Remote Teamwork: Best Practices for Working Cohesively and Avoiding Miscommunication

Remote Work
Alexandra Cote
May 28, 2021

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Throughout the entire distributed teams experiment from last year, remote communication has evolved in multiple directions.

Team communication is currently the number one issue teams face. There are companies where never ending daily meetings take away a huge chunk of a person’s work time and then there’s organizations that struggle with keeping their employees engaged.

In fact, remote work has changed the way teams communicate. And individuals are noticing these effects.

“On a global scale, the way teams work, collaborate, and relate to one another has changed drastically over the last year since the pandemic, but teams still have a long way to go in adopting remote work practices that truly produce long-term sustainable outcomes for both business and workers. As organizations around the world start planning their return to the office, flexible work is going to be a key strategy long-term.” - Megan Dilley, Senior Consultant @Distribute

For many previously on-site companies, a work-from-home setting seems to be the way to go for the future as they’re switching to an entirely remote workforce. 

But then there’s organizations that still haven’t managed to get their remote team communication in order or those whose business simply requires them to work on a location. For them, a hybrid workforce is becoming a reality that will fix the miscommunication and lack of efficiency they’ve experienced remotely:

“The length at which companies lean into remote is varied with many organizations choosing a hybrid approach. When it comes to teamwork in a fully remote environment, where location is not a factor in how individuals show up, the playing field is in effect leveled. But bringing out the best in individuals while collaborating remotely requires a lot of structure and intention from leaders to ensure that the right channels and types of communication are being utilized.” - Megan Dilley

Megan Diley also recommends learning and practicing the art of asynchronous communication to adapt the workflow to every individual’s needs and preferred productivity schedules:

“Leaning into asynchronous communication provides massive benefits to both businesses and individuals, helping increase productivity, innovation and employee wellbeing, while decreasing burnout. However, it’s easier said than done for many organizations as it requires more structure, trust, and flexibility than traditional synchronous communication.”

On top of this, Zoom fatigue has already taken over. So teams who fail to innovate when it comes to remote teamwork communication are likely to lose the engagement and motivation of their team members:

“If anything, excellence, and competence have moved to the forefront within remote teamwork over the last year. In a saturated market, those truly differentiating what they offer and doing so with a degree of excellence, become even more valuable. The baseline experience of a Zoom call is no longer tolerated by most people. The remote work situation continues to call for people to improve not only their technical equipment, but more importantly their remote team communication skills.” - Joe Ferraro

To help you prevent this, let’s jump to the remote teamwork best practices you can apply straight away!

Encourage accountability and transparency

Over 2020 employees have changed the type of requirements they have from an employer. Notably, more employees want their companies to keep them safe and ensure regular communications. So companies have to rethink the way they ensure employee-employer trust in the future. 

The solution is more simple than it might seem: being transparent. Be open to discussing everything that’s going on within and around the company even if you have to bring up the organization’s challenges or future concerns. 

Update your team regularly and use one-on-one meetings to touch upon these along with spotting the struggles your team members have too. These global teamwork tips will allow individuals to prepare for what’s to come and can eradicate any worries they might have made up irrationally in the absence of evidence. 

Chris Dyer, Remote Work Expert and CEO @PeopleG2, is a strong advocate of company-wide transparency in an attempt to prevent team members from making up their own scenarios or false beliefs:

“Companies that overshare internally help their employees see the path forward, make better decisions, and remove any fears or conflicts. When we don’t know something, we often fill in the gaps with past experiences or distress. 

Provide employees with more information than they could ever want, to ensure they get a clear understanding of the reality within your company. Financials, goals, wins and losses, new hires and lost teammates are just the start of what any transparent company will communicate to everyone, on a regular cadence.”

Avoid meetings (if not needed)

Let’s get this clear: meetings aren’t the devil. 

But you need to host them correctly and only call up a meeting when it’s needed. Most briefings and daily stand-up meetings can be replaced with a Slack channel or a tool like Yac to support async communication. Just write down or record your updates so the person whom these might concern can check out without involving the others.

Stick to holding meetings with multiple team members only when everyone needs that information and remember their main goals: to prevent project miscommunication and keep teams connected.

“Many people boast that they hate meetings. I love meetings when they are created with a specific, defined, and executed vision in mind. I love the opportunity to meet with colleagues even remotely and get the chance to set up efficient work for the future.

