It’s no secret that the success of a remote team hangs on their communication skills. Not only are you relying on everyone’s self-discipline in getting their tasks done from outside your office, but if they aren’t internally communicating your entire chain of command can quickly break down.
I’ve been working remotely for two and a half years now, and in that time I’ve seen many remote workers come and go. Some just weren’t the right fit for our company culture, but the majority were let go because they didn’t communicate properly, which lead to missed deadlines and general chaos.
So, to really drive home how important communication is to the success of your business, I’m going to highlight five reasons why your remote team needs to work out loud.
1. Increases Accountability
One of the main problems I’ve found to working remotely is that no matter how good your self-discipline is, you’ll always work better when someone else is holding you accountable.
In a traditional office environment this isn’t an issue – there are coworkers who can easily pop by and check how you’re doing, and the team manager can even pop by (or invite you to their office) if they feel that a task needs special attention or that you’re not getting as much done as you should.
When working remotely you don’t have that. Aside from staying on a live video call all day every day (which isn’t practical), there’s little to no way to have a method for stopping by and checking their progress without feeling as if you’re intruding or disturbing them as they work.
Not only that, but if you’re in different time zones it can be awkward to even chat in real time, let alone get regular updates on their progress as they work.
Working out loud solves that issue by letting anyone and everyone check on their progress through shared chat channels and items such as Trello cards. By keeping everyone updated (or at least giving them access to your work to check on their own time), you’re removing the barriers that prevent that immediate feeling of accountability.
Everyone knows what they should be doing, what everyone else should be doing, and who they’re waiting on for various tasks. This added accountability for your tasks gives a sense of weight to your tasks and can really help motivate remote workers to focus down and clear their duties on time every time.
2. Deadlines Can Be Easily Monitored
Accountability is great, but if you’re not effectively tracking, managing, and adjusting your team’s deadlines then there’s little point in setting them. By working out loud and letting the rest of the team know what’s being worked on, what stage of completion it’s at, and what you’ll be moving on to, you’re eliminating that problem.
Whether you’re checking your blog’s content calendar in a regular meeting or collaborating on a task and checking on its progress, having the relevant resources and processes visible to everyone who might need access means that you can work as a team to review deadlines. Any delays can be worked around well in advance, and rather than performing damage control upon failure you can actively prevent it from happening.
To do this I’d once again recommend using Trello. By sorting your projects into individual cards and storing all relevant project links in those cards you’ll allow access to anyone and everyone who needs it.
Not only that, but Trello also allows you to set due dates on every card. Once that’s done you can switch to a calendar viewing mode which is fantastic to review upcoming deadlines during meetings or in your own time.
3. Have Granular Discussions
Collaborating on specific tasks can be tricky for remote teams.
The most effective way to deal with this is to use Google Drive to store all of your documents and data. It comes with a local folder on your computer (letting you work offline), and when you’re ready you can just let it sync to the cloud to back everything up in a central location. Google Docs allows multiple teams members to work on the same document simultaneously. They can make edits, leave comments and easily have in-depth discussions on granular aspects of a task – all within a document.
This is easily one of the most powerful techniques to helping your remote team run at full steam.
4. Communication Promotes Culture
Having an inclusive and engaging company culture is a fantastic way to engage your employees. Not only will it make them more loyal to the company, but by helping them enjoy their work more (through engagement with their tasks and colleagues) you’ll see better results. Motivation, after all, is a fickle mistress, and any advantage you can get should be seized.
Unfortunately, remote teams have much greater trouble than traditional offices when trying to build culture. Not only are you trying to get your hires to talk to each other and (gasp) make friends, but in all likelihood they haven’t even met in person to form that initial connection.
Thankfully, you don’t need a bunch of team building activities to build culture. Instead, teams just need to communicate whenever possible to help break the ice and give common talking ground, and there’s no better way to encourage that than by working out loud.
The ultimate goal of the communication might be completely separate from culture (eg, a status report on an upcoming deadline), but every interaction will help form the bonds that will support your business and let your team thrive.
5. Culture Leads to Collaboration
Working out loud promotes communication, which naturally encourages your culture to grow, which in turn promotes collaboration. This in itself is fantastic, as much of your best work will likely arise from collaborating with other members of your team.
Getting more than one opinion on a project will not only give a second source of inspiration, but whoever is collaborating will learn from the other parties (in technique or outlook) and be able to more easily develop ideas by bouncing off each other.
“Working out loud” can take many forms. Maybe your team links up on a joint call while they work to keep themselves accountable, or perhaps you use central programs such as Google Drive and Trello to the best process documentation software available. Either way, I’d love to hear how your remote team works out loud and maintains their inclusive culture.