The 5 Pillars of Remote Collaboration

When working remotely, context becomes your worst enemy.  Teams working together incrementally build-up a wealth of context about what and why and how things are the certain way. These are vital details that are not easily conveyed to those across a continent or ocean (or both).  Here are some tips to get over some of these unseen barriers.

  1. Email is your life blood. Write clear, short emails to ensure people read your email instead of scanning it. If you’re asking for help, double check that what you need by when is clear. Take the time to add formatting and lots of white space. When possible, inject your personality so it’s not all business.
  2. Have a clear role on the team and fit your role well. Whether you’re lead or just playing support, do what the team needs you to do. This is more critical in remote teams since you won’t readily notice when you’re crossing over into someone else’s tasks.
  3. Find ways to be proactive in supporting the team. Send short status updates to keep others informed. If you find yourself needing to know how others’ tasks are coming along, they probably need to know about your tasks.
  4. Handle complex discussions on video chat, not email. Before a call, take a second to write down what you need to accomplish and make sure you have everything ready to be able to connect (software installed, a quite space, logins, etc). Also after any overly complex discussion, email out small action item list to keep things clear.
  5. Get to know the people you work with, not just as co-workers but as people you’d spend time with after work. Find opportunities to talk about life outside of work, arrive early to meetings or let chat conversations veer off topic sometimes. The depth of a relationship make it make it a nicer, friendlier virtual work environment and pays off big when the project starts having issues.

Working with remote teams and building relationships with them requires some special considerations. When it’s done well it will open up experiences and insights far beyond your closed environment.  Take the time to reflect, enjoy and learn from the wealth and range of people you are able to work on daily basis without having to go through the jet lag it normally would take to get to know them and have them contribute to your projects.