There are many benefits to working with remote development teams. Lower costs, greater flexibility and access to top talent are just a few of them. However, working remotely also comes with its own set of challenges. In this blog post, we will outline the challenges faced by dispersed teams and their managers, and provide a long list of best practices that can help solve these problems.
The benefits of remote teams
There are undeniable benefits that come with dispersed teams. The costs associated with remote teams are often lower, as remote team members do not require the same level of office infrastructure and resources that an in-house team would. Remote teams offer greater flexibility and access to top talent from all over the globe, allowing businesses to leverage a range of skills and perspectives.
The challenges faced by dispersed teams
Managers of remote development teams must contend with a lack of boundaries between work and personal life, unclear expectations, feelings of isolation and being constantly plugged in, and difficulty with team collaboration.
One of the biggest challenges remote teams and their managers face is a lack of boundaries. Without the structure that comes with physical offices, remote employees may struggle to set clear boundaries between work and personal life, leading to issues such as overworking or burnout.
Remote employees may find it more difficult to understand what their duties entail, while managers can have trouble with setting clear expectations. This can lead to miscommunication, confusion, and delayed projects.
Remote team members may also feel isolated from their colleagues, resulting in lower morale and productivity. Additionally, remote team members can feel like they are always “on” and constantly plugged into their work, leading to feelings of stress and exhaustion.
Team collaboration can also be a challenge for remote teams. Without physical proximity or access to face-to-face meetings, remote team members may struggle with communication and coordination between team members.
All of these problems can lead to a lack of trust. In many organizations, micromanagement is a natural reaction to being unable to actually see team members do their jobs, but it can cause resentment and further reduce morale.
Best practices for remote team management
Fortunately, there are a number of best practices that remote teams and their managers can adopt to help alleviate these issues.
An important best practice for remote teams to have an optimized onboarding process that ensures all team members understand the expectations, goals, and processes of the organization. Managers should provide clear guidelines on how remote team members should conduct themselves in their roles as well as guidelines for setting boundaries between work and personal life.
Adding more structure
Managers should also add more structure to remote team operations by creating clear channels for communication and collaboration. This could involve setting up a workflow management system, providing remote team members with the necessary tools for a remote environment, and utilizing video conferencing software for remote meetings.
It is also crucial for each team member to understand how they fit into the larger company processes. This will allow them to better grasp their own roles and responsibilities as well as the roles of other team members. As a result, they will be able to make better decisions, communicate more effectively, and engage more.
Setting clear expectations and boundaries between work and personal life
Boundaries are essential for remote team members to be productive and avoid burnout. This can come in the form of tracking working hours to ensure that no one is overdoing it, or as support for physically separating work from personal life. Offering remote workers an allowance for furnishing a home office can also help reduce feelings of isolation and being left to one's own devices.
Being open to team members' ideas
Managers should be open to team members' ideas and feedback. This will allow remote employees to feel more included and appreciated, which can lead to improved morale, stronger relationships between team members, and increased productivity. Additionally, many of these ideas can bring great value to the organization.
Promoting team bonding activities
Team-building activities can help remote employees feel connected and foster trust. This can be done through regularly scheduled remote team meetings, virtual happy hours or games, or even remote office “field trips”.
Encouraging effective communication
Effective communication is essential for remote teams to succeed. Managers should ensure that remote team members have access to instant messaging, project management software, video conferencing and remote meetings. Additionally, the benefits experienced by in-house workers - being in the same physical space with everyone, where the action is - should be mitigated to ensure equality and transparency for all team members.
Managers should consider hosting regular AMA sessions or office hours for remote employees. Additional sources of information (such as FAQs or an internal wiki) on how to get in touch with specific people or where to raise a certain issue can also be helpful.
Regular check-ins are a great way to ensure remote team members stay engaged and motivated. They also help managers to look for opportunities to recognize individual contributions, provide feedback and coaching as needed, and create opportunities to work on interesting projects.
Focus on results
In a traditional office, managers often control the time each team member spends at work. For remote teams, this can be detrimental to morale and productivity. Therefore, remote team managers should focus on performance and results rather than hours worked.
Team members should be encouraged to document their processes, current practices and tasks. This will help all team members understand how their work fits into the overall goals of the organization, what resources they can use, how to get them, and so on. Aside from creating highly readable, user-friendly documentation, it is crucial to ensure that it can be easily found and accessed by those who need it.
Encouraging regular breaks throughout the day
Regular breaks can help remote team members stay focused and productive. Managers should encourage team members to step away from their desks periodically throughout the day and to take regular vacations.
Remote teams come from diverse backgrounds, cultures and locations. Managers should celebrate these differences and use them to their advantage when problem solving, making decisions or working on projects.
Choosing effective tools
To be productive and successful, remote teams need the right tools. Managers should select tools that support remote collaboration, communication, project management, task tracking, etc. The chosen tools should also be user friendly so that team members can easily learn how to use them.
Helping remote employees succeed
With clear expectations, team building activities and effective communication tools in place, remote teams can work together productively and efficiently. Furthermore, remote teams should always be aware of the need to respect work-life balance and promote diversity both within the team and in their remote working practices. Managers should also ensure that there are sufficient processes, documentation and tools in place for remote teams to succeed.
By following these remote team management best practices, remote teams can create a productive and collaborative environment that supports their remote workforce and boosts their performance.