remote teams as it promotes a positive work culture.

Because it's technically a time to unwind, virtual team bonding also allows your member to have a sense of belonging.

The truth is working from home in a coronavirus era doesn't allow many options of fun and going out for some people because of trying to stay safe.

Therefore, a little mingling with colleagues, even though it's virtual, may go a long way in making members have a work-life/fun life balance.

Virtual team bonding activities can be simple exercises like online trivia games, a celebration of birthdays, giving other team members virtual tours of your homes, or even sharing bucket lists together.

2. Keep track of team progress with well-established KPIs

Another challenge that exists in remote work operations is keeping track of the development & progress of team members.

Because remote work sometimes comes down to two major things: assigning tasks by heads and turning them in by subordinates when done, team leads and managers often fall into the trap of micro-managing to avoid the real task of keeping track of progress. This move often affects productivity.

However, adopting the right performance/KPI measuring software will not only eliminate micromanagement but will also help better team management and develop an improvement strategy.

What's more, you want to set KPIs that measure how team members effectively collaborate with other teams or individual members.

This way, every team member will understand the established KPI and work towards fulfilling the requirements.

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Full-Stack PHP Developer Tech Lead

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Marketing Specialists

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Senior Full-Stack PHP Developer

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Advanced Tactics for Collaborating with Remote Teams

February 16, 2024

Working in IT headhunting allows me to speak with experts and leaders in the IT field.

I regularly pick their brains as many of them have become close associates and friends.

Recently, I got the opportunity to discuss how to collaborate effectively with remote teams.

Many years ago, the traditional office settings and the nine to five work mode were the only way to go.

With technology and of course, the need to stay safe, remote working is becoming increasingly popular.

Not only does it save tons of financial resources and time, but the benefits have also been evident in low-stress levels for employees.

Different software developers can now administer their skills from different time zones, effectively seeing a project through.

But it takes more than just having a bunch of tech talent in various locations to get a task done.

Collaborating with each teammate that is hundreds of miles away can become a total nightmare without proper planning and the right tools.

That said, if you are going to effectively collaborate with your remote teams and maximize productivity, here are some tips on how to go about it.

You may have heard of some of them. Some might even sound like a cliche, but trust me it's the little things that make a difference.



Communication

commu

Sounds like a cliche? The truth is, one of the greatest challenges that came with the remote work style is communication.

If you've been working remotely for a while, yet have communication challenges with your teammates, you are not alone.

That's because remote communication can be challenging if you don't plan it right and with the right tools.

If you can relate to these examples then you have a few revamps that need to be done with your teams' communication dynamics.

  • You get a text or email from your teammate at past 11 pm, but you are wondering why they have to request something official at odd hours.

  • As a team manager that organizes regular virtual conference meetings, you are confused if a team member is always using the mute button as an excuse to deliberately delay responses or they are not just paying attention.

  • You send tasks to your team members but are not sure if they are working on them or they've even seen them in the first place

  • You cannot quite place the tone of the email you just read.

The fact is, we now live in challenging times. What could be the problem with reading simple emails and getting to work with the instructions? Body language is missing.

Also, you can't read people's tones from emails, making interpretation almost limitless. Also, the time lag between responses can be frustrating, distracting, leading to second-guessing.

On how many occasions have you sent emails but wondered how the recipient would interpret them?

Trust me, misinterpretations can be costly as they may affect teammates' morale and ultimately, productivity.

For teams to collaborate effectively, every team member ought to be on the same page with the style, timing, and modalities of communication established by the company/team leaders or managers.

So, here are a few things to adopt if you don't have them already.

1. Adopt video means of communication

comm

If email is the only means of communication, it might be time to enable video conferencing tools alongside your usual platform for handling workflow/tasks.

It's a better approach to establishing rapport with team members.

It's easier to communicate empathy and the right tone with video.

Video meetings can be followed up with an email or text that summarizes all the points discussed during a virtual meeting. This way, you clear ambiguity.



2. Brief communication isn’t always clear communication

Yes, "simple and clear" is much easier to understand. However, in an effort to achieve less complexity in communication, fewer or abbreviated words can come with unclear terms.

Don't just come up with a shortened style of text and assume everyone on your team understands it because this is the trend of the 21st century.

As a team leader, if you must use special abbreviations or special characters in your email communications, establish them and bring everyone up to speed about their meanings.

Make sure they become an in-house thing and not just your thing. The same goes for every team member.

3. Establish norms & try to avoid bombarding your team members with messages

Instead of following up with repetitive annoying emails asking if they got your previous request and to confirm the status of the job, establish a mode of communication.

For example, team members should respond or give feedback immediately when they get a task, check in when the job is almost near completion, and if there are challenges.

As a team leader, you need trust here, otherwise, you'll end up frustrating the team with micromanagement.

4. Remember time zones and set work boundaries

boundaries

If you and your team members are in different time zones, you also want to establish times of communication as things can quickly become unmanageable.

Since work and home are virtually the same, it's tempting to send work and communicate at any time.

Just because team members work from home doesn't mean they don't have rest times.

