Distributed teams have become much more commonplace over the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the trend toward remote work doesn’t appear to be slowing down . Working remotely rather than on-site offers multiple benefits to teams and managers, but it also comes with some challenges. Teams may have difficulty staying motivated, for instance, or meeting deadlines.
In this roundup, you will learn some strategies to successfully manage remote team members. If your distributed team is facing similar challenges, put these tips to use so that you can help your team members to be happier and more productive.
What Is a Distributed Team?
A distributed team, also known as a remote team, is a decentralized group of individuals working in the same team and on the same project but in different places across the globe without sharing physical office space. Team members can work from different locations and even in different time zones without needing to deal with long commutes, office noise, or interruptions from others.
Benefits of a Distributed Team
Having a distributed team offers a range of benefits to team members and managers. These include the following:
Increased productivity: Your team members can maximize their productivity by focusing on the task at hand without being interrupted by people poking into their office or workspace. They can get their work done in the way that’s best for them, turning distractions such as emails and notifications off as needed.
Flexible working hours: In a distributed team, especially one that spans multiple time zones, members can set their own working hours. This allows them greater flexibility and control because they can work when they are most productive. Some team members may prefer to focus on tasks in the morning, for instance, while others may prefer night work. This gives team members more control over their personal time as well.
Saved commuting time: Your team members won’t need to spend time or money traveling to an office. This saves them the stress of commuting and frees them up to more fully focus on their projects. They also gain time to manage personal issues.
Larger pool of talent: Managing a distributed team means you have the opportunity to hire talent from any part of the world since you won’t require your team to work in a physical office building. This greatly increases the pool of talent you can potentially hire from.
Managing a Distributed Team
Managing a distributed team can be quite challenging, however. Problems you may need to address include communication issues and cultural complexity. Setting up a distributed team frequently means individuals from different cultures will work together, each bringing their own interpersonal style and values due to their different societal norms. In such a situation, team members may accidentally misinterpret each other’s words and intentions, leading to conflict.
Following are some tips on how to manage your distributed team for optimal performance.
Hold Consistently Structured Meetings
It’s important for your distributed team to have regular meetings or team members may feel isolated and lacking in social connection. You should use these meetings to set goals, make important decisions, and find solutions to any difficulties your team members might be facing.
Be careful not to overdo it, though. Having endless meetings can be counterproductive, as it can waste valuable time and lead to frustration. The goal is to keep your meetings both structured and simple.
Use the Right Tools
You can use various tools to help maintain communication and improve productivity among your team, but they need to be the most appropriate tools for your use case. Studies suggest that using the right tools can raise the productivity of your distributed team by 20 to 25 percent.
Collaboration software that supports screen sharing and video meetings, such as Zoom, Slack, or Discord , help your distributed team to communicate more easily. You can use these programs to hold daily or weekly meetings to set goals, track progress on projects, and address any challenges faced by your team members.
For teams where time-zone differences make it hard to hold a synchronous meeting, a tool like Status Hero can enable distributed teams to give updates asynchronously and have them automatically grouped and shared with the rest of the team.
Because your distributed team will be working from different locations, you can use virtual whiteboard tools like Miro and Whiteboard to create a centralized hub for planning projects and unleashing your team’s creativity while making sure all team members stay informed. These tools enable your team to collaborate, brainstorm, and manage projects across any device and location, which improves your team’s effectiveness and fosters better communication.
Focus on Results
When managing a distributed team, make sure you keep your goal in mind. Your top priority should be to measure the results of your team’s work. You should clearly define the start, middle, and end points of your project as well as key performance indicators (KPIs). This way, you can more accurately measure the output and quality of work that your distributed team has produced.
Objectives and key results (OKR) can be used as a goal-tracking system. You should have tools and a dashboard to track your daily, weekly, and monthly progress toward your goal. Tools like ClickUp and Jira are excellent for monitoring software development, while Trello and Asana are great for marketing projects. You shouldn’t focus on the number of hours they spent on the project or how available they were; focus instead on the quality of what they produced.
Hire Self-Motivated People
In order for your distributed team to function properly, you’ll need team members to work with minimal supervision. It’s vital to hire individuals who are self-motivated and will work hard to communicate with other team members. They will need to stay focused and maintain a high level of productivity without constant prompting.
Set Clear Expectations
One of the major hurdles in transitioning to a fully remote team is determining the role of each team member. Distributed teams comprise a diverse group of people in many different locations, and they may not realize if they’re duplicating work or leaving certain tasks undone. You must set clear roles and responsibilities for each team member so that everyone knows exactly what they need to get done and when.
In addition, you must set clear goals for your team. Otherwise, you risk wasting their time and your organization’s resources. When working on a large project, split it into smaller goals so that they’re more easily measurable and more achievable. This will ensure that team members know what they’re working toward.
A distributed team offers a lot of advantages over the traditional on-premises office model. In order to make the distributed model work, though, you need to plan ahead. Clear communication, centralized sources of information, and a focus on results will help your team achieve strong performance and improve job satisfaction.