How to Build Strong Teams within a Distributed Workforce

Building a strong distributed workforce takes time. You have to set up lasting connections between colleagues and team members. Then, your remote workers need to get used to these lines of communication, harness them, and grow with them. 

It can feel like a tall mountain to climb compared to an office setting. Company culture just feels easier to establish when everyone is around the same table at the office Christmas party.

That’s why team leaders and managers need to find ways to adapt the same practices that build strong teams in an office to the growing world of distributed work. 

There are many ways to do this. While building a strong team in a traditional office environment might seem more straightforward, it can be just as possible to create a dedicated and agile distributed team.

distributed work

 

Create stronger connections with your distributed workforce by supplying them with all the equipment they need. It is as easy as one click with GroWrk Remote.  

 

What is a Distributed Workforce? 

 

If your team has members who communicate and work solely through a remote format, you are on a distributed team. If you have more than one or two of this kind of these teams in your company, you’re a member of a distributed workforce. 

Geographically speaking, this definition applies to employees who are across the world and on opposite sides of the same city.

Usually, a company with a workforce like this will have a few workers (the CEO or some of the department heads/project managers) in the company’s headquarters, with the rest of the staff working remotely. 

 

distributed workforce

 

Businesses can have a full distributed workforce model or just one remote department. Departments that commonly have a distributed model are marketing, product development, sales, support, IT issues, creative assignments, and many other fields.

They can also follow a hybrid model with part of their team working from the headquarters with other employees distributed. 

  

What are the Benefits and Challenges of a Distributed Workforce?

 

Managing a distributed team and keeping them effective has its risks and rewards.

 

Benefits

Diversity

Distributed workforces are often international or made up of immigrants and digital nomads. People from outside the loop of your company’s environment can provide a unique perspective on global and market events.

Having employees with different backgrounds and opinions will also lead to better creative production as ideas and tactics coincide.  

 

distributed work benefits

 

No Expensive Office Space

Companies spend a fortune on office space. A study of how much startups will spend on workstations found an average of $300 - $500 per employee for private and class B offices and $3000 per employee for an office suite.

This same study reported only $59-$100 for a virtual workplace. 

These savings can go towards equipping your distributed team with better tools and furniture so they can perform more effectively and comfortably. 

 

Broader Talent Selection

For certain positions, it can be challenging to find the best worker available when selecting from a local market. If you need a blockchain developer or PHP coder and the most popular coding language in your neighborhood is Python, you could be choosing from a list of three or four applicants. 

You’ll find a much more comprehensive selection when expanding to a broader or even international search. The internet is full of dedicated staffing agencies and databases for specific positions that can begin working for your company on a distributed basis immediately. 

Challenges

 

challenges of distributed work

 

Building Trust among Team Members 

In an interview we did with distributed team leaders, one of their biggest concerns was micromanaging distributed workers. It’s common to try and stay on top of every task and detail your team is doing, but this will only result in an overworked manager and the remote workforce feeling mistrusted. 

Instead, you should learn your distributed workforce’s strengths, realize what output needs monitoring, and leave everything else as the employee’s responsibility. You wouldn’t look over your employee’s shoulder all day if you were in the office, so it’s not necessary for a distributed setting either. 

 

Coordinating Communication

Exchanging information exclusively via the internet requires a lot more coordination than when in the office. It’s a lot easier to lose track of an email at the bottom of your inbox than forget a conversation you had with a colleague at your desk office. 

To keep information exchanges relevant and informative, managers need to stress detail and ask the right questions regarding the assigned task. When a remote worker needs to open up an email application every time they want to brief somebody, they can lose many ideas and figures along the way. 

 

Minimal Physical Interaction

Despite its many benefits and advantages, distributed teams can’t deny the obstacle of limited physical interaction. Seeing your colleague in person gives better opportunities to collaborate, learn more about each other, and form solid and lasting relationships. 

Most distributed workforces have events that gather the teams together annually or biannually for this exact reason.

During these events, distributed team members can discuss the job’s challenges and become further engaged by the company culture. 

 

How to Engage Distributed Team Members

 

You can measure a company’s culture by the overall mood and mindset of its management and employees. Companies with a strong culture will have their employees interact positively while also remaining engaged and productive. 

 

remote team building

 

Employee engagement in a distributed setting is more problematic because, usually, remote workers clock in, get to work, and only communicate when necessary.

However, it’s possible to make them feel more communicative through corporate events and team-building activities.

Team building is typical in all office environments, but it doesn’t always have to be a company hiking trip. There are distributed team-building exercises that can be just as fun and encouraging. 

 

Remote Team Building Activities

 

remote team building activities

 

Words with Friends and Other Fun Games

Whether you have an android or an iPhone, their application marketplaces are full of multiplayer long-distance games with no time limit. You can encourage your employees to pick one of these games they like or make an official game of the company.

There are even online games that pair up with zoom that can turn a now ubiquitous software into an arcade.

If you have regular company all-hands or team meetings you can also make them more fun by including an icebreaker in the first 15 minutes. One of our favorites at GroWrk is "If you could choose to be any character, who would it be?". 

