I’ve been working with remote teams for the past 7 years, many of which are globally distributed across EUA, Brazil, India, and China and at least 4 different time zones at a time. I’ve also worked with teams located in Ireland and Canada. What I’ve learned during these years is that communication and trust are the key for success when managing or co-working with remote teams, no matter if your team is located in an office thousand of miles away, telecommuting or working from home. We need to understand that there is a reason associated with the business strategy of your company teams are distributed. Frequent travels are expensive so we have to deal with the fact that your coworkers are not in the same room you are.
The recent State of Testing Survey 2015 shows that 32% of the companies have 4 or more locations and are considered “global companies”; another third of the respondents work in companies with 2 or 3 locations.
Common Problems With Remote Teams
Frequently teams are out of sync – people can be in the same room, but still not aligned with the project’s or business goals. Communication gaps due to geographically dispersed teams are a huge risk to a company. Teams cannot be isolated, otherwise there’s a big chance of missing a deadline or being unaware of what’s happening in your project or company. Geographic distance should not mean a team member will feel disconnected. Keep in mind timezone when scheduling a meeting with your team and make sure it’s a not a holiday or outside working hours.
Language barriers are very common. Some people are just not comfortable in speaking in another language (let’s consider English as a global industry language), or they just don’t understand of others are talking about, so it’s hard to keep ongoing conversations with your peers. Believe me, I’ve been there!
As a manager, it can be hard to assess your employee’s performance because you’re not close enough to manage their needs and how they are evolving on their career path.
How To Create A Successful Remote Team
- Trust the team you work with.
- Have the right people on your project team – same just can’t deal with a long-distance work relationship.
- Have a good leader to be the bridge and bond local and remote teams.
- Have flexible teams to adapt to project’s needs – sometimes you will have to attend a meeting or training session with your client outside working hours.
- Understand cultural differences – learn how to overcome cross-cultural gaps. Adjust your working style to account for the culture of the remote teams. India, China, Canada, and Brazil are very different in several cultural aspects. Please don’t schedule a major release of your product during Chinese New Year, and don’t invite a traditional co-worker from India that is visiting your local office to go out and eat barbecue – that might not work.
- Share as many meaningful details as possible on a requirement or bug – as a QA team member use online tools and establish templates when reporting defects.
- Share regular status reports with your team. Include accomplishments and challenges, always giving credit for good work done.
- Have daily short meetings with your team – video chat when possible.
- Take advantage of technology – use conferencing tools like Google Hangouts or HipChat for video chatting; LeanKit, RallyDev, Asana or HP Quality Center for test and project management; GitHub for source code control and integration.
- Schedule meetings but don’t forget the timezone – I personally like World Time Buddy (WTB): a convenient time zone converter, and an online meeting scheduler.
Approaches To Promote Social Engagement
- Create moments to face-to-face casual conversations with your teams. Social activities like a ski trip, spa retreat or Christmas party help creating a more solid connection with your peers or employees.
- For those that are located in the same city or region that your company’s headquarter but telecommute, booking a barbecue or a game night on the weekend is a nice option.
- An an individual you can connect to your peers on social media i.e. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. That’s a simple way to be part of your coworker’s life.
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