7 Tips for Remote Team Survival

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ere’s seven tips that can help you and your team survive the sudden transition from working closely together in the office to trying to function as an effective team at a physical distance:

1.  Appoint a Team Coach

When a coach is supporting teams, less projects fail. Team coaches help troubleshoot brewing issues and offer an independent approach.

A team’s coach should be a professional with knowledge of the team’s functions but no involvement in the team’s actions or functions. Don’t put the team’s quality control manager in that position as they already have decision-making authority and may not have the time or inclination to get involved with infighting, disagreements, apathy, absence, or any of the many challenges most teams experience at one time or another.

A good coach will work with the team to build resilience by planning ahead, exploring potential risks, and developing strategies to move past challenges.

2.  Use a Trusted Virtual Platform

Depending on the confidential nature of your work, choose an appropriately-secure discussion board and verify all team members can access it easily. Larger corporations usually have an intranet service that includes discussion boards with restricted access. There are software applications that do the same thing, but many will not guarantee confidentiality – read the fine print.

3.  Team Charter

Team charters are the ideal method to use when setting up new teams or when there’s significant adjustments to team membership or dynamics – such as changing from working together in an office to working virtually. See the Team Charter Template below.

4.  Team Norms

Consider how the team will manage a team member’s failure to perform and how to deal with conflict. What are acceptable and unacceptable practices from team members to other people, including superiors, colleagues, and clients/customers.

We learn by doing, so also consider setting a norm for teams to rotate roles from project to project if and when appropriate and without compromising the team’s quality of delivery.

5.  Set an Agenda

Every meeting should have an agenda, with a prepared list of topics to discuss – if you want to save a lot of frustration, every team member should commit to show up prepared to report on their progress and talk knowledgeably about the team’s work.

Designate someone to take minutes – you can take turns.

In between meetings, to help keep on track with deliverables, use team communication software (such as Windows Teams, Dropbox, etc.) to stay organized, prioritize work, and track and manage actions and deliverables.

6.  Café Chats

Perhaps there’s a good reason a team member has suddenly become slow to respond or even silent; but they haven’t found the opportunity in formal meetings to share a personal challenge.

Even when working remotely, team members can still enjoy casual chats with colleagues. This could be inside or outside of regular communication channels. Consider setting up a private Facebook Group for your chats – this approach can reaffirm the casualness and inspire more personal discussions that help teams truly understand how best to respect, understand, communicate, and work with each other.

Post personal news in your virtual café: set aside time to visit the café for a chat and/or to socialize: catch up on what’s happening with your colleagues and share your own news. This practise eliminates wasted time during formal meetings where chit chat can annoy people who have less time to spare.

7.  Breakout Meetings

Use an online meeting tool (such as Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom) that allows people to break out into separate virtual rooms and then regroup. You can record conversations for absentees to hear and in case you need to remember what was decided.

For people who are now physically separated and missing the benefits of sharing a close space in the office such as being able to simply pop their head around the divider or door, you can agree to all stay online using an open virtual space (such as Skype) where you can see your colleagues working and tap to speak when needs be; or message them to check now is a good time to talk… Remember to post your virtual office hours so people know when they can tap on your ‘virtual door’ and when they must respect your personal time.

That’s my tips on how to survive working with your team online!  I hope you find them helpful.

TOPICACTION
PURPOSEConfirm everyone is in agreement with why the team exists.
Clarify expected outcomes and results.
BACKGROUNDVerify how the team fits within the organization’s structure.
Set a budget.
Define any special circumstances that impact the team’s functions and actions.
SCOPESummarize the team’s scope, mission, goals, and objectives.
Clarify how the team will achieve these, along with a clear timeline, milestones, and relevant resources.
COMPOSITIONList essential team functions; including support and quality control.
Verify the team has all competencies needed to achieve its purpose; including creative thinking and fill any gaps.
ROLESIdentify to whom the team reports and their expectations.
Clarify each team member’s specific roles and responsibilities.
Appoint a team leader – this can be a rotating role.
Confirm members’ contact details.
List specific functional competencies of each team member.
EMPOWERConfirm the team’s level of authority and what additional authority is needed for the team to be able to fully perform its goals and objectives.
EDITSClarify how documents will be edited (both the review and feedback process) and who gets final say.
Verify brand style for reports and how source references will be included.
DECISION-MAKINGAgree on the team’s decision-making process.
PERFORMANCEList performance types and levels needed for team success.
Agree on how the team will know it has succeeded.
SCHEDULESSignificant activities and milestones when achieved or passed – be sure this aligns with all other timeframes and schedules.
CELEBRATIONS & LEARNINGSAgree on how milestone achievements will be celebrated and how failures will be reviewed, mourned, and learned from.
CONSEQUENCESDecide what will be the consequences if a team member is not in compliance with their team’s charter.
SIGNATURESEach team member signs the charter to confirm they agree with its contents and accept being held accountable to its content.