It could get even more challenging if you have individual team members working in relatively different time zones.

Meaning, work hours and rest times will be different among members.

While it can be challenging getting them to attend virtual meetings since some of them might be at sleep at the scheduled time, you can also use different time zones to your advantage.

You can adopt a round-the-clock operation because as some go to end the day, others are up to begin work. This way you'll save time and resources.

For example, if a team of developers works in a time zone and submit their work for review, the reviewers can check at the off-time of the initial team.

It will undoubtedly cut down delays and speed up turn around time of a software development project.

Altogether, as a team leader, let your team have a home/work balance, even though it's difficult to physically separate the two.

If you are going to drop a task during odd hours, bear in mind the recipient may not see it until the normal time.

For example, you send a task in by 11 pm and want it done in 12 hours.

If the recipient has gone to bed, chances are, they won't see the update until morning and also won't have enough time to turn in the task at the set deadline.

Therefore, set clear boundaries that will allow them to enjoy their non-work hours.

5. The recurring meeting strategy

discuss

If you are going to call for a meeting anytime the need arises, you will not only clash with your team members' productive time, you may also not get everyone on board in time.

To make things work, agree with your team and establish times for recurring meetings. This way team members know of the meeting times and can schedule their work around it.

For a software development team, there should be daily meetings to ensure every team member understands their deliverables in the next hours.

The meeting should also discuss possible hurdles that may prevent them from completing tasks.

Unless you have a relatively large team, you should ensure this meeting doesn't last too long as it should be scheduled at the start of the day.

Furthermore, remote teams should have one weekly sprint meeting to set the structure and expectations for the week ending.

The meeting should answer what milestones need to be reached and how the goal will be accomplished.

6. Make your internet connection faster with a VPN

vpn

With all the advanced tools of real-time communication and collaboration, a poor internet connection can make things less effective.

If you've been in a conference meeting where zoom isn't working properly, I'm pretty sure you have an idea of how frustrating that could be.

While you may get reasonable results after running a speed test on your connection, it may be that your ISP is throttling your connection.

With a VPN or virtual private network, you'll encrypt all your internet traffic. This way ISP can't decipher what kind of traffic it is. Meaning, they can't throttle it.

Working with an effective VPN client can improve your connection speed for faster collaboration and also provide a boost in security if you are working with clients' sensitive data.

7. Have a system of work that encourages regular collaboration

If you are running a large operation, perhaps you have many developers working on multiple software development projects at the same time.

A good approach will be switching up the work to encourage collaboration.

If you have a set of people working together on the same type of project all the time, it will naturally lead to isolation and burnout among that team.

However, switching up your teams and work allows regular collaboration and bonding to achieve a common goal.

Support each team member

When it comes to collaborating effectively, this tip is by far one of the most important.

The truth is, every member of your team won't be the same. While your job as a team leader is to ensure fairness and optimum capacity functioning of your team, still, you can't ignore the obvious.

Some team members may require extra encouragement, appreciation, and extra time to turn in a project.

Some team members may be single, while others may be working moms or dads with kids to care for.

In conventional office settings, there may be periods you will allow a mom to close early or take the day off to attend to an issue at her child's school.

Similarly, consciously make efforts to ask them for their challenges and how they can be managed to get the work done with other teammates.

Because it's not uncommon for remote work operations to flow in only one direction: team lead sends tasks and developers turn them in.

Members often feel like mere tools for completing a task. In this regard, allow an open channel of communication and encourage members to use it in presenting their opinions and challenges.

Not only will this tip help in effective collaboration, but it will also help in maintaining transparency among your team.

1. Initiate virtual team-building activities

Let's face it, a team that bonds together will naturally collaborate effectively during work operation.

Therefore, don't allow your remote team to collaborate for work only. Allocate some time for fun and celebration.

It's crucial for members of a team to participate in fun activities as it helps in building relationships that'll make cooperation in other areas seamless.

Not to sound like a cliche, team-building exercises have proven to be effective in promoting collaboration among remote teams as it promotes a positive work culture.

Because it's technically a time to unwind, virtual team bonding also allows your member to have a sense of belonging.

The truth is working from home in a coronavirus era doesn't allow many options of fun and going out for some people because of trying to stay safe.

Therefore, a little mingling with colleagues, even though it's virtual, may go a long way in making members have a work-life/fun life balance.

Virtual team bonding activities can be simple exercises like online trivia games, a celebration of birthdays, giving other team members virtual tours of your homes, or even sharing bucket lists together.

2. Keep track of team progress with well-established KPIs

Another challenge that exists in remote work operations is keeping track of the development & progress of team members.

Because remote work sometimes comes down to two major things: assigning tasks by heads and turning them in by subordinates when done, team leads and managers often fall into the trap of micro-managing to avoid the real task of keeping track of progress. This move often affects productivity.

However, adopting the right performance/KPI measuring software will not only eliminate micromanagement but will also help better team management and develop an improvement strategy.

What's more, you want to set KPIs that measure how team members effectively collaborate with other teams or individual members.

This way, every team member will understand the established KPI and work towards fulfilling the requirements.

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