An Upwork survey revealed that in 10 years, 38% of full-time employees will work remotely. This presents a challenge: how to get the best from these remote workers? By understanding the impact of physical and psychological distance, managers can adapt their style to help teams connect and collaborate.
- Build the ‘we’. Research shows that remote teams with a strong shared identity experience the least conflict. A sense of belonging develops naturally when people work in physical proximity; building it requires more effort in remote teams. Be explicit about the team’s shared objectives and values, and how each individual contributes.
- Create ‘swift trust’. Mutual trust is vital for teams to succeed but is particularly hard to achieve when people can’t see each other’s contributions. Focus attention on tasks and outcomes and encourage workers to assume their colleagues’ trustworthiness without it needing to be “earned”. This provides a stable basis for long-term trust to develop.
- Get personal. Team members who communicate more frequently outside of formal meetings are happier, more engaged and perform better. There’s less chance for social small talk in remote teams, so facilitate and encourage people to engage in these informal conversations.
- Set communication standards. Miscommunication is the root of most conflict. Collaborate with your team members on a ‘communication charter’ which sets out consistent ways of working – from acceptable email response times to which platforms should be used for which situations – so that everyone is clear on what’s expected, and what to expect.
- Reward remotely. One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is feeling isolated from recognition, rewards and career development opportunities. Make an effort to celebrate individuals’ successes and share these achievements so they’re visible across the organisation. Ensure feedback and career development conversations are at least as frequent as those in co-located teams.