These games will encourage talk outside of work and make employees feel more comfortable with one another.

 

Encourage the Use of Cameras Whenever Possible

It’s tough to become friendly with a black screen or a frozen profile picture. We understand that internet connections can be a problem and sometimes cameras aren’t an option.

However, if you see that your team is getting disengaged at meetings or not interacting enthusiastically, asking to keep cameras on can be a simpler solution. 

Signing into a meeting and seeing friendly faces, calling each other by name, and asking how everyone is doing at the start will always lead to a much more positive atmosphere. 

 

Hold Gatherings for Departments or the Whole Company

In a report on the benefits offered by companies with a distributed workforce, 32% of the companies surveyed offered a travel and accommodation stipend for a yearly retreat. At these retreats, employees can do physical team-building exercises and learn about the following year’s plans. They’ll also strengthen the bonds of each distributed team member and make everyone feel like they are working towards something greater. 

 remote company retreat

 

Onboard and Train Remote Workers

 

The onboarding process is a vital part of any employee experience at a company, especially for distributed teams. There is a lot of turnover with remote employees, and the job market is very volatile. Doing something wrong or not providing a market-standard benefit can lead to losing remote workers less than a year after they sign up. 

 

remote employee onboarding

 

Depending on where your distributed workforce lives, legal factors will always be an essential topic to consider. Different countries have different tax and employment laws that need to be respected.

It’s also possible to onboard an international worker with a contract based on your own country’s laws.

Make sure before you start recruiting in a specific region you are well versed in all the steps it will take to hire that potential employee. 

  • Create and onboarding checklist to clearly outline the steps the remote worker will take as they join their new team.
  • Make sure all the information and procedures they need is easily accessible in your company handbook (Using a program like notion).
  • Make a list of all the access passwords they will need (including email).
  • Set up introductory calls to familiarize the new worker with your team and different company departments. 

Outfitting your distributed employees’ home offices is one of the safest ways to keep them with you for a long time.

Using GroWrk, your employees can set up an account and select the furniture, laptops, and other devices that they need while following the budget you set for them.

They will also handle the equipment's delivery and pick it up if that employee leaves the company. 

 

Smart equipment management for remote teams

 

The Tools to Support Remote Collaboration 

The tools you choose for your remote team can either help or hurt their collaboration. Companies need to select tools that are both reputable and adaptable to their specific needs.

Once purchasing one of these tool packages, management should consistently request feedback from employees about them and make a switch if they encounter any dissatisfaction. 

 

The Tools for Distributed Team Management 

You will need software for payments and legal support. We recommend Deel because it works in over 150 different countries. They also have hundreds of legal experts to help mitigate the extra labor of settling contracts overseas. Other great software for legal support and payments are Remote Team and Justworks

deel logo

The communication software you choose for your remote team will be the link between its members. Slack is a great application because it keeps email, instant messaging, and video calls all in the same place.

Microsoft Teams and Friday.app are also helpful for communication. 

Your customer relations management (CRM) tool will help your customers on their path from entering your website, to purchasing your product or service, to support and assistance along the way.

Salesforce is an efficient CRM because it allows you flexible sales strategies to adjust as the market, your business, and your productivity change. You can also try Hubspot and Streak CRM

Task tracking is also vital for a distributed workforce. Employees need to keep track of both the team tasks and their individual assignments on different tabs with easy submission, feedback, and collaboration tools built-in.

You’ll find all of this on AsanaTheir deadline management feature allows employees and team leaders to follow guidelines and stay on schedule.

asana unicorn

 

To make onboarding your employees more accessible, you might want to try a tutorial and demonstration software like Loom.

It can take a long time to bring employees up to speed on every aspect of the team, and dedicating that job to the HR staff or a senior team member is time-consuming.

By recording demos and tutorials on Loom, you’ll be able to get your new employees updated without any extra work hours. 

 

Virtual Coworking Spaces

A new tool that’s some companies are trying is the virtual coworking space. Employees all have an avatar that represents them and moves about a virtual office. This avatar can attend virtual events throughout the day, get up from their virtual desk and walk around, and even interact with other employees’ avatars. 

A great tool for this is Lounge HQ.

 

lounge.place

 

This technology might bridge the connection we lose without the physical office. It can allow employees to feel like they’re in the same room when they are miles apart. 

 

Wrap Up 

 

Building a strong team will always take time and effort. Understanding the benefits of remote teams while approaching them with an informed perception of the challenges will allow you to utilize this structure more effectively. 

While there are great distances between them, there are several strategies to keep your teleworkers engaged and interacting with each other. These interactions will make your team feel closer with a sense of security. 

Onboarding distributed employees needs to be treated with care, and the steps you follow to get there have to be clear and complete. Being aware of what tools lead in the market and utilizing innovative brands will put you at your industry’s head. 

Overall, take your time building your distributed workforce, follow these steps, and you’ll be functioning with a dedicated, independent, and successful group of people.  



Want to learn how GroWrk Remote can help you take care of your remote team with ease?                  

 

Schedule a call now  

 

growrk managing remote teams