If you want to go mobile with your business and work from anywhere you’ll eventually want to build out a remote team. But how will you ensure strong communication and keep everyone on the same page?
My business has been mobile for several years now. The challenges have been immense, but communication is something that, surprisingly, hasn’t been a problem since the early days. A series of early decisions helped us build a remote team that isn’t slowed down by the oceans and continents between us.
Here’s what I did to achieve it:
1. Establish a company time zone
As a first step to bring your team together, you absolutely must establish a company time zone. Everyone may have different schedules, but deadlines and status updates should run on a single one.
As the boss, you can certainly seize the privilege to run everything from your native time zone, but that may not be what is best for your operation. Instead, find the best balance between all zones represented on your team.
I wasn’t able to find a good fit the first time, but polling my team members and making weekly tweaks allowed me to set meeting times and deadlines that were comfortable for everyone.
If you’re not sure how to organize it all, apps like Slack bot Spacetime.am might be the perfect tool. Team members can add their location and set their work hours so that you can see who is online and when. Spacetime.am also lets you schedule meetings and will automatically change the time, so the receiver will see it in their own time zone.
2. Build a tight web of communication
Communication was an overwhelming priority for us since our team is mobile and scattered all over the world. No single communication platform worked for us, but we’ve cobbled together a combination of free and paid programs that now work pretty well.
We went through four or five different online communication and workflow tools to find a combination that clicked with the whole team. You’ll have an easier time than we did since quality team management apps have exploded in the last couple years.
The best options for you will depend on your region, the size of your team, and the level of accessible organization you need. Cycle through some free trials (there are plenty out there) until the standout features you need reveal themselves.
3. Link everything together
Make sure all of your systems are compatible with one another. I can’t overstate the advantage using a messaging system that is compatible with our team management software. Everything my team says to one another, and every task-based note they create, is recorded in duplicate. In that way, we probably communicate better than a traditional office.
When shopping for team management or communication apps, find out which compatible apps are listed in the sales material.
4. Establish a strong weekly workflow
Deadlines were a mess when I first started out. In the heady rush to adopt new clients, every new client was assigned their own customized schedule. My team members had to be briefed on each account as they were brought in to handle certain projects. This naturally caused delays, communication breakdowns and frustration.
I solved this by adding a lot more structure to our system. For starters, I established a weekly work period (based on our company time zone) and a process that accounts for the lifespan of every assignment. We decided to organize ourselves based on something called “Scrum,” a project management method originally designed for teams managing software. Like software management teams, what we do is best broken into small, specialized tasks that fit into larger goals.
Our work week ends with a meeting attended by everyone. At this meeting, we go through all the tasks that were assigned for the week and discuss them.
5. Foster a culture and community
I’ve discovered that good professional communication depends a lot on the bonds between people. However, developing those bonds isn’t easy when it comes to global teams.
Traditional teams build rapport by going to lunch together, grabbing drinks or just hanging out around the office. I needed my team to be able to get comfortable with one another, too.
For that reason, our company communication channels are not “strictly business.” There are places for my team to hang out, share general messages or post videos to the latest music they’re enjoying. Some members of my team have also started their own gaming groups that play together when they’re not on the clock.
If you establish the right standards and use the right tools, you can build a global team that operates like a tight ship
This article has been edited and condensed.