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Commentary

How to Make an Awesome Remote Team

May 01, 2017

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What are your strategies for staying effective while working remotely?” is written by Kirsten Helvey, chief operating officer at Cornerstone OnDemand.

Every day, I head to my office in Santa Monica, Calif., where I lead a team of more than 400 people. Despite all the great perks of living near the beach, roughly half my team prefers to work from other offices around the world. And many actually work from home.

I’ve seen firsthand the ability of remote teams working together across different geographical locations and time zones to pull together amazing work. For example, my team just finished a six-month project to improve and speed up our implementation process for our clients. It was a massive feat, with team members working around the clock all over the globe. For many on the team, working remotely was a huge benefit and brought out the best in them.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize common patterns in effective remote teams. Here are some strategies for helping your own team work effectively, wherever its members may be:

Use the best collaboration tools

For a remote worker to be effective, they have to be just as reachable as if they were in an office with you. Remote employees need efficient communication and collaboration tools so they and their team can feel constantly connected. It can be easy for people to begin to feel disconnected and thus disengaged, so make sure you utilize the best technology to enhance your remote workplace.

Foster team spirit

The office should be a social place where relationships are built. Although it can feel awkward at first, video conferencing can really help remote teams get to know each other. Also, try to partake in employee celebrations for major milestones, such as birthdays, work anniversaries, and big accomplishments. If you plan a celebration in your office that involves treats, don’t forget to send something to your remote employees. Even the smallest gesture goes a long way.

Flex your work schedule

Remote workers should have the freedom to choose not just when they work, but how they spend their work hours. For example, some people on my team often have late calls with coworkers in India. I have no problem with their stepping away during the day to shop for groceries or hit the gym. As long as they are up front about when they’re going to be offline, this usually works out fine.

Engage with your manager

Regular check-ins with managers are foundational to successful remote working relationships. The more a manager understands your day-to-day activities, the better. I find that documenting tasks and goals for both the near term (weekly and monthly) and the long term (quarterly and annually) is crucial to staying on track.

While remote working is perfectly fine for the day-to-day, you should make time for in-person, quality interactions with your manager. Whether it’s once a quarter or once a month, find the right cadence that factors in quality face-to-face time and your allowed budget.

Working remotely requires strong communication, established goals, and clear expectations. If you can stick to these guidelines, you’ll end up a happier and more engaged employee.

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