In 2016, at least 43% of working Americans said that they spent some of their week working remotely, according to a Gallup survey. The trend of remote work, made available mostly due to advances in technology, is only bound to grow in the coming years.
More and more millennials look at the benefits, over the salary, when choosing the right role, and a flexible work location is high up on their list. In fact, according to a buffer survey about the state of remote work, once people go remote, they are most likely to stay that way. The survey found that 90% of remote workers plan on continuing with that path for the rest of their careers and while most work from home, quite a few choose to work from coworking spaces. The same survey also found that one of the main challenges for remote workers is communicating and collaborating.
This doesn’t come as a big surprise when most interaction is done through emails, IMs and other forms of technology. In addition, with remote work, you’ll often find that your colleagues and team members are people you’ve never even met. Therefore, you don’t necessarily understand their little quirks or tone of voice. Add to that the fact that many remote teams are spread across the globe and so the cultural differences alone can lead to many uncomfortable situations, and these problems are exacerbated over the phone.
There are, however, several methods to open lines of communication, even when you don’t meet your colleagues every day. Whether you work from home, or from a serviced office space, it’s important to keep talking and making sure you’re a part of the team.
Schedule Weekly Check-Ins Over Video
Scheduling a weekly meeting via video call is a great way to make people feel inclusive, especially when remote working. When you have one set day a week where colleagues can come together to talk to one another, it creates an open space to raise concerns, ask questions and get to know each other, which is a great thing for any business and especially those with remote workers.
By encouraging verbal communication and getting to know another person, the next time you receive an email or a message from them, you will be able to understand their tone better. This will also make team members more comfortable when approaching one another in general, even outside of that scheduled weekly meeting.
If you’re working from a coworking space, book a meeting room or go to a quiet corner so full attention can be given to the person on the other end of the call, just like a face-to-face meeting.
Join The Team’s Private Communication Channel
Teams that work in offices usually have the opportunity to meet around the coffee machine or other communal areas to catch up on everyday matters. These informal and often impromptu talks are usually not work-related and could be about anything from weekend plans or childcare arrangements to the new office decor.
According to a Globoforce survey, 89% of the participants stated that their quality of life was improved by work relationships and more to the topic in hand, the survey also determined that having just one work friend dramatically increased their commitment to the company.
While remote workers might not have a communal coffee machine, there are opportunities to create virtual gathering spaces by using communication and project management tools such as Slack, Telegram, private Facebook groups or Google Hangouts.
If you’re the team leader, make sure you create a channel that everyone feels comfortable using and point out that it’s to be used for fun, non-work related topics – for example, you could ask the team to share pictures of their workstations in coworking spaces around the world or even introduce people from the hot desks next to them. As a morale booster, you could also use the channel to point out birthdays, anniversaries and personal achievements.
Host The Occasional Team Get-Together Online (Or Ask The Boss For One)
Just like traditional offices have Friday night drinks, lecture days, seminars and team meetings, so can remote teams. Ideally, the entire team would get together for a video conference which could have a different focus each time, it doesn’t have to be strictly work-related.
If you’re the boss, think about how you can organise an “online extracurricular activity” to make sure everybody gets acquainted with each other but doesn’t encroach on their free time, so they will be more inclined to join.
If you’re a team member, try suggesting a get-together to your supervisor, especially if you’re new to the team as it will help you get to know the different roles and faces in the company.
Use Milestones And Deadlines
When working remotely, it’s very easy to get lost in space and time. As most people set their own schedule, days sometimes don’t have regular working hours and you may lose track of dates and assignment deadlines.
One great way to avoid this is to structure your day like regular work by leaving your home and working from a coworking space. Not only will it create a separation between your home life and work life, but it will make sure you are more productive by ensuring you focus solely on work without home distractions.
Another good option is to work to strict deadlines and break every task into smaller milestones. Try applying the pomodoro method which requires you to work in small bursts – set a timer for 25 minutes and work solidly without interruptions, then reward yourself with a 5-minute break. Do that four times and then take a full 25-minute break. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll manage to get done.
Use Technology To Your Advantage
Don’t you just hate people who are late to meetings and leave you hanging? Time is money, and every meeting missed, even if it’s an online meeting, is money we’ll never get back.
When dealing with remote teams, many team members work across multiple time zones which can often lead to scheduling mistakes, missed meetings, lateness and miscommunications. To avoid these mistakes, try utilising the powers of modern technology – simply using Google Calendar for scheduling can create a better and more inclusive work environment. Other tools like Every Time Zone can also help if you need to find a suitable time to work for everyone over several continents.
For remote employees and freelancers, there are great tools to help plan workload and ensure everyone knows what they’re working on. Some examples include Hubstaff, Asana, Toggl or Trello. There are also many tools for collaborative remote work and file sharing such as DropBox, Google Drive, WeTransfer or 1Password.
Don’t Forget To Over-Communicate
The most important thing to remember when working remotely is to use as many words as possible when communicating, even when it feels forced. It’s better to over-explain something than to create a misunderstanding.
Most of the way we interpret communication actually comes from tone of voice and body language – aspects which are lost when working with a remote team. In this case, it’s better to be safe than sorry and express far more than you ordinarily would.
When we work remotely, we often work alone, which can also lead to some sticky situations when we don’t have an extra set of eyes to check over an email or proofread a piece of writing. Using coworking spaces allows for that second pair of eyes or an impartial listening ear to vent frustrations without fear of blowback.
There’s a reason that many freelancers choose to work out of a coworking space rather than staying at home, could now be the right time for you to make the move?