It’s when these two purposes get mixed and muddled that problems arise. A meeting can be social, but above all, it should be necessary, valuable, and efficient. These traits don't mean that meetings cannot be warm, but they must be of clear value.” - Joe Ferraro

Break the routine

Lately, I’ve been taking part in lots of Flow Club meetings. Whether you sit through these individually or together with your team, these keep teams focused while working together in real-time. You can also host these meetings yourself internally and divide them into:

  • 50 minutes of work or learning time
  • 10 minutes of non-work talk to improve teamwork in the long run. You can also incorporate team-building games or break your day with an extra one-hour break for the fun stuff.

How does working together strengthen friendships within your company? 

  • It significantly improves productivity and keeps team members motivated
  • It helps build a lasting remote teamwork culture and sense of community
  • It prevents remote team communication from being boring
  • It adds a touch of excitement to the daily work schedules
  • It keeps teams aligned and prevents misunderstandings and the subsequent time you’d spend on fixing errors 
  • It enhances your overall business processes
  • It helps retain employees, increases trust, and strengthens your employer branding efforts

“We’re all unlearning habits that have been ingrained in us since the industrial revolution, to show up, clock in and clock out, and make sure your manager sees you were there to do your work. 

This takes time, and it’s a monumental shift in how businesses operate. The good news is that we have the tools to make this shift. Leaders just have to be willing to adopt them and change their mindset about how and where work is done. The change must happen from the top, with leadership buy-in to do things differently.

From there, teaching the team to adopt the changes requires clear communication of new processes and persistent enforcement of them. This doesn’t have to feel like policing though. We’ve seen organizations get creative, gamifying the learning and practice of the new methods, making it more motivating and fun for everyone.” - Megan Dilley

A lacking culture

Teamwork does equal a strong culture and communication. It’s what drives high-performing and healthy teams forward whether you’re in the office or working separately from home. But over the past months, teams have been forced to pay more attention to the way in which they communicate, leaving culture behind under a false sense of cohesion.

Simply having a weekly virtual chat over a cup of coffee or sending your employees goodie bags during the holidays isn’t enough to build up a lasting culture. Read our guide to setting up and maintaining a remote culture through supporting diversity and getting everyone under the same communication loop.

“What we saw over the last year was not true remote work. Some organizations learned that their culture and communication were already strong and able to adapt to the state of the world. This helped them maintain business continuity while supporting individual wellbeing through thick and thin no matter where and when they worked. Other companies found out that things really fell apart when they couldn’t rely on a shared roof to foster connection and teamwork. 

As organizations take stock of their long-term workplace strategy, the best thing to do is revisit the foundations of culture and remote communication:

Have you clearly articulated your mission, vision, and values? Have these things changed since the pandemic due to a pivot in your strategy or a new awareness of what’s important? Have you built a communication charter that provides structure and expectations for how and where team members should communicate? Are you differentiating between when asynchronous and synchronous communication is required and why?” - Megan Dilley

Inappropriate time management 

Ever had a teammate who had just too much work on their plate? Or that person who was always against meetings because they interrupted their productive time? What about feeling frustrated yourself when it seemed like you had more tasks than your teammates?

These situations are also caused by poor time management that doesn’t evenly balance resources or makes the wrong time estimates. One way to gain back your team’s time is to reduce your meetings:

“We've developed an internal cadence of asynchronous working, with only one Zoom call per week. Our team is spread across three different countries, if we had too many meetings it would simply become exhausting for those in the earlier or later timezone.

Adopting this kind of format for all teamwork strategies gives team members the personal space to do deep work without interruption. Plus, it allows them to work when they do their best in terms of productivity. For example, I’m very productive in the early hours of the morning whereas my cofounder Thomas is more of a night owl.” - Nathan Murphy, Co-Founder @QuizBreaker

Beyond this, Nathan Murphy also suggests focusing your time on non-work aspects in order to build teamwork and work cohesively as a team in the future:

“My best tip for managers would be to create space and time which your teams can use to connect on a non-work level. This will improve the trust and psychological safety felt within the team — that’s when the magic happens in terms of new innovation.”

At Panther we help you gain control over the time you use to innovate and take care of the things that truly matter by automating your teams' global payroll, benefits, taxes, compliance, and more.

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