Building a Remote Work Culture: 7 Tips for Succesful Distributed Teams

Silvana Lucido
16 June 2023
Building a Remote Work Culture: 7 Tips for Succesful Distributed Teams | Companio

Could you have imagined a few years ago that you’d be working from home while your colleague was thousands of kilometers away?

It’s unlikely.

While remote and distributed work setups have been around for a while, they are now becoming increasingly common.

These work models have numerous benefits, such as accessing a diverse talent pool, enjoying more flexibility in time and location, and reducing costs. However, they also present significant challenges, including physical distance, time zone variations, and a need for in-person interaction.

How can you tackle these challenges and avoid potential issues that remote teams might face?

That’s exactly what we’ll explore in this article. But first, let’s delve into what remote and distributed teams are and understand their differences.

Understanding Remote Teams vs. Distributed Teams

Although we commonly use the term remote teams, the truth is that we can find different types of teams within remote work culture, including distributed teams.

In other words, all distributed teams are remote, but not all remote teams are necessarily distributed.

Making the distinction can be complex in many cases. However, to simplify it as much as possible, the key aspect that sets remote and distributed teams apart is a physical presence and the means of communication— in-person or virtual.

We deal with a remote team if being physically present at an office and conducting face-to-face meetings is required. On the other hand, if team members primarily communicate virtually (for example, using Slack, Google Meets, etc.) and do not have a physical office they attend, then it’s a distributed team.

Let’s explore a few examples to understand the difference better.

A distributed team could be a group of technical experts working in various locations, using software to assist customers from anywhere. They communicate with each other through instant messaging applications like Slack and never have face-to-face meetings since they work worldwide.

On the contrary, a remote team example would be one where most of the team works in an office while some members work remotely. Alternatively, it could be a scenario where a few employees work at the office while the rest of the team works from home.

Pros of Distributed Teams

Even though many companies still adhere to the traditional 100% face-to-face model, remote work culture provides numerous benefits for the company and its employees. The advantages discussed below specifically pertain to distributed teams.

Attraction and Retention of Talent

Remote work culture offers several advantages to employees, including flexibility, which allows team members to work from any location they choose, saving commuting costs and time previously spent on trains, cars, or other means of transportation. 

Moreover, this flexibility promotes work-life balance, particularly with a flexible schedule. 

Additionally, remote work culture contributes to physical and mental well-being, as the office environment can often be stressful, and there are extended periods of sitting. Ultimately, these benefits positively impact the company, fostering motivated, content, and productive employees, making talent retention easier, and attracting new talent when job opportunities are advertised.

Cost Reduction Through Remote and Distributed Teams

Why spend large sums on physical spaces when remote work or coworking spaces are possible? 

Furthermore, employees save on fuel or public transportation expenses by eliminating the daily commute, as mentioned earlier.

Expensive IT infrastructures are unnecessary, and the company’s budget can be redirected to other areas such as innovation, product development, or team activities that foster creativity.

Access to Global Talent of High Quality

Remote and distributed teams transcend geographical barriers, enabling companies to access a vast market of talented individuals.

Without being confined to a specific location, you can search for and hire the best professionals regardless of their whereabouts, significantly expanding the potential for finding individuals with specific skills and specialized knowledge that align with business needs.

The flexibility of a distributed team is also an invaluable asset. Not all tasks or projects require full-time employee hires. Engaging freelancers or independent contractors for one-off projects may be more efficient and cost-effective, enabling companies to adapt to changes and ensure they have the right resources at the right time without incurring unnecessary expenses.

Increased Productivity

Numerous studies support a clear conclusion: employees are more productive when working remotely.

Why? The ability to focus without unnecessary distractions. Unproductive conversations and constant interruptions are eliminated, allowing employees to maintain focus on their tasks.

Additionally, the flexibility of remote work culture empowers individuals to tailor their work environment to their specific needs. They can create a quiet and personalized space, eliminating the distractions that may arise in a traditional office setting. Alternatively, they can work from cafes or coworking spaces if they prefer a more relaxed environment.

More Agile Teams

This advantage is less widely known, but remote and distributed teams operating worldwide have members working in different time zones, enabling quick responses to opportunities and customer inquiries and providing exceptional service that can make a difference in the market.

Having a work team available practically 24/7 is awesome, without the need for impractical schedules.

The resulting competitive advantage is invaluable. By offering a more agile and efficient service, your company can differentiate itself from competitors and earn the trust and loyalty of customers. Speed becomes a strategic ally, driving business growth.

Disadvantages of Remote and Distributed Equipment

While there are numerous advantages to working with remote and distributed teams, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges and potential problems that come with it. Let’s take a look at some of these disadvantages:

Communication and Coordination Challenges

Lack of face-to-face interaction can make communication more difficult, leading to misunderstandings and weaker connections among team members. Coordinating activities and projects may require extra effort to ensure everyone is on the same page and aligned.

Cultural and Time Differences

Time differences, although offering some benefits, can also present challenges. 

Cultural differences can affect communication, not just due to language barriers but also because of varying communication styles based on cultural norms. For instance, people in England tend to be more formal and less direct compared to other countries like Spain. 

Moreover, time zone differences can hinder organization and planning efforts.

Lack of Connection, Trust, and Isolation

The absence of informal and social interactions can impact team morale and the sense of belonging in remote and distributed teams. 

However, you can implement strategies to overcome these challenges and foster stronger bonds among team members. Initiatives such as team-building activities, collaborative projects, and creating spaces for sharing interests and experiences can help build authentic and lasting relationships.

Technology Dependency

While technology is a great asset, it can also become a hindrance. 

