Making Distributed Teams Work

Intraway has offices in several countries and many employees work from home some days or remotely full-time. At some point, you will inevitably need to contact someone outside the office, either a member of your team or someone from another department. Here are some tips to improve your communication with remote co-workers.

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Since the meetings will be held remotely, make sure to include a video call link on the invite.

Be punctual. Remember that for a remote colleague it’s harder to know if a meeting is postponed, if the previous one lasted longer than expected, or the meeting room is still occupied by somebody else. Let him/her know if there’s a change in schedule.

During the meeting, be mindful of those attending the meeting remotely. When in-person participants have more than one conversation at a time, make noises near the microphone, use whiteboards or screens that are not within sight of the camera, or talk too quietly, it’s difficult to participate remotely.

Also, consider that a two-hours in-person meeting is not the same as two-hours listening to multiple people present with limited opportunities to interact or ask questions. As a rule, try to keep remote meetings shorter, or break them up in several sessions.

Time Zones, Holidays and Calendars

If your colleagues live abroad or are traveling, they might have a different time zone or have different holidays than you. Be mindful of free and working time before setting up a meeting. Keeping your calendar updated is a good way to eliminate back and forth to check availability.

Making Remote Work Personable

It’ll take a different type of effort to develop a good relationship with a remote co-worker, but it’s very important to make an effort to make a bond with him/her. Working remotely can be awfully lonely, especially if the rest of the team works together in an office.

Find ways to include your remote co-workers in team activities and conversations. Dedicate some time to getting to know them. Many teams a group chat or WhatsApp group to talk about non-work-related things as well. It’s also a good idea to try to budget for in-person team gatherings so the team can get to know each other.

Staying in the Loop

Keep him/her up to date. Remember that remote teammates are most likely to miss out on many things that happen in the office and everyone else knows. Formalize important communication via email. Besides periodical meetings like huddles or weekly, have a one on one once in a while, and catch up. Have him/her travel to the office at least once a year and share a week with the team. If he/she is involved in a project, don’t meet at someone’s desk and discuss related issues. Instead, do a quick video call and keep him/her up to speed.

Difficult Conversations

If you have constructive feedback to give to a remote colleague, even if it is uncomfortable, talk to him/her soon before things between you get worse. Ask for a time to chat alone and try to have a video call, so you are as “face to face” as possible. Give yourselves a chance to put everything on the table and to receive each other’s feedback. Hopefully, you’ll work things out for the best.

Be considerate when contacting someone digitally. They might not be at their desk at the moment, or they might be in a call, or rushing to meet a deadline.

Be mindful of how body language complements what we say. When most of our communication takes place over email, chat or even the phone, it’s easy to misinterpret intention. Try not to attach judgment to written communication and ask for a quick video conference or phone call to clarify. And as a rule, when in doubt, ask. Don’t assume.

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