7 Ways to Improve Teamwork for your Remote Workforce

Aug 2020
Mins read

Increasing the level of teamwork in your remote team might be the most challenging part of managing your remote team. If you believe your team is underperforming, you should use every tool available to boost productivity, and these seven suggestions should help you get started.

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Why is teamwork important in the workplace?

If retaining your best people and engaging your employees to support your customers and increase revenue is important, then teamwork should be considered just as important.

1. Understanding how your teams work

It's essential to consider your team and work culture first if you want to improve overall teamwork. For most of us right now and for the foreseeable future, we won't be in the office together. We'll need tools which enable us to work productively while being remote. The first place to start if you want to improve teamwork is by asking some questions that consider your team and work culture. Start by asking questions like:

  1. Does this collaboration tool promote desired cultural behaviors, values, and norms of the company?
  2. Do the tools complement the rate and velocity in which you need to communicate at work?
  3. Do they support the desired working style and habits, both formal and informal styles of communication?
  4. Does the design of the tools facilitate the flow of information across the company, and can people locate operational content successfully?
  5. Consider if your teams work mainly asynchronously (time lag within communication) or synchronized (real-time communication)? Globally dispersed employees should not be at a communication disadvantage because of time zone differences. To combat this, you'll want to use a combination of tools to enable individuals to work independently, yet still collaborate as a team. But not necessarily at the same moment.

An excellent place to start when launching a collaboration and communication strategy is to understand and review how teams currently communicate and share and how you could improve upon it.

Review the current toolsets and work use cases then map the insights, document expected outcomes, and understand how you'll measure the results. All that's left to do next is to identify and implement a collaboration toolset that supports team members coming together to do their best.

2. Set up team goals

Begin by describing what each employee is supposed to accomplish, not how they are supposed to accomplish it. Explain expectations in terms of the outcomes the employee needs to achieve to in order to reach expected goals.

3. Build trust

Provide a space where employees can freely express their ideas. Showing support and understanding will allow your employees to feel engaged and better work as a team.

To do this you’ll want to look for tools that have this baked into their design. Without everyone in the office, it’s key to strengthen trust between teams and managers. One of the ways you can facilitate this is by opening up communication by giving people the chance to ask questions anonymously online. You could start an ‘AMA Tuesday’, (Ask Me Anything Tuesday). It’s a little like a fireside chat, ideal for asynchronous teams. Employees submit questions they have. The leader can then record themselves answering each question, and share it for everyone to see. Building trust doesn’t cost a thing, but it can radically improve your team’s happiness.

4. Observe areas for improvement but recognize and reward strengths

To help your team perform at their best while being remote, it's essential for you to continuously observe and recognize your team's strengths but also identify areas for improvement. If your teammates are struggling to perform and ‘gel’ well together, then try using these questions which use positive intent, empathy but also promote accountability.

It's useful to clarify beforehand that your goal is to help the team reduce problems. Begin with asking 'How are they doing'? 'Why is the problem happening?' Followed by, 'How can we help you to succeed? Questions like these help to identify what's holding back the team.

Remote work teams are often using tools that pre-date the new normal of remote work. It's useful to look across these corners for improvement. Could groups be using cumbersome tools that are preventing them from communicating transparently across the teams with precise tasks, actions, and decisions? In some cases possibly. In others, no doubt.

Weak points in business teams often link to people having to use workarounds to produce outcomes. They string together technologies and manual processes like email, office docs, spreadsheets, and zoom meetings. These workarounds are full of gaps, where vital tasks tend to slip through the cracks. For this reason it's important always to ask your teams, 'What is holding you back'?

If that’s the case, then ask this question "How Might We" (HMW, for short).

This question helps you frame the problem in an unrestricted, positive, and collaborative way. As an example, 'How might we communicate transparently around our sales and marketing efforts, so we prevent mistakes from falling through the cracks?’

Questions like this give your team a chance to develop shared accountability and reliability. It's just as important to recognize your team's strengths and acknowledge the great work choices people make. It helps to magnify trust and rapport between groups and individuals. Companies that have high rates of employee recognition have a 31 percent lower turnover than companies with inferior recognition cultures. It's crucial to use positive reinforcement but also recognize the signals when teams are struggling.

5. Develop an Internal Communication Plan

Communicating frequently and effectively with your teams will create a sense of ownership and belonging to the company. Your internal communications plan should be a guide on how and what to communicate with employees.

Every month, you need to establish what information about the business you want to communicate with your teams. Ideally, that should include elements based on points 2, 3, and 4 above. If you want to dig deeper, then follow our 9 steps to create an internal communication strategy.

6. Embrace team collaboration and internal comms tools

The central challenge many leaders are working to solve is to ensure their employees can use tools to boost connection, teamwork, and efficiency.

These tools enable teams to reach their shared goals, but also allow them to learn and grow along the way through knowledge exchange.

One of the ways workplaces can collaborate better and save time is by using repeatable processes and communication. Work Templates encourage teamwork, clarity, and structure. Work runs smoother when teammates can go to a central place and pick a template to achieve a work-related task.

This can include anything from daily business operations like documenting decisions, meeting agendas, customer notes to employee onboarding. Templates give teams a step by step process to follow, collaborate on, and action work. This simplifies and speeds up business results and customer outcomes.

In the spirit of improving teamwork, everyone needs clarity on what needs to get done. Tools that provide teams with task management and goal setting set the tone for collaborative teamwork. Task management features improve role clarity and accountability amongst team members. They bring transparency across the business and encourage responses of dependability and participation. It encourages people to rely on each other and follow through.

Transparency is vital across teams. Every manager is attempting to tear down group silos and geographical boundaries so that employees can work from anywhere, be that one floor down or miles apart. The best tools move work along so teams can stop focusing on process and refocus on key strategies for growth. The primary rewards awaiting companies that employ collaboration tools fall into the five following categories:

  1. Accelerated business velocity
  2. Increased team productivity
  3. Higher flexibility and agility across the organization
  4. Higher employee engagement
  5. Facilitates ideation and innovation

7. Show gratitude

Be thankful for the big and the small things that your colleagues bring to the table each day. One of the things that this pandemic has highlighted is that many employees are reporting they feel a sense of loneliness working remotely.

Showing gratitude or recognizing someone’s work behavior helps connect and engage people no matter their location. One of the easiest ways of doing this is by adopting a recognition program. It doesn’t have to be complicated or well-conceived. Try something informal and scrappy. Just start. You can fine-tune it later. Remember recognizing people’s efforts and behaviors, especially the practices aligned to your values, helps to amplify the right culture.

To start, together as a team, list those behaviors you think should be recognized. Then post a thank you note or share a ‘shout out’ to a teammate that displays the desired behavior.

When individuals experience gratitude from managers and teammates, their performance and output increase. Peer to peer recognition and communication tools give your colleagues a chance to stop and pay respect to one another regularly. Small moments of shared gratitude build trust and encourage the type of behaviors that align with your culture.

Interestingly, people in the workplace that show appreciation also benefit. People who practice gratitude are more empathetic, happier, and find more meaning in their work.