5 Habits of Exceptionally Successful Distributed Teams

Not too long ago, teams almost always needed to be in the same physical location to work effectively. But today, it’s no longer unusual to work with team members spread across different time zones, countries, or even continents. In fact, remote work is on the rise, with more and more organizations opting for 100% distributed teams. Dell, Apple, U-Haul, Microsoft, and Buffer are just a few notable companies that have had a great deal of success operating with distributed teams.

Having the right communication and collaboration tools in place is vital to streamlining your processes as a remote team; however, managing a geographically dispersed team isn’t without its challenges. If you’re struggling to keep your team motivated and unified, there are ways to get your team back on track. I spoke to a few entrepreneurs to get their advice on how they’ve been able to manage their distributed teams successfully. Here’s what they had to say.

Create a repeatable onboarding process

When a new team member joins your remote team, it’s important to eliminate any feelings of isolation and set clear expectations from day one. Establishing an onboarding process is an essential part of this step.

Katie Griffing, co-founder of Launchway Media, a digital marketing agency with team members distributed across four countries, explains that establishing an onboarding process that can be easily updated and repeated has helped their team significantly when integrating new remote hires. During the onboarding process, the team organizes online presentations, training materials, and establishes clear expectations for the role to ensure that new hires have all the information they need to complete tasks with success.

Outlining and documenting the onboarding process and the expectations of your company establishes a level of professionalism and structure to an otherwise unstructured environment and can help make new hires quickly feel part of the team.

Choose the right tools

Over the past few years, there has been an explosion of online collaboration tools, and it’s never been easier for teams to keep track of everything that is going on within their companies. And while real-time chatting is often essential for collaboration, many teams find a majority of the chatter taking place on chat apps like Slack not very productive.

The team behind Doist, a productivity app that helps simplify and organize daily tasks, recently developed another tool to help solve the issue of instant message distractions as well as another issue the team often faced – communication with team members across multiple time zones.

Amir Salihefendic, the CEO of Doist, believed his team could create a place that allowed for deeper work and more meaningful interactions when team members do check in. As a result, they came up with Twist, a platform that encourages more “real work” by not distracting team members with scattered pings and real-time messaging.

Be 100% remote or not at all

The Doist team also believes that having just some people on your team working remotely can be more hurtful than helpful. Brenna Loury, the head of marketing and PR at Doist, explains that half-remote teams don’t work too well. You should either allow everyone to work remotely or no one – give them the option. “If you’re in an office, decisions will just be made there instead of communicating with remote members,” Loury says.

Avoid micromanaging

When you’re unable to check-in with team members face-to-face, it’s only natural to want to overcompensate and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. However, just as too much micromanagement can be harmful in the physical workplace, it can cause even more issues when teams work remotely.

To avoid micromanaging your team members, Launchway Media’s Nora Leary says it’s important to hire people that you can trust from day one. “We look for candidates that can demonstrate they’ll be able to work independently without too much direction,” she says. The team uses weekly check-ins and content calendars to avoid distracting from their individual workflows and the need for constant updates on tasks.

Stay involved in the day-to-day

As a founder, it can difficult to stay actively involved in the day-to-day operations. However, if you’re managing a distributed team, it’s important to carve out time in your day to catch up on your team’s progress.

As the CEO of The Intern Group, an organization that provides international internship programs and has team members in 12 countries, David Lloyd encourages other team leaders to be a “fly on the wall” whenever possible. He says it’s important to show your team that you support them and you’re always available, even when you’re not on the front lines.

Whether you’re struggling to keep your remote team motivated or you’re considering allowing your team to work remotely for the first time, these tips will help you manage any challenges that may arise and help your team get the job done regardless of location.