Decades from today, girls and boys would be sitting around the campfire and asking, “Daddy, what’s an office?”
(It’ll be like those videos of teens desperately trying to figure out how to make a rotary phone work.)
Remote work has changed the landscape and upended the very way we do our jobs. We find ourselves collaborating with colleagues on the other side of the globe, employing our talents and skills alongside the best in the world.
Teamwork productivity is the name of the game. And those teams who can outproduce others often get the biggest piece of the pie.
So in this post, we look at some of the ways distributed workforces can up their game and become super collaborators.
4 Keys For Super Collaborations
#1 Embrace Asynchronous Communication
Increasing productivity and asynchronous communications may seem to be at odds. You might think having team members working and sleeping at different times, how is that ever going to help productivity. Getting a hold of someone would feel like playing tag or Whac-A-Mole.
Coordinating work across time zones may prove to be quite a challenge. But we do have some evidence that it can actually raise productivity.
Well, when you realize just how non-productive office meetings are, and how distributed teams are forced to attend fewer meetings and given more individual and independent work, you might have an idea of the benefits of having people in different time zones.
(When the meetings do happen, people are more thoughtful and engaged.)
Remote work allows employees to manage their time, working at their peak moments and thus giving their most creative output.
Remote employees experience less burnout, more work-life balance, and fewer interruptions—and all these favours distributed work teams.
That said, remote teams have to get it right. They must overcome the challenges of working with people virtually or through messages and emails. Because they can just as easily be as disorganized and dysfunctional.
#2 Get It “Right.”
As with office workers, remote teams must have crystal-clear communication. Perhaps even more so in a remote situation. Volleying back and forth over email can not only be frustrating, but it can also be a huge waste of time and resources. It will feel like the world has passed you by.
Ironically, in order to have as clear a communication system as possible, the team needs to minimize it as much as possible. Paradoxically, in order to not miscommunicate, the team must try not to communicate at all!
What this means is minimizing those times when people are waiting around, asking questions and waiting for instructions, and not knowing what to do. A well-oiled machine is simply doing its thing.
There are two important things for teams to get to this point, and these should be established early in the collaborative effort.
Establish clearly defined roles, expectations, and deadlines.
This takes a lot of talking, discussing, and explaining at the outset, but it will preclude so much back and forth and waiting around in the future.
Who’s in charge of what? What are the minimum standards that are expected? Give examples of poor work, and bad execution and impress on the team that these will never be tolerated. Instruct them on how to make corrections as well. This goes for any type of business or organization you run.
Let people see the big picture, the process, and the way the business runs, and let them understand their part in it. Handoff points should be clearly defined to prevent any doubt as to responsibilities. (Where one job ends, another begins.)
Let guys understand how their work affects others, and how delays on their end will create a ripple effect on the rest of the system.
For example, a graphic designer should know that if he doesn’t produce on time, it will prevent the sales team from doing their jobs at all.
And so, deadlines and work quality must strictly be adhered to.
Establish SOPs, templates, and checklists
The second way for teams to communicate as little as possible is by mutually respecting a set of standard operating procedures, following agreed-to templates, and working on the same checklists.
When policies, protocols, and procedures are well established, people don’t need to wait for instructions anymore because, in essence, they’ve already been given.
So, that said, how do we know that we are doing it right?
While there’s no end point to improvement and one can never say for sure that such is the very best a remote team can do, there are several indicators that might suggest you’re on the right track:
Indicators You’re Getting IT “Right:”
- Timely delivery of work (Delays and bottlenecks have been minimized.)
- High-quality product/service
- Client satisfaction (You read customer reviews and smile.)
- Business growth (More clients are preferring your offering over the competition.)
- High-morale employees
And when you do get a sense that you have instituted a set of work system that works. It then becomes a matter of optimizing what you have.
#3 Increase Speed and Efficiency.