Remote and distributed teams heavily rely on technological tools for communication and collaboration. Any disruption or technical failure can lead to stress and affect productivity. Having contingency plans, providing team training, and being prepared to adapt quickly to unexpected situations are crucial. You should see technology as a companion, but being in control is important.

Difficulties in Team Management and Supervision

Leaders must rely on virtual tools and adjust their management approach without a physical presence in the same location. 

Establishing clear communication channels, defining expectations and goals, and providing continuous feedback are key aspects of maintaining direction and high performance within the team. Effective management techniques should be adapted to suit the remote work culture and ensure successful teamwork.

7 Tips for Managing Successful Remote and Distributed Teams

Now that we’ve explored the advantages and disadvantages of remote and distributed teams let’s dive into the key strategies for effectively managing them and overcoming the challenges that may arise.

Streamline the Onboarding Process

Starting on the right foot is crucial, setting the tone for new team members’ experience. Here are some important steps to ensure a smooth onboarding process:

  • Provide a clear path to success: Equip new hires with all the necessary information to understand their role, the company’s vision, and its goals. A welcome manual, training materials, and helpful resources can make a significant difference.
  • Foster a sense of belonging: Onboarding is not just about paperwork; it’s about supporting new team members. Assign a mentor or a teammate who can guide and assist them in integrating into the team.
  • Encourage open communication: Create a welcoming environment where new hires feel comfortable sharing their concerns and asking questions. Schedule regular check-ins to assess their progress. Transparency and open dialogue build trust and a strong sense of belonging from the beginning.

Promote Autonomy and Responsibility

Without physical supervision, it’s essential to trust your team members and empower them to take ownership of their work. Here are some strategies to promote autonomy and responsibility:

Set clear and achievable goals: 

  • Communicate team objectives effectively, ensuring everyone understands them. Clear goals provide direction and enable team members to focus on delivering desired results.
  • Define responsibilities and roles: Assign specific tasks and responsibilities to each team member. This ensures that everyone takes ownership of their work and knows what you expect of them. Clarifying roles also helps prevent confusion and work overlap.
  • Empower decision-making: Allow team members to make informed decisions about their work. Trust their judgment and allow them to carry out their tasks, fostering their motivation and empowerment.
  • Provide resources and support: Ensure team members can access the tools, information, and resources to complete their work effectively. Offering adequate support instills confidence in their ability to work autonomously.

Establish Moments of Social Interaction

Even though your team is geographically dispersed, it’s important to maintain social connections. Schedule informal video calls or virtual coffee chats where team members can interact and socialize relaxedly.

For instance, organize virtual get-togethers where they can share laughter, anecdotes, and more casual moments. These interactions strengthen camaraderie and create a warmer and more humane environment, despite the physical distance.

Structure Meetings Effectively

Establish a regular meeting schedule and define a clear agenda in advance, letting all participants know what topics will be discussed and come prepared.

Moreover, ensure that meetings don’t become one-sided. Allocate enough time for each team member to participate and share their ideas. A team makes the best decisions.

Utilize the Right Software

Stay up-to-date in the digital age and leverage technology tools to enhance communication and collaboration.

Choose the appropriate software that suits your team’s needs. Platforms like Slack offer instant messaging, themed channels, and file-sharing capabilities for efficient communication

Consider tools like Zoom or Google Meet for virtual meetings, which provide high-quality video and audio, screen sharing, and real-time collaboration features.

Project management tools such as Trello, Asana, or ClickUp can help organize tasks, assign responsibilities, and track project progress visually and collaboratively.

Establish Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations is crucial for aligning the team and working towards the same goals. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Communicate objectives, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and deadlines to each team member. Ensure everyone understands what is expected of them and how their efforts contribute to achieving the desired results, avoiding misunderstandings and confusion, and ensuring everyone is working in the same direction.
  • Encourage two-way communication. Create an environment where team members feel comfortable asking questions, seeking clarification, and sharing ideas on achieving the set goals. Open and honest communication fosters collaboration and allows for better problem-solving.

Encourage a Positive Work Environment

A positive work environment is crucial, even for remote and distributed teams. Here’s how you can achieve it:

  • Communication channels: Apart from work-related communication, use other tools to foster connections on non-work topics. For example, create a dedicated channel on Discord where team members can share their interests, news, memes, music, and other issues they are passionate about. This helps them get to know each other better and establish connections beyond work.
  • Virtual social activities: Host online gaming sessions on platforms like Steam, PlayStation Network, or Xbox Live, where team members can have fun together and strengthen team spirit. These activities provide opportunities for bonding and creating a positive team culture.
  • Occasional events or retreats: Organize occasional in-person events or retreats where team members can meet at a specific location. During these gatherings, engage in recreational activities, personal development workshops, or team-building exercises. Face-to-face interactions help build stronger bonds, trust, and collaboration, even in a remote work setup.

Remember that a positive team environment boosts employee morale and satisfaction and enhances team members’ collaboration, creativity, and productivity.

Anticipate Problems

Working with remote and distributed teams comes with numerous advantages. Still, it also brings significant challenges, so it’s important to be proactive instead of waiting for problems to arise, using the key points discussed earlier to establish effective strategies for managing remote and distributed teams. 

By implementing these best practices, you can create a solid foundation for success and minimize potential difficulties.

At Companio, we understand the complexities of managing remote and distributed teams, particularly international ones.

That’s why we offer expertise to support your business’s growth and streamline administrative tasks such as employee registration, payroll management, and payment processes. Our Companio Work service is designed to save you time and ensure smooth operations.

About the author:
Get Our Business Newsletter!