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Rethinking teamwork in a remote environment

March 8, 2021
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The shift to a remote workforce has required companies to take a hard look at how this new model affects the workflow of teams. Pre-pandemic, it was relatively easy for managers to set goals, put together teams, inspire collaboration and achieve results. Today, fostering teamwork when employees are scattered poses challenges.

Here are some things to consider for helping remote team members function smoothly:

Be mindful of non-verbal communication

Before the pandemic, when you could be face-to-face with colleagues standing a few feet apart, visual cues and body language facilitated communication. It was easier to pick up nuances and non-verbal gestures during in-person exchanges, fostering cooperation. But it's harder to pick up on these things when communicating via email or even through video conferences. To convey messages to your remote team without misinterpretation, communications should be clear, simple and direct. Repeating the message will also reinforce its meaning.

Expand your talent pool

Rather than being restricted to on-site staff, managers can take advantage of remote workers from an almost unlimited geographic area. They can recruit and draw from workers and experts anywhere and add them to the team, permanently or temporarily. This gives managers enormous freedom to choose the skill sets needed, but be careful: make sure that the people brought in mesh well with your existing team members. Aim for a seamless working experience that minimizes bruised egos.

Formalize your procedures

Because team members are scattered, the need for some formal set of procedures or protocols could be a key factor in keeping workers focused. Build flexibility into the procedures: something that worked in the office may need to be adjusted or scrapped altogether in the remote environment. As many team members have had almost a year of remote experience, they will be your best source for designing a workflow blueprint. Designating selected team members to be accountable for objectives or policies is another way to keep the team on track.

Be open to changes in the decision-making process

The less linear remote environment is also affecting the way decisions are made in positive ways. Some companies that delegate decisions to remote teams have seen greater efficiency and better outcomes. Data from the software firm Culture Amp found that giving teams greater independence in making decisions saved time, while Mars, Incorporated gained clearer communication with their supply chain partners, resulting in higher productivity. 

Use new technology tools to collaborate

Working remotely can make some team members occasionally feel out of the loop or disconnected from the flow of information on a given project. Setting up a system whereby team members have access to files on an as needed basis can alleviate this anxiety. Document management and workflow automation tools such as DocuWare collaborative tools, like Google Docs and Microsoft Teams, and communication tools like Slack and Threads can allow remote members to participate and contribute more fully to their team's success.

It's likely that things will continue to evolve as outside circumstances warrant but making even a few changes now could have a beneficial effect on teamwork in a remote environment.

Ricoh has Cloud, Security and a wide range of remote work solutions to meet your digital transformation needs. Watch the video to learn more: