If there’s one lesson that towers over all the others, it’s this: communication matters. This means a number of things. First, and more importantly, for a remote team to function well, all of the members should be in regular contact. Our team uses a mix of email, Slack, phone, and text messaging. We like to make ourselves accessible to everyone through a number of methods to encourage communication. You will find that each individual has a different communication style, and being open to adapting to that is part of building a great team. Some tasks are better-suited for particular types of communication as well. For example, creating long-form written content is more solitary until the review stages, at which point we bring in other team members to bounce ideas around, while creating a stash of social media posts can often be accomplished well over the phone, with team members giving rapid-fire ideas to each other.
It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep track of tasks.
When you work in a traditional office setting, you have frequent meetings and check-ins with your team. When you work remotely, depending on the company, this is not always the case. Many remote positions are quite solitary, which means that one team member will often handle a task until it is 90% of the way to completion. Sometimes, the team member handles the task from start to finish with no oversight or input from others until the work is being reviewed or incorporated into a broader context.
Be prepared to be flexible.
Flexibility is important in any job, of course, but it takes on a new dimension when your team is remote. If your team is like ours, we’re scattered all across the globe, and many of us work on multiple projects at one time. So our schedules are a little bit all over the place, and frequently they don’t match up. We’ve learned to be ok with delays in communication as people may work at different times. This also keeps the atmosphere comfortable and flexible, because we all know that we’re working to achieve the same goal--just not always at the same time.
Cultural differences allow for creativity.
When you work with an international remote team, or even one with members scattered across locations in the same country, team members bring their own individual perspectives to the table. Folks who work in their own space and who make their own schedule also have the freedom to work where and when they can be at their most creative, so working with a remote team opens the door to endless possibilities. Be prepared to collaborate with outside-the-box thinkers who will keep you on your toes!
Make time for fun.
Get to know each other on a personal level. Of course it’s impossible to have those “water cooler moments” like you would in a traditional office setting, but it’s perfectly all right to let conversations meander and share aspects of your lives during conference calls. It’s a lot of fun and builds morale. You already have a lot in common with these people: you’re already united under a vision and committed to the journey together, so why not get to know them better? This can be a form of “team-building lite” and it can really make team members more comfortable, which will inspire them to maintain open communication with each other. It’s a win-win!
Things aren't always going to go the way you think they will, or the way you want them to.
But when everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal, we can reassess and fine-tune our strategy as we go. Hey, we're making this up as we go along! But so far, we wouldn't trade this journey for anything!