A distributed workforce is a workforce that reaches beyond the restrictions of a traditional office environment. A distributed workforce is dispersed geographically over a wide area – domestically or internationally.
The top challenges for globally distributed teams
• The challenges faced by distributed teams such as offshore outsourcing teams
• The methodologies available for managing globally distributed teams
• The tools and technologies available to support distributed collaboration
• The role of face-to-face (F2F) meetings in facilitating collaboration and other social aspects that matter for distributed collaboration
• Cultural aspects that emerge in outsourcing and offshoring engagements
• What client firms can do to help build truly collaborative teams.
Transitioning teams to remote operations is a practical choice for businesses in the current climate, and not only because working from home is a sought-after employee perk. Distributed teams help organizations harness the skills of a global workforce. Without being restricted by time zones or other boundaries, these teams bring together employees with different experiences and expertise. Furthermore, businesses have more access to global clients, can see increased employee productivity, and create a diverse team.
How to work effectively with globally distributed teams!!
1. Collaboration is the key
Remote communication can often distort the normal pace of conversations and the delay in messages can directly affect team collaboration.
As a result, the first thing you should do to build successful distributed team collaboration is centralizing all the communication among team members. With a shared space for sharing their opinions, updates, and queries, all the employees can always stay in the loop and collaborate effectively. Give close attention to team relationship building and create a process to ensure optimum collaboration.
Here are a few ways you can collaborate effectively with your remote team:
• Be crystal clear while communicating
• Keep most communication asynchronous and move to audio or video calls only for important meetings and discussions
• Offer honest feedback
• Over communicate, whenever needed
• When in doubt, ask specific and detailed questions
2. Encourage team bonding
When you are separated from your team by thousands of miles, bonding with your team members can become a unique challenge. Human connections through efficient team bonding can make remote employees feel like they are a part of the team. Understanding your team members on a more personal level and building a camaraderie can also build trust and confidence among the team members.
Here are a few ways you can improve and encourage team bonding:
• Create a shared virtual space for celebrations where you can congratulate employees on achieving important work milestones and send birthday wishes
• Encourage team members who don’t usually communicate on a daily basis to schedule one on one virtual meetups
• The team could come together to share ideas, discuss topics, indulge in some light-hearted banter, and in general, have fun.
• Conduct virtual games such as ‘Pictionary’ and ‘Charades’ by splitting the members into groups.
• Encourage the team members to share pictures from their daily life. This could include anything ranging from their favorite series to a balcony view from their house.
• Connecting with the team members would help boost the morale and drive of the employees.
• Also, getting to know each other on a personal level would help them trust each other better and could prove to be very helpful in enhancing the quality of work done.
3. Leverage the right tools
Technology is what makes globally distributed teams possible. For working effectively with your remote team, you will need the right remote work tools in your arsenal, but it’s also important to remember that not every tool is going to be a good fit for your team. You should research thoroughly to ensure that the new tools you are introducing in your team actually suit your team’s requirements.
Moreover, adding dozens of digital tools for different collaboration and communication purposes can often confuse and overwhelm your team members, while making it difficult for them to keep up.
Instead, you can incorporate a unified digital workplace to manage all the project, processes, communication, and collaboration in one place. The idea is to use a digital workplace to integrate your existing IT infrastructure and make it easier for remote team members to access all of their work data and conversations through one single dashboard.
Bridge the communication gap among remote team members
As remote work becomes the norm and more and more of our interactions happen in the digital world, we will continue to see new forms of misunderstandings and miscommunication. The solution doesn’t lie in implementing new technologies for every new challenge. It lies in bridging the gap between different technologies through unified digital workplaces.
While the concept of digital workplace isn’t new, it has gained popularity in the last few years with the sudden spike in the number of SaaS tools used by companies around the world.
More tools do not mean more efficiency for remote teams. In fact, implementing too many tools can have a negative effect on the overall efficiency and productivity of the team. Digital workplace like Kissflow can help resolve this challenge by offering a single platform to access all the work tools, information, and communication, and in turn help remote teams collaborate effectively.
• Different tools help achieve different goals, i.e., some enable real-time communication while some enable tracking of work.
• Thus the first step should be to visualize the needs of the team and understand the type of necessary tools.
• Once the needs are understood, it becomes easier to choose the right tool.
Listed below are the different categories of tools that could be used:
• Video conferencing: Zoom, Skype
• Communication: Slack, Front, Soapbox
• Document Storage & Collaboration: Dropbox, GitHub Wiki, Box
• Project Management: Asana, Basecamp
• Productivity: Microsoft To Do
• Employee Engagement: Compt, CultureHQ
4. Track Employee Performance
In order to understand the activities and keep track of the productivity of your team, one should observe employee performance systematically. While working remotely, every employee has a different game plan and approach towards their work, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not help here. Hence it is important to track the activities of the team members and decipher the workplace analytics. This could be achieved as follows:
• The team members could share a tracker wherein they record their activities on a daily basis. This helps the team leader in creating an optimal work environment for them and also understand their needs.
• Also, set tasks with deadlines so that the team members feel driven to complete the work within the stipulated time.
• If needed, monitor the time that the employee clocks in using time and attendance software. This helps you gain a better understanding of the working patterns of your fellow associates.
5. Communication is the Key
• The team should always be kept informed of what is expected of them and any important decisions or changes. This helps them get more involved and also increases productivity.
• There are various official communication tools that could be used to connect with the team members ranging from emails to video conferences. One should be careful while choosing the mode of communication. For example, video calls or calls, in general, can be used for real-time conversations.
• However, if the teams are from different parts of the world, there comes an issue of different time zones. Hence the team leader has to decide if the information relayed through the meeting could otherwise be communicated through e-mails.
• If the information is very critical that it compulsorily needs tele or video conferencing, make sure to choose working hours that overlap between the teams, i.e., the time chosen should be comfortable for all the teams that are involved.
• The organization can rely on different internal communication tools (Slack/ Zoom) that suit their preference and these tools can be used to host all types of corporate information ranging from team calendars to internal news and updates.
• Conduct daily stand up meetings and ask relevant questions to enable transparent communication. Always try to be inclusive and make every team member feel valued and appreciated.
• While conducting the meetings, it is better to be well prepared beforehand and organized.
6. Have incentives
Contributing to the success of a distributed team also means offering support and incentives. Remote workers are often seeking perks and benefits like office personnel, but in a different form. This could be offering a stipend or allowance to help remote employees create a productive work environment at home, providing staff development opportunities like online learning, and reimbursing teams for their internet usage. These are a few simple examples of incentives leaders can use, but don’t hesitate to ask your team which perks could help them in their day to day.
7. Set goals
• Employees who are part of a remote team must be accountable for their own productivity as well as progressing toward the group’s goals.
• Setting objectives for daily, weekly, and even monthly tasks can help distributed teams keep on pace.
• Additionally, this gives managers the peace of mind that tasks are being accomplished while giving employees more independence.
Benefits of Working with Globally Distributed Teams
There are certain misconceptions around working with globally distributed teams. Some organizations consider it to be a hassle to work with employees who are working remotely however, these doubts are unfounded.
Globally distributed teams make it easier to procure talent beyond the geographical boundaries. Especially during times like these wherein working remotely is the only option, organizations could leverage the benefits of globally distributed teams. These teams often turn out to be more cost-effective as compared to having an in-house team.
Additionally, these teams would be available during the times when the time zones overlap, which would be more than half of the working hours of the client organization.
Employees who work remotely are found to have better work-life balance and productivity. The teams are diverse and provide flexibility.