When the team has found something that works, they now have to see how to have more of it. Increasing speed and efficiency often requires doing these 3 things:
- Automation—Look at the process and see if the repetitive and routine parts of the operation can be automated. This increases speed by several factors. For example, are there instances in customer communications that are better automated? Sending email reminders, for instance, can be automated away and free folks to do more creative work.
- Use every available tool—This is related to the first. There are technologies, equipment, or 3rd-party services that can make your business more efficient and robust. Use them proactively. Sometimes, the deciding factor between equally determined competitors is their willingness to use available tools to help them serve the clients better.
- Optimize by subtraction—Get lean. Are there activities that do not meaningfully add value to your product or service? Minimize them or get rid of them completely. Put a Pareto magnifying glass on the business. What are the 80% of products, activities, or efforts that are barely noticeable in the eye of the client? You’ll do well to gradually lose them and focus instead on the 20% that’s bringing the most value.
#4 Maintain The Team
After optimizing their system, remote teams should never forget that it is composed of individuals who get tired, maybe undergoing health issues, marital problems, or other challenges in their lives.
And it just so happens that in any collaborative effort, it’s not the tools that give an organization its edge (everyone practically uses the same ones), it’s the people that matter most.
Here are some things individuals in a team can do that score big in the work-life balance arena:
- Make it a point to have a hobby.
Working remotely is a long game. And if you don’t want to become burnout after a few months or years, you better have something else besides the job. And I don’t mean the family, wife and kids, and your other gigs.
I mean things that you actually enjoy for pleasure and leisure—a sport, a craft, a weird, quirky activity that only you understand. You must not only have that, but you also need actually to invest the time and effort into it. Because these things can shield you from burning out.
Remote workers cannot go all in all the time because that’s a recipe for burnout. That’s a virtual guarantee. It happens so often we can practically predict it.
- Talk about something else besides work during your meetings.
I’ve been on Zoom calls where, for hours, everybody is dialed in on the project. And you can just sense everybody’s energy and attention lagging. Then a cat suddenly walks into the frame and everybody lights up, “Oh, hello kittyyy. You look so cute!!!”
And this little paw-ser refreshes everybody.
You shouldn’t wait for moments like this to drop on your lap. In Zoom meetings, for example, have those snippets of moments, where you encourage people to share something about those hobbies we just talked about. Let people know others as individuals, not just “Joey, the design guy.”
“So, did you take pictures of that camping thing you did last weekend?”
“So, how did that lava cake turn out?”
“Guys, guys, I just got a new moka pot, and I’m never going back to instant coffee ever again!”
Take a breather. It’s okay. You’re not curing cancer. (Unless, of course, if…)
- Make room for each other’s creativity.
Yup, this belongs to the section on taking care of one’s mental health.
One of the biggest draws of working remotely is not only about work schedule flexibility but also about having the independence to do the job.
If being micromanaged is soul-crushing, being able to express one’s creativity is a soul-fattening freedom. It gives the individual the satisfaction of doing the job according to one’s aesthetics and beliefs. (As long as it’s on par with agreed-upon quality standards.)
This keeps individual morale high and increases productivity and creativity for the team as a whole.
Give people room to play and operate and they will showcase their talents and what they do best.
Pick them well, train them well, and unleash them…and you just might be in for a wonderful surprise.
So that’s how you build and nurture a team of remote super collaborators. You establish the foundational aspects early on, build up what works, start speeding it up, and then regularly check in on people. With these four things, you and your remote team can be a serious productive, and profitable force.
Finding people for your remote team seems like a daunting task. How do you go about finding the best talent for the role?
That’s what Kinetic Innovative Staffing is all about. We help businesses of any size hire seasoned remote professionals. So whether you’re hiring a project manager or a virtual assistant, Kinetic will make the process as intuitive and as simple as possible.
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By hiring remote workers, your company saves as much as 70% on your labour costs, without any loss in productivity or work quality.
So if you want to explore this opportunity, have any questions, or want to find out more, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Kinetic Innovative Staffing has been providing hundreds of companies in the Asia Pacific, North America, the Middle East, and Europe with professionals working remotely from the Philippines since 2013. Get in touch to know more.