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The 4 building blocks of remote teamwork

A couple of years into working remotely I realized the most often overlooked challenge remote teams had was poor knowledge management. Our team’s communication was scrappy, we never knew what a team member was working on unless we asked, and when it came time for project updates, there was a massive amount of information and docs to sort through. 

After talking to other remote workers, it hit me: we weren’t the only ones dealing with these hurdles. 

All teams are built on top of shareable information. Most of the time, it's the access to that information that stops teams from aligning and building a replicable documentation structure.  Work, team cohesion, and client relationships all play a part in this. But most times, juggling everything can lead to teams feeling disjointed.

Building a remote team involves trust, structure, and accessibility. But each of those pillars should be introduced through the culture, tech stack, and elements that create your organization's foundation.

Remote teamwork requires more than just shifting to a virtual workspace

Most remote teamwork efforts were built on top of a single aspect: switching all operations to the virtual office. However, we’re beginning to find the cracks in this hasty approach. If we don’t specify how remote and hybrid teams need different processes, eventually we’ll be stuck in the awkward teenager years of the hybrid/remote transition. 

For example, management looks different for remote teams. And many managers aren’t prepared to lead remote employees long-term. This isn’t anyone’s fault. Managers don’t perfect remote leadership through osmosis, they need training and programming to help them through the transition.

Your regular office practices also won’t work for the team members who come from different places and backgrounds. If your company has used the opportunity of remote to hire employees from different parts of the country, or even the world — you’re tapping into new cultures, markets, and types of personalities. 

We’ve been doing remote for a while now. And still, we’re getting so much of it wrong. Here are some concrete tips to build your remote teamwork that won’t have your working model collapsing as soon as a problem arises. 

Enhance teamwork with these 4 remote collaboration techniques

1. Establish a remote communication charter

We’ve gone over how companies like Doist and InVision use communication charters that are in use as early as the onboarding stage. These charters provide vital guidelines for defining synchronous vs. async communication. You can document your preferred communication methods and rules and later present them to new hires and existing team members alike.

Collaboration can’t exist without communication. And for remote teams, having guidelines on when to send emails versus a Slack can help new hires get used to your organization’s preferences (they’re probably different from wherever that new hire came from).

The remote communication charter also goes beyond internal collaboration. It outlines how team members can interact on social media, what they can share, and how the organization as a whole communicates with the general public.

2. Set aside time for team building

Informal interactions, like asking about someone’s day or grabbing lunch over a conference call, builds community. Remotely, it’s hard to have these types of conversations without deliberate planning so don’t be afraid to schedule them, or even set goals around talking to team members you are less likely to interact with day-to-day. 

Team building plays a pivotal point in helping employees feel like they’re a solid part of the team and keeping them with your company for years. After all, the key to building a strong foundation for remote teamwork and ensuring no knowledge is lost is to retain your people.

3. Adopt a work hub

Under a work hub, your team can work efficiently and effortlessly. 

There are many things a work hub can do for your organization, including packaging your teams, documents, projects, and goals under one connected roof. By structuring your company’s information in an accessible way, you can spend less time in meetings, giving internal updates, and updating those spreadsheets hidden away in Google Drive. 

You can also:

  • Align team members on goals throughout the entire lifecycle
  • Eliminate manual processes through workflows
  • Find files, messages, and even code snippets across any app you’re using
  • Connect with the right people by immediately finding out who’s in charge of a task and even getting to know more about their talents and hobbies
  • Put an end to context switching and keep all documentation under a single dashboard
  • Catch up on work after a long break with tagged updates and milestones

4. Prioritize accountability 

No remote worker should ever be left behind. This is a core value all remote teams should strive to achieve on two levels. 

First, you’re looking to make every person feel welcomed on the team. Isolation and loneliness are common occurrences that can lead to people feeling less visible and straying away from your culture as a whole.

From a work perspective, assign clear roles to every employee so they’ll take ownership of their KPIs. Team members should also have full control over the projects they’re in charge of so they’ll feel valued and get a chance to grow professionally. When accountability and visibility of work streams are prioritized, a remote worker is less likely to feel siloed or disconnected from the team. 

The best remote collaboration technique is ultimately still communication

Effective communication remains the liaison between remote teams. And there’s always some extra room for improvements when it comes to how you store information and how easy it is for the team to access it.

A work hub is your single source of truth so you can manage all projects while hitting deadlines without the manual effort. However, remember that remote teamwork should be built to become an integrated part of your culture. This way, new employees can always adapt without the hassle of a disjointed workplace — be it a remote or hybrid one.

Alexandra Cote is an expert on work productivity, employee engagement and mental health, and workplace diversity and inclusion. She’s a strong supporter of staying happy at work and choosing a healthy career path. With this goal in mind, she’s spent years helping remote teams work efficiently.
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