How to Stay Connected as a Remote Team

By: Russell Fraser

In our current digitally connected world, more large companies are cutting costs and encouraging employees to work remotely. Having recently had my traditional desk and chair set-up whipped away as my company ended the lease on one of its largest city center offices, I found myself with literally nowhere to go to work but home.

For several years, my team had worked together in the same building, and as we packed up our belongings from the office in preparation for the big move home with our shiny new laptops, there was a sense of worry in the air.

How will we get work done the same way?

How will we work as a team?

How will we stay in touch?

These worries were justified: many of the team members had never worked remotely.

Many months later and with some careful consideration of our remote set-up, the team are settled into their new way of working.  

As a strong and successful team, we have fully embraced remote working, continue to work effectively, and our team ethos remains unaffected by the change in circumstance.

So what can you do to stay connected as a team and ensure success while working remotely?

The Morning Call

Using a conference call provider (there are lots to choose from online), hold a morning call, ideally at a set time in the first few hours of the team’s working day. This gives an ideal opportunity for the team to get together on the same call and set out their plans for the day, share what they are working on, and provide updates on the previous day’s performance.

It’s also a great opportunity to catch up on a personal level and find out what everyone has been up to outside work. I always find going around the team individually for the update works better. Otherwise, the quieter members of the team could be less likely to speak up.

The Group Chat

We use Microsoft Office Communicator (other options are available), and a team member normally sets this up immediately after the morning call inviting all members of the team to join. It’s quicker than an email or phone calls and useful for small updates throughout the day and for asking questions of other team members. Microsoft Office Communicator also provides your contacts with an activity status that indicates to your team if you are online, away, busy or inactive.

The Flexible Approach

Members of the team have agreed-upon working hours, though we do have a degree of flexibility that allows the team to work well together and embrace work-life balance.

Communication around working hours is key. Colleagues understand that they can take a flexible approach to working hours, as long as other team members are aware of any new arrangements and any time taken off is sufficiently covered should there be any deadlines looming. This flexible approach means colleagues are able to nip out to the shops, pick up kids from school, or catch up on work at more suitable times.

The Weekly Quiz

This doesn’t necessarily need to be a quiz, but a quiz works well for us. The weekly quiz is an opportunity for the team to get together on a weekly call where the objective of the meeting is not work-related.

When working remotely, you miss out on office camaraderie, and the weekly quiz gives the chance for team members to get to know each other better on a personal level, be more comfortable in each other’s virtual company and away from the pressures of work. Why not try organizing a video call should technology allow and have a different team member host each week?

Other successes for the weekly quiz call have included two truths and a lie, Pictionary (sharing drawings via paint and guessing the song/movie/character) and sharing interesting facts. Why not invite on a guest speaker to mix it up a bit?

The Office Visit

A really important aspect of remote working is making contact with the office every once in awhile. This visit should be kept in the calendar as a monthly occurrence and every effort should be made for team members to attend. Book a meeting room and arrange to meet with the team face to face. Set out an agenda for the day, give objectives to reach for the day, and ensure they are met. With everyone together in town, why not arrange some after work drinks too!

Don’t be afraid of remote working, it brings along a whole host of advantages and benefits. Remote working doesn’t have to impact team ethos as long as you don’t allow it to, embrace it and good luck managing or being part of a remote team.

Russell Fraser works for a UK national bank as a manager, managing a team of fraud professionals maximizing fraud savings as part of our protection strategy for the bank. Working as part of a remote team which I am really embracing. In my spare time I enjoy traveling to new destinations, documenting my travels and enthusiastic about travel photography which is shared on social media and my new blog.