Whether it makes you happier and more productive, able to work from your hammock in Thailand, or just plain lonely, successful remote teams don’t form overnight; success depends on how teams respond and adapt to the bumps in the road.
As a remote team, we’ve strived to make improvements in the way we operate. It hasn’t all been plain sailing and we’ve had to make some tweaks along the way. We’ve discovered that motivation, productivity and success comes down to one thing: effective communication.
Here are the challenges that we’ve faced over the past 6 months and the actions that we’ve taken to become a more intelligent remote team:
Challenge #1 – Coordination
Our team is dotted around the globe* and with the time difference, we initially found it hard to set a time where everyone can be on a conference call together. We’d set a time and there would sometimes be one or two members missing from the meeting. This affected our ability to move forward with tasks as a cohesive unit.
*Enswarm operates in different parts of the UK, Malaysia, Austria, Nice and New York and we’ve also been known to work from Thailand, Stockholm, Berlin, Ibiza and Valencia.
Action #1 – Set a catch up call
We overcame this by setting a non negotiable catch up call every Monday at 1pm GMT to suit different time zones and it’s worked really well (we highly recommend using @Zoom). You’ll often see members of the team pop up in different parts of the world. We’ve had a few power cuts and dodgy connections but the weekly catch up has really brought us together and has helped us move forward with our goals.
Challenge #2 – Cohesion
Some of us on the team have never met face to face, and jumping straight to business on a weekly call felt odd. With a mixture of personality traits, we also found some people speaking more than others. We needed to find some structure to help us share our highs and lows and get to know each other personally.
Action #2 – Structure the calls
We came up with a clear structure for the meetings that allowed everyone to contribute at an equal level and give their personal update. Here’s what we do everyone Monday: First, we check the Team’s Pulse– everyone in the team rattles through a personal highlight and a business highlight from the previous week, what they’re working on this week and any major challenges they have and who they need help from. This is for a maximum of 2 minutes per person and it’s really transformed the way we work together.
Everyone has highs and lows and it’s important that they’re aired and shared so we can collectively overcome these challenges and be as supportive as possible. A two minute highlight reel from each team member also means that everyone has a chance to contribute on their own terms.
Challenge #3 – Regular Contact
We’re all social beings that have good days and bad and as we’re not able to bounce ideas off each other from the other side of the office, a weekly catch up call just isn’t enough; isolation and quick problem solving becomes an issue when you’re not in regular contact with one another.
Action #3 – Open Communication Channels
The next step was to establish open communication channels at all times of the day so at least one member of the team is always contactable if someone has an issue- this is not a complex system to set up – we use a mixture of Slack, Zoom and Whatsapp to suit everyone’s needs. ***It’s not enough to have open channels as an afterthought; you have to establish this as part of your culture! We are constantly encouraging each other to get in contact and this has really helped boost morale.
That hilarious BBC interview fail that went viral a few years ago reminded us of the human side of remote working. It certainly has its highs and lows and we’re understanding more and more that the most important aspect of intelligent remote working comes down to finding the best ways to communicate with one another.
The challenges listed above and the actions we’ve taken to fix them has definitely helped us get closer to our goals. It’s inevitable that we’ll encounter more bumps along the road in the months to come and we’ll make an effort to adapt, overcome, and share what we learn.
If you implement any of the actions above, let us know how you get on and we’re all ears if we’ve missed anything out!