Collaborating with a Highly Distributed Team | TechWell

Collaborating with a Highly Distributed Team

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Working remotely has numerous benefits, including increases in productivity, employee retention, and diversity. A study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business found remote workers had a 13% improvement in performance compared to their collocated colleagues, and those telecommuters were also 50% less likely to quit their jobs.

But being distributed can also cause challenges for team collaboration, including insufficient face-to-face communication, lack of visibility, and struggling to connect across time zones.

However, advancements in tools, technology, and best practices have helped to lessen some of those challenges. Here are four ways to make collaborating with distributed teams more seamless.

Use video and audio to improve communication

When working remotely, people often communicate using some form of text, such as email or Slack. Text communication has its place and can be effective in the right situation, but by making use of video and audio, team member conversations become more human. With video, you can see your colleague’s body language and whether or not you have their attention, and with audio, you can get a better sense of stress and sarcasm.

Reflect regularly on how to become more effective

Holding retrospectives is important with collocated teams, but it might be even more important for distributed teams. Your teams should schedule regular meetings to discuss processes and how you can all work to improve them. When you work remotely, you might find yourself working in a way that best suits you, without considering how your style affects the rest of your team. By opening up feedback channels, you can work together to become a more cohesive team.

Ensure you have working hours that overlap

One potential benefit of distributed teams is having a diverse workforce based in different cultures throughout the world. One potential obstacle with that, though, is having employees working in different time zones.

On an episode of 404 Podcast Found, Johanna Rothman explains that the best way to collaborate across time zones is to make sure you have some similar working hours. If you’re based in New York and you have team members based in London, you might have to make yourself available a little bit earlier in the morning, and those Londoners might stay available past 5 p.m. However, it’s also important to set boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Compromise and planning will help you work better together.

Get to know your colleagues personally

Most people spend around 40 hours working with their teams each week. For some of us, that means more time with our work families than with our real families. By taking the time to get to know someone on a personal level at work, you’ll be able to build trust and better enjoy the time you spend with them. 

Working remotely certainly has its advantages for both employees and employers. Maximize these advantages by making the most of the tools you have available to collaborate—even when your coworkers might be thousands of miles apart.

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