So last Friday marked our first Friday night virtual social. Not to be beaten by the CV situation instead of meeting up in the pub we met online in a group zoom chat for a couple of hours. Brilliant. There was a bit of middle aged getting the tech right, a few cameras pointing to the ceiling moments, but then there we were looking like a panel on celebrity squares lol. It was a great laugh and great to keep in touch.
Sunday and we repeated this with our family, bringing brothers, sister and parents together on zoom. This time we spent a loooooong time teaching the older contingent how to use it but we got there, had a giggle on the way and most importantly kept in touch. it was lovely and so important.
This got me thinking about teams working remotely and also my new program Leading Ladies and how we collaborate effectively online/remotely. So here’s some top tips having worked remotely quite a few times in my career.
A big part of collaborating effectively in a remote team is figuring out when you’ll be communicating with one another. Working hours are more fluid when you work remotely. You may as a team have different time zones, with different preferences for when you like to be responding to messages and requests. Not to mention, we all need time to actually get work done, and not just participate in answering emails or replying to zoom/collaboration messages all day.
Set clear guidelines on how…
As a leader of a remote team it’s key to make the timing of all communications clear. You’ll want to set expectations to answer the following questions for everyone:
- What timezone is everyone working in? How will this be communicated?
- What are the expected working hours each person has? What should the overlapping working hours the team be? Especially in the current circumstance be flexible, allow your teams to juggle kids, home life and work life.
- If you or they need to be offline to run an errand or are in a meeting, how will that be communicated? Make sure they know this is ok too
- How can you manage the team diary efficiently? Share outlook calendars and agree team meet ups etc.
- Are there any times team members should not be disturbed?
- What’s the expected response time to messages? Does that vary depending on what the message is, or the channel that it is delivered?
Choose the right channel for the different types of messages
What you say can be delivered in a variety of formats: Email, chat, video call, phone call… So to avoid the barrage of messages without any rhyme or reason, create some sort of guidance of what kind of message should be delivered in which channel.
Often this is related to the relevance and urgency of a message. For instance, a direct message 121 might infer that a message is urgent and should be responded to within the hour… whereas posting a message in a general channel might mean it doesn’t need to be looked at until the next day, if at all.
As a remote leader, here’s what you may want to clarify with your team about what channels to use for certain communication:
- What’s the default mode of communication? Email? Video call? Chat? Phone call?
- Which channel/tool should be used for which kind of communication?
- Who else should be copied on a message, if anyone? Don’t fall into the habit of cc’ing everyone or emails get out of control.
- When something is urgent, how should it be communicated? What about when it’s not?
- What’s the right tone for checking in on a certain communication?
- Set some rules for everyone.
Embrace the silence.
No communication is a communication process in itself — and an important one in remote work. With time and attention being so precious, you don’t want to bombard people with messages incessantly. We all need space and quiet to get our work done.
Get the team to block out chunks to ‘get stuff done’. This means everyone stays productive and when you are online together they will be more ‘present’.
Choose your tools wisely…
Slack, email, Zoom, Skype, email, text, messaging, Social channels there are so many options.
Some are great for ‘chatting, some to replace meetings, and some for socialising. Set a clear guidance on which to use for each type of communication. It helps keep meetings focussed, information relevant and socialising
What tools do you use to collaborate effectively in a remote team? Here are a few that may help
- Asana— Project management
- Basecamp— Project management, communicating with clients
- Google Suite— Collaboration, email
- GoToMeeting— Webinars and one-on-one classes
- Harvest— Time tracking
- Help Scout— Help desk
- Jira— Task tracker
- Know Your Team— New manager training, social connection, knowing what people work on, team feedback
- Lessonly— Employee onboarding + training
- Learndash – online learning
- Loom— Quick videos to explain stuff
- Notion— Team collaboration
- Paper by Dropbox— Document collaboration
- Quip— Internal wiki
- Realtimeboard— Sprints / brainstorms
- Salesforce— CRM
- Slack— Day to day chatter
- Smartsheets— Project management
- TeamCity— Continuous integration
- Trello— Project-specific communication
- Twist— Internal communication
- Zapier— Cross-product integration
- Zendesk— Support
- Zoom— Video conference
- Plus all the social channels