I work as a part of a remote team. While the employees I support are all based in Chicago and Minneapolis, my boss and colleagues are spread throughout the country. We have set team calls every week and we talk almost every day, whether through email, text, video chat or good old fashion telephone. All of these forms of communication are great in keeping us informed and help in our continual relationship building, but nothing replaces the level of productivity we are able to achieve when we are together. If you manage a remote team, make every effort you can to bring that team together as much as you can.
I work for an international consulting firm, Slalom, headquartered in Seattle. My peers are based in New York, Atlanta, San Francisco and Seattle. We come together at least 3 times per year. By doing so, we accomplish 3 main things: build upon a continuous roadmap, provide context to virtual meetings and issues, and build stronger relationships within our team.
When managing a remote group of employees, it is important to have a road map of all you want and need to accomplish. Call these goals or priorities or just some fun things to do. Just make sure they are visible and everyone is on board. This road map sets the tone for all you need to accomplish and plan to accomplish. In our initial get-together in 2014, we set this in motion. It is now our guiding document to drive every in person meeting we have. There have already been several course corrections to continually meet the needs of the business, but we are all on board and in agreement. This exercise would not be as effective through voice or video calls. We debate, disagree, express our opinions and then come to agreement.
Another important element of bringing remote teams together is the context. A lot of work and decisions are made via email, phone or text. When locations span 3 or more time zones, much can be lost in translation. Tone, body language and facial expressions are missed. People are easily distracted by the internet or email on conference calls and many details can be missed. By bringing teams together, you are able to better explain why decision are made and the floor is open for debate. In today’s virtual world, so much is lost in translation and relationships can be damaged when context, tone and body language are not present.
Most importantly, bringing your remote team together builds a stronger relationship. Outside of the monotony of meetings and problem solving, you get the chance to get to know one another. There is the opportunity to socialize, have lunch and dinner together and catch up. In the few times I have gotten to spend with my other peers, I feel I know them better and am able to work more closely because of the personal time we have spent together.
As businesses continue to expand, remote teams will grow, too. With the push to give teams more flexibility to work remotely, it is important to build time to bring those teams together. In the end, no matter how much time you spend together, it never seems to be enough. There are always those tasks you won’t get to, topics that get pushed aside or those programs you wish you would have fought for when you had the chance. The good news is, those topics set the agenda for the next time you get together.
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