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Management: Practise team-building for remote workers

The “team” philosophy is a vital part of the office environment.

An office team that works together well — with trust, complementary skills and behaviours, and a sense of community — is more productive and more engaged.

telecommuting team building

Edmond Lau, a Quora engineer, writes in Forbes that teamwork is “incredibly important for output quality, morale, and retention”.

Employees who feel like they’re on their own, he says, are less likely to learn, less likely to receive feedback on their projects and more likely to feel demoralized.

When they feel like they’re part of a team, however, they feel supported, motivated and more accountable.

Team-building and telecommuting

The No. 1 trait of a good team is a good leader. That’s you.

And one of your traits as a good leader is knowing how to implement activities that bring your team together as a well-oiled machine.

Team-building can help your workers better understand one another (and you) and learn how to be more effective at working together.

Trouble is, your workers are scattered around the country, continent or globe.

Your team is already productive and engaged, based on statistics that show telecommuters are head and shoulders above their in-office teammates.

But if you promote team-building, you might be able to take those benefits one step further.

What can you do as the manager of a virtual team?

Weekly conference calls

Once a week, schedule a team update meeting. Talk about ideas, changes, obstacles and plans. Go around the “room” and let each of your employees discuss their projects and allow input from their teammates.

Collaboration will take your team further than solo efforts.

Onboarding

When you hire someone new, set up a call with her to welcome her to the team. Set your expectations for milestones and communications.

Make sure she is given a special introduction at your next weekly conference call with the team.

Individual checkins

You could fire off a template to each telecommuter and have her fill in a weekly report.

Or, you schedule a once-a-week or biweekly call with each person on your team and make that human touch. Talk about their goals and career plans and how you can make those happen.

Encourage discussion

You and your remote team have the technology to keep the lines of communication wide open. Your team can instant message, email or Skype.

They don’t need to wait for the weekly conference call to bounce ideas off each other or help each other solve the little problems where you aren’t needed.

Invest in an intranet

An intranet gives your team an internal forum for discussion and idea exchange.

It provides a platform for:

✓ Day-to-day collaboration
✓ Housing important files, forms, company guides and policies
✓ Sharing information on the company, projects and your industry
✓ Building individual profiles where your remote workers can get to know each other personally, not just professionally

Bring everyone together

This can be a tough one if you’re managing a global or countrywide operation.

If you have a more localized team and it’s cost-effective, invite your team to company outings or other get-togethers. Schedule your team for a dinner out and let them chat — shop talk or not — face to face.

Your turn

Managers, do you have any special methods for encouraging your remote team to communicate?

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