Gone are the days when a whiteboard and wipe erase marker was the pinnacle of a successful brainstorming session. Or when a spontaneous event debrief was as easy as finding an available conference room.
Remote work changed the way we work, but that doesn’t mean it’s harder to brainstorm award-winning ideas or hold spur-of-the-moment discussions.
It means we must be more intentional about it.
Remote teamwork requires conscious decision-making, transparency, and documentation. Sarah Archer, Head of Content at Kona, explains why remote teamwork is important, how remote work affects teamwork, and how your team can develop strong remote teamwork habits.
Why is remote teamwork important?
Have you experienced passive-aggressiveness on a team video call? Or worse, your colleagues butting heads over a call without a compromise in sight?
Strong remote teamwork solves that, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
That’s because remote teamwork is a strategy where every team member has the resources, connection, and tools to work together seamlessly regardless of where they’re located.
But how does remote work affect teamwork?
When you’re not working in person, you must have processes in place for teams to seamlessly work together both asynchronous and synchronous.
How can you develop strong teamwork when working remotely?
Let’s dive into six actionable ways your team can improve your remote teamwork.
1. Develop a documentation-first culture
When it comes to transitioning your processes into a digital experience, it’s important that every employee consistently creates and iterates on the company’s documentation. It not only keeps every team member on the same page regardless of time zone, but it sets expectations for everyone to adhere to.
Document how to hold meetings, brainstorm, collaborate cross-functionally, and more. Employees can use documentation as the single source of truth. Therefore, when anyone is at a crossroads, they can refer back to documentation for the solution.
At Kona, we use Notion for all of our documentation. Each department has its own hub page, which holds subpages that go deeper into topics. For example, we have a human resources hub page that holds documentation related to our core values, mission, culture, perks, hiring, onboarding, and more.
2. Get buy-in on goals
When a manager sets outlandish expectations, it’s inevitable to cause tension across the team.
That’s why it’s important that each team member has a voice when it comes to establishing teamwide goals. Whether you are quarterly planning or starting a brand new project, survey the team to understand their point of view and approach.
Use this to establish teamwide goals and take the extra step to hold a video call to explain what went into each decision and answer any questions team members may have. If you’re transparent from the goal-setting stage, you’ll earn buy-in from the team and alleviate remote teamwork issues down the road.
3. Invest in the right tool stack
The software that your company uses can make or break your communication and collaboration. Limit your tool stack to tools that improve productivity, communication, and culture.
Finding the right culture assessment tool is imperative to improving your remote teamwork. We use our tool, Kona, which helps employees naturally build bonds with one another. And studies show that people who have personal relationships with one another work better together on work-related projects.
Tools like Remo also help your remote team with their virtual team-building activities, virtual training, virtual onboarding, and even virtual happy hours. You can host all these activities on the tool and improve employee engagement and team bonding.
4. Revert to transparency
Mistakes, challenges, and failures are inevitable, regardless if you’re in a remote or in-office environment.
Even if you have the documentation in place, issues can arise if someone withholds information from the rest of the team. That’s why it’s crucial to revert to transparency whether good or bad.
At Kona, we rely on the rose, thorn, and bud strategy, which encourages us to share highlights, challenges, and new ideas regularly. However, note that team members might be hesitant to be transparent about their progress or feedback unless you establish a psychologically safe work environment first. Make psychological safety a priority, and open transparency will follow.
5. Read nonverbal communication
This might sound counterintuitive in a remote setting, but body language is still important in picking up non-verbal cues while improving teamwork.
You can do this by encouraging employees to turn on their cameras during meetings. This allows team members to see who is in agreement and disagreement through their facial expressions, as well as encourages engagement and understanding when to speak up.
6. Offer team-building exercises
Create virtual meetings where you can build rapport with your colleagues through remote team-building activities. Team building has immense benefits such as improving morale, encouraging creativity, and bettering communication with one another.
Problem-solving through various activities outside of your regular work to-do’s will help every team be better at remote teamwork. At Kona, we spend 30-mins per week with each other playing games over video chat. It’s helped us understand each other’s problem-solving skills, as well as build closer personal relationships.
Remote teamwork might not come naturally to you or your team, but these practices will help you be on your way to being strong remote communicators and collaborators.
Head of Content Strategy at Kona, a culture and wellbeing platform for people-first teams. She’s passionate about helping companies prevent burnout and build a strong remote culture.