It's common these days for IT teams to have team members in multiple locations around the world, whether to take advantage of specialized talent or cost factors. Technology helps these scattered teams communicate, but there are still challenges that come when co-workers aren't co-located. Here are four tips for managers to help their remote teams work effectively.
Projects always work more efficiently when there's a plan, and planning is even more critical with remote staff. There are fewer opportunities for casual interactions and questions to clarify assignments, and if confusion crosses time zones, delays can extend for days. Make sure you have a plan, so everyone knows what they're expected to do and when it needs to be done.
Schedule time to communicate
Because team members don't see you in person on a regular basis, they don't often get a lot of feedback. Don't rely on email; it's not dynamic enough, and meaning doesn't always come through. Plan a regular virtual meeting, perhaps once a month, to meet with your remote staff and give development guidance and other feedback. When possible, use videoconferencing, not just audio, so facial expressions and other non-verbal feedback are part of the communication process.
Build processes and systems to support the team
When people are in the same place, you may not need formal processes to address issues that arise; casual communication and spur-of-the-moment working sessions help sort things out. When people are around the world, a formally defined process ensures that everyone knows how to raise concerns, and that everyone is able to contribute input to solutions.
Build team spirit
Remote teams still want to feel like part of the team. Make sure remote staff are included in team celebrations. If possible, have managers visit the remote site periodically, and bring senior members of the remote staff for working visits to the home office. Besides providing an opportunity to build a shared work culture, these out-of-office experiences allow you to get to know remote staff as individuals and treat them as the unique people they are.