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8 Best Practices to Manage Globally Distributed Teams

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manage globally distributed teams

COVID-19 has pushed more and more employees to work in a remote environment. For this reason, organizations across the borders realize the importance of setting up highly efficient, and manage globally distributed teams.

A recent report on the state of remote work also suggests that in a survey conducted for over 3500 remote workers from across the world a whopping 98% of them unanimously agreed that they can continue to work remotely for the rest of their careers.

While the benefits of a distributed work environment for employees are many. It’s a challenge for employers to manage distributed or virtual teams. To make it easier for you, we are listing some of the best practices to help you manage workflow with your distributed teams better and make them feel as connected as teams who work in a traditional/physical office setup.

8 Best Practices To Manage Workflow With Globally Distributed Teams

Globally distributed teams are an evolving concept that essentially refers to an organizational workforce being spread across multiple locations across the world.

Since these teams aren’t using a central or physical workspace to get the work done, they come into the category of a globally distributed team.

Below are some of the top tips to manage workflow with your remote teams effectively-

1. Collaborate Effectively

One of the critical challenges in remote working that an increasing number of organizations face; is the lack of communication. Because of the distance, the teams often struggle with the normal pace of conversations. In addition to that, a constant delay in messages can affect multiple areas of business, including team collaboration.

Streamlining communication to collaborate effectively is, therefore, the most important thing to build successful distributed teams. 

Make sure to create a space for sharing thoughts and updates, asking queries, and build relationships. So that all the team members can collaborate effectively and remain updated all the time.

Some of the ways you can collaborate effectively when your team is working remotely include-

  • Keep the communication open, clear, and honest
  • Offer flexibility in terms of audio, video, and other modes of communication as and when needed
  • Conduct daily meetings and ask relevant questions to enable clear and transparent communication
  • Take every effort to be inclusive and make every employee feel valued and appreciated

2. Outline A Common Project Goal

Widely distributed teams often get lost in delivering only their share of the task/project as per the organizational requirements, which results in a lack of a common goal or a unified purpose.

It is, therefore, critical to outline a clear project vision that is common to every employee throughout the organization. It should also include the short-term as well as long-term business goals, expected challenges, and benefits.

The idea here is to over-communicate without holding back any information so that each of your team feels a sense of ownership about the project and organization at large. Beyond the simple daily check-ins with your employees, over-communicating is also imperative when it comes to the team’s duties, responsibilities, and expected outcomes.

3. Leverage The Right Tools to Manage Globally Distributed Teams

To ensure high productivity and better work efficiency while managing globally distributed teams, find and leverage the best communication tools.

Since there is no dearth of options for remote working communication solutions, it is vital to do thorough research to find the tools that work best for your team.

Some of the options you can use for workflow automation include:

  • Project Management Tools: Asana, Basecamp, Jira, Trello
  • Document Storage Tools: Zoho, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneHub
  • Messaging Tools: Slack, Twist, Skype, Google Hangouts Chat
  • Video-Conferencing Tools: Skype Video, GoToMeeting, UberConference, Join. me
  • Calendars: Google Calendar for Business, Monday.com, Teamweek/Toggl Plan

All the tools listed above are instant messaging tools to help you keep all your communications visible in real-time for the entire team to see and contribute.

4. Make Your Expectations Clear with Globally Distributed Teams

There are high chances of overlooking or misunderstanding an instruction in a globally distributed environment due to a lack of face-to-face communication. This makes it essential to set clear expectations from the beginning while also agreeing on realistic tasks and deadlines.

To ensure that the expectations you set are measurable, define clear KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and expected timelines. So that your employees have a clear idea of what they’re supposed to do. 

Additionally, make every effort to understand your team members on a more personal level and try to build camaraderie among them. Some of the ways to do work effectively include:

  • Encourage team members to share their opinions and schedule one on one virtual meetups with them on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Organize various virtual team building activities on a regular basis.
  • Try to create a shared virtual space for expectation setting, celebrations, and other such events.

Setting clear expectations and requesting feedback from team members ensure alignment and help your teams understand where they need to focus their energy more.

5. Develop A Multi-Channel Meeting Environment

Staying connected through regular meetings is an essential aspect of managing remote teams. Having a clear, accessible, and multi-channel communication environment (desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, smartwatch) plays a vital role in achieving this objective.

A report also suggests that employees expect to have a consistent digital experience irrespective of the location they work from. Managers, therefore, should equip their remote teams with every possible meeting tool that answers their specific needs.

For instance, Video chat and VOIP calls on the device of their choice are an excellent way for building relationships between your team members. As hearing a voice or seeing a face helps them create a more personal connection. Further, these types of calls are also helpful when you are having a conversation with your employees on sensitive or confidential topics such as work performance.

6. Agree On Time Zones And Boundaries to Effectively Manage Globally Distributed Teams

Striking a work-life balance is one of the most challenging aspects of remote working. For employees without the luxury of a home office and who use the same device for work and personal use, it becomes all the more challenging as they find it hard to disconnect when work is done.

Further, time zone differences are a common hurdle for globally distributed teams. However, how effectively your team deals with these differences can make all the difference to its overall productivity and efficiency.

For instance, your team member working in a totally different timezone might not be available to take or answer any urgent queries, and pushing them to work beyond the working hours can affect their morale negatively. 

It is, therefore, essential to agree on time boundaries and respect the time zones in which your teams work. Make sure to set clear timelines on when the work ends and begins again or allow people working in different continents to work according to their time zones.

The team should also be given the flexibility to decide on how long they can take to respond to a query, an email, or a message. This ensures the continuity of business without letting any request or query go unattended for long while also giving a certain breather to employees.

7. Streamline The Process Of Employee Performance Tracking

While working remotely, every employee has a different approach towards their work, and a one-size-fits-all method may not help here.

Therefore, to keep track of the productivity of your distributed teams, make sure to observe employee performance systematically. Some of the ways to do this include:

  • Circulate a work tracker wherein every team member records their activities daily. This helps you to create an optimal work environment for them and also to understand their specific needs, if any.
  • Set definite tasks with submission deadlines so that the team members feel motivated and driven to complete the work within the deadlines.
  • Use time and attendance software to help you gain a better understanding of their working patterns.

8. Have Regular Facetime to Manage Globally Distributed Teams

Managers who are successful in their remote leadership endeavors make more frequent use of video conferencing to establish the face-to-face interaction. This is what, is now lacking in a virtual work environment.

It is crucial to build a system where you get your entire team to come together in one place on a regular basis-quarterly, half-yearly, or annually. While this can be overwhelming and challenging in equal measures. The benefits of bringing your team together far outweigh the constraints. However, it can help you build a stronger workforce in the future.

Apart from giving employees a chance to connect with each other and build stronger work relationships. It also makes them feel motivated, appreciated, and part of a close-knit team and improves their morale.

Bottom Line

With remote working becoming a way of life, it is pretty clear that distributed teams are here to stay. While there are many benefits of working in a distributed team, such as attracting and retaining top talent. The concept does come with its own set of unique challenges. 

To ensure that your globally distributed teams remain as productive and efficient as a traditional workforce, it is essential to address these challenges from the beginning. 

Inculcating the above best practices allows you to build a robust distributed work environment. That benefits not only your employees and stakeholders but also the end-users.

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Mayank Pratap
Mayank Pratap
Mayank Pratap Singh Top writer at Entrepreneur.com, the startup, Hackernoon, StartupGrind | Helped 500+ founders to build awesome Web & App products, Hire Remote Engineers | 30+ funded, 6 selected in Y-Combinator | More than 50 founders from MIT DeltaV & Harvard innovation lab has used Supersourcing

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