10 Tips and tricks to deal with the challenges of remote teams

We already talked about the pros and cons of distributed teams who use agile methodologies. But it is even more important to know about how we can get the shine of those problems. Because not is just detect them, the improvement is necessary and you know it.

Imagine that you have been working in an office during all of your career. And one day the company decides that they are going to stop working in a building. You're going fully remote. Everyone will receive a computer and you only going to have a social meeting (face-to-face) one or two times per year. You can think that it is so amazing (and it is) but how you will lead a remote team?

That’s why here, in SoftwareDevTools, we want to share with you the best ways to deal with the challenges of remote teams.

1. You need to have a good plan to maintain the team informed about everything

As you have heard before (and if you haven't I'll explain to you), transparency is one of the most important features that a virtual team needs to develop. You don’t have the white board anymore, you don’t have your boss and your team with you. You don’t even have a single person watching you working and telling you what to do (at least not nearby).

That’s why you need to make sure that every single person in your team is receiving the same information. People need to know why they're working, why their job is important. Their work is going abreast of the company’s objectives.
There are a lot of ways and platforms that allow you not just been in contact, these platforms can maintain all your team informed about what the other teams are working on and feel a commitment to them.

2. Good communication is essential

The communication is perceived by the 20% (majority) as the biggest problem of teleworkers. The personal association is uncommon in remote teams. That‘s why you need to find the best way to develop communication in your team. Good communication will allow you to engage your team’s members and keep the transparency culture that your remote company needs.

Achieving the level of communication necessary for your company is not the easiest part of remote teams, but once you get it the number of benefits is endless. Make your team comfortable speaking to each other. Gather your teams at least once per year. Make coffee meetings, if some of your team members are closer provide the resources to bring them together. All kinds of social meetings will impact the team’s performance.

One of the easier ways to maintain good communication is to make everyone turn on his camera on meetings. These not just establish better communication but engagement.

remote work comunication

3. Make sure everyone is on the same channel

It’s about the previous point. Transparency is important not just because you are informed about the team process. You need to use the same platforms, standardize them. If you are talking with the team on Slack, make everyone talk on slack. The loss of information is very common if you don’t tell your team the right path. Thereby we go to the next point.

4. Teach your team how to use the platforms.

Maybe we have said more than once, but tools are very important for virtual teams. Tools are the office for your team. That’s why you need the right platforms for different tasks. Maybe for you is easy because you have a lot of time using it, but is different for new members. If you are using Atlassian's Confluence for content management, tell your team that this platform is for documents and explain to them how to do it. It is difficult to be new already, but be new in a remote team is totally different, don’t make them feel overwhelmed with all the new stuff.

5. Have a plan, you need a plan.

Your plan is going to be essential to keep everyone informed about the process. You need to give them guidelines about:

  • Productivity: Here you specify what are goals in long and short terms. As I told you, make sure everyone knows which is the task, what they're going to do the next week. Every specification you think is necessary for the process has to be on that plan. It is like you giving a map to your team, thus they will know where they are going.

  • Teamwork: what are the roles of the member’s terms, you could know who is working on the development, or who is designing. But for the other members, they just have knowledge of names and faces (if everything is going well). But if for example, I’m working on the marketing campaign for a new product, and I don’t understand how this product works, I’ll need to talk with someone who can explain to me, but… How knows how the product works? Who can I reach out to? This is essential information.

  • Meetings: Meetings are just perfect, you can make them went you have time and canceled if they aren’t important anymore. But is very difficult when you have some people working on different time-zones, you need to invest time to schedule the meeting and give them a suitable hour for work.

Once you have your plan, put it where everyone can see it.

Accountability in remote teams

6. Automate the process

If you are going to use a resource more than once, why don't you make it replicable? For example, talking about the previous topic, if you need to explain to every hired person how to use the platform, do a document that you can just resend. You can even be more didactical, make a video. Working on the standardized-life not just going to make easier your work, you will make the things done faster.

7. Keep the neutral environment

Remember that one of the benefits of remote teams is the big possibilities to have a worldwide team, don’t mess up making them feel uncomfortable. You need to be aware of the way you talk, the kind of expression used, even the holidays that may be irrelevant for you. Your team is a world of possibilities and beliefs, be respectful.

8. Feedback

Tell your team when they are doing something wrong is difficult, but don’t see it like these. Actually, they are not doing wrong is just that their tasks don’t fit with the goals of your team, feedback is an opportunity to improve, and not just for one is for everyone. Don’t be impolite, just try to give the correct message to your team, and is not fault to anybody, some time is just bad communication.

Feedback doesn’t have to be bad every time. Positive feedback is very important too. Remember that everyone is working in his own way and is giving his best, recognized when someone is doing something great. It is not just fine because you’re recognizing your team’s achievements is about the engagement you generated on them.

9. Accountability

Some of the problems of remote teams are the uncertainty of what your teams are doing, and if they are doing it right because you don’t see them working. But first of all, you need to trust, if you don’t trust your team everything is going to become harder. Once you understand this you have to find the best way that your team works in his own way. Remote teams are flexible, and they are free to work when they want, is better if you develop an accountability culture instead of being behind them asking for his work. That’s why positive feedback is needed.
One of the best ways to create an accountability culture is standups. Here, every member shares what they’re doing and what they will do.

You also can use Retrospectives for remote teams is a great way to see how is going your team performance.

standups remote teams

10. Short teams

One of the best mediums to be more efficient is to break up your team in little teams. You can’t be having fifteen people in a videoconference every day. It's harder and not recommended. Your platforms are going to be heavy, sync up that number of people - knowing there are a lot of time-zones - is even more difficult and obviously the participation of every member is almost impossible. You can do it, yes, but the level of engagement will decrease.
Try to maintain little groups working in their own business. It is way more efficient and easier.

These are some points you have to considerer in your remote team.

The folks at Toptal have just published a handy guide for PM's who are suddenly in a transition to becoming remote teams. It's super helpful. Check it out, here.

Remember you can make the way that fits best for your team’s members. Always have good communication, a lot of collaboration, and be open to opinions for your team. You’re in this together and you can make it more enjoyable.

Are you in a remote team? Trying to improve your remote practices? Check out our products for Agile teams at SoftwareDevTools. We focus on making agile ceremonies more effective and easier to adopt for remote teams.

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