Communication is everything. When everyone works in the same building, it’s easy to communicate – so easy that you might take it for granted. Working with a remote team is difficult. Everyone is off on their own, working autonomously. You won’t run into them by the coffee maker and be able to casually relay a message. Establishing successful communication becomes more of a chore when you lose that convenience. It requires structure and oversight.
Work on universal time
If everyone is in a different time zone, you’ll have to bridge that gap. The best way to do that is to establish a “work” time zone. If you mean to set a conference call at 4 PM, people may get confused about which 4 PM you meant when you sent that memo. Many businesses operate on Greenwich Mean Time so everyone will be using the same clock. There’s much less confusion that way.
Consult with everyone about availability
Your team members may have different availability. You can’t expect them all to conform to your schedule when they’re working from different places. You may have to break them up into communication sessions, handling one group early and one group late. Recap information from the other meetings, and share it with the other teams. You may need to alternate your meeting times or switch people into different groups. Flexibility is crucial. You’ll be working hard to keep everyone coordinated, but you also can’t expect your team to make tremendous sacrifices just to make your job easier.
Use the right software
If everyone needs to work on the same project, you need to pick the right software. Everyone will need the same software to access the same files at the same time. You’ll also be able to keep track of everyone’s individual contributions in real time. You can contact team members as they’re working to provide feedback or corrections as you’re tracking their work. Make sure everyone is utilizing the same software and platforms for predesignated purposes. Uniformity is important, and you’ll need as much of it as possible to keep things tied together.
Tailor projects to regions
Deadlines are different across the world. You need to know how to arrange deadlines so they can be utilized across the regions your team members are located in. Working hours will also vary by region. Before appointing people to a specific project, make sure they’ll be able to work the hours you need them to, and that they’ll be available for group communications when they’re necessary. Someone on the opposite side of the world from you will ordinarily be going to sleep as you’re waking you. Take that into account when establishing work hours and communication plans.
Encourage casual conversation
Your team members need to bond with each other, and they need to see your lighthearted side. In order to stay invested and driven, everyone needs to be reminded that even though they can’t see the other members, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Have a place where people can share jokes or funny images. Create an online watercooler where team members can blow off steam and converse like normal coworkers would. Some team management software programs have chat features built-in. If yours doesn’t, free private forums are easy to establish.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is be consistent in your expectations. Your team is counting on you to make these arrangements, and they expect that you do it efficiently. Changing things at the last minute or implementing new communication methods without proper warning will only cause headaches.
With a background in business administration and management, Tess Pajaron currently works at Open Colleges, Australia’s leading online educator. She likes to cover stories in careers and marketing.