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Setting Your Team Up for Successful Remote Communication

If I was told that one day that I’d be taking my classes from the comfort of my bedroom, for a full year, I would have said, “yeah, right!”. Yet, here I am today, a year and a half into logging into my classes via Zoom, while sitting in my childhood bedroom where I used to daydream what it would be like to go to college.

Of course, there were downsides to having a remote college experience rather than one on campus. I missed out on making new friends and getting more social, taking part in hands-on activities, as well as the personal growth that comes with living on my own. However, there were also many positives that came with this experience. Aside from being able to attend classes while donning my favorite PJs, the most significant gain was learning how to work in a team remotely — an important skill for all young professionals. The challenge is, how do you work in a team remotely? It’s one thing for us to simply get comfortable logging into Zoom professionally making sure your favorite netflix show isn’t playing in the background; it’s entirely another to learn how to use the virtual environment to work professionally, creatively and effectively across different team members with different time zones, challenges, and work style preferences.

It hasn’t been easy but I’m glad that this past year has given me an opportunity to get ahead of the curve with remote teamwork skills. In this post, I share my best tips that I hope will help you get ahead of the curve too. And with these tips, that first job, the first management role, and even that school project will not feel as daunting as you’d imagined – even when you do it online.

1. Virtually Meet First

Take the time to get to know each other and e-meet! The last thing we’d want before starting work is jumping into the task without knowing who is who, and why this person cares about certain things. Set up that first Zoom, Skype, or Facetime calls with your new team members. 

Take the time to initiate the meeting time, work the agenda, and work with the people involved to start the meeting so that everyone gets a chance to e-meet and learn about each other in advance. Even simple questions like, ‘what’s your favorite movie?’, ‘what was a new skill you learned during the pandemic?’, or ‘what classes are you taking that you enjoyed?’ can be wonderful ways to bond first and get to know each other. This will immediately set the team up for success now that the bond is forming on relationships, and not on just tasks on hand and titles we hold.

2. Establish a Routine

Next, you want to set a routine. When are meetings going to be held? Who sends out the links? What time will it be? Who sets the agenda? What are the project goals? There are questions that we’ll all want to know and when those routines and expectations are established, it’s a lot easier to plan and work together as we’ll have known what goals and milestones we are heading for as a team.

Those questions will also help you clarify what other expectations you’d want to set, such as times when you may not want to be on video but still connect as a team. For instance, for my online courses and group assignments, we used GroupMe to effectively communicate with one another when we did not want to be on video. This expectation permitted us all to fully engage but not feel guilty for being on camera. It was also particularly helpful to set a specific time to meet each week like, “Zoom calls every Tuesday at 2:00 pm”. Also, it’s important to remember and account for different time zones geographically dispersed teams are normal and many are now calling from different locations!

3. Delegate Roles and Responsibilities

Another essential part of any group task is to assign individual roles within the group. We can all attest to having that one group member who lays low while everyone else completes the work and in the end, still gets the same credit as everyone else in the group. This can be frustrating – but can be avoided simply by assigning tasks for each individual to complete ahead of time. This holds everyone accountable and keeps them focused towards the end goal.

For my Research Writing course, we had to compose a literature review as a group. By breaking up the sections based on everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, we assigned roles that way and co-authored a well written review. Responsibility in group work goes a long way. Nobody wants to be the team member that didn’t contribute, or the frantic team member sending out emails last minute asking who’s going to finish and submit the project. I learned the hard way that this has a simple cure: discussing tasks at the start of the project.

4. Use Technology to your Advantage for Collaboration

I have a vivid memory of a banner that hung on the chalkboard in my elementary school classroom, which read “Collaboration is Key”. Fast forward many years later, it still holds true. Group collaboration is now more convenient and successful than ever before – thanks to rapid technological advancement.

A PGI research study shows that workplace collaboration can increase successful innovation by 15%, as it simply shares ideas, solves problems, and creates success among teams and individuals. Many different platforms that exist today aid group collaboration. Personally, I am a big fan of Slack, which helps foster collaboration through different channels of communication, chat rooms, direct messaging and by bringing teams together.

Other popular platforms that many companies use are Trello, Flock and Rocket, among a plethora of others that also exist. For many who are used to collaborating in an office setting, the idea of downloading an app to communicate with one another can feel strange at first, but with the assistance of experienced team members who can guide you to help navigate around them, these platforms can really grow your team by helping organize your communications from different parts of the globe. Stay optimistic and open to learning how to use these different platforms and your team communication will flourish.

In my first semester of online courses, I dreaded group work and many professors avoided giving it out for the sole reason that they felt it was not possible to work together from different locations. I’m glad they were wrong. As remote work continues to be the new normal that we’ve now embraced, learning how to work well with a group online is a skill we all need. And with experience, we can all become more productive, organized, efficient and creative.

About the Author

Picture of  Tara Macchione

Tara Macchione

Tara is an InnovatorsBox intern. As the Content Creator and Social Media Marketing Associate she enjoys enhancing the digital growth of companies by increasing brand awareness. As a student and professional Tara consistently capitalizes on opportunities to improve her skills. She is a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter at Montclair State University in New Jersey and the schools agency, Hawk Communication. After working with multiple different industries it is evident that her passion for innovation and content creation is consistent no matter the context, with a strong drive to watch these organizations flourish, she delivers.

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