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5 Tips for a Remote Team to Stay Productive and Organized

How do you stay productive and organized while working on projects with team members you rarely see in person? Most startup companies I’ve worked with don’t even have an office where team members can meet and discuss their work. Despite this modern-day work challenge, working efficiently as a team is possible. Let’s look at five tips to help your remote team stay productive and organized, even if your team lives in different time zones.

Tip 1 Establish Clear Communication Channels

One of the most important tips is clear channels of communication. At the traditional office, you can have an impromptu discussion at the water cooler, pop into a coworker’s cubicle to ask a quick question, or pick up the phone for a brief call. When working with a remote team, you need ways to connect using technology. You can use messaging apps for quick messages, virtual meetings for longer discussions, and project management platforms to track the progress of tasks.

Regular, scheduled meetings are important to check how people are doing on tasks. Small group or one-on-one meetings are crucial for more opinionated discussions. Impromptu or scheduled one-on-one meetings are the best way to discuss sensitive messages because tone and emotion can be misinterpreted in lengthy texts.

Project management software and regular updates provide transparency and keep team members on track. Everyone can see the progress of a project, who is responsible for a task, and when the task has started or finished.

Tip 2 Define Clear Goals and Deadlines

Clearly defined goals and deadlines provide your remote team with direction and purpose. I’ve worked on teams without clear goals and deadlines. The chaos that ensues can be mentally draining and emotionally frustrating. When all team members understand the team objectives and the timeline for project completion, tasks are prioritized correctly and effectively.

Clear goals, such as clear priorities for the week, allow the team to see who has too many tasks to juggle, who needs help with a task, and who can take on more tasks.

Tip 3 Define the Responsibilities of Each Team Member

In a remote team, defining each member’s responsibilities prevents confusion and overlapping efforts. One way to do this is by mapping out the flow of work and assigning one team member to be responsible for that task or stage of the project.

One project I enjoyed was creating Trello cards. Each card was named one stage of the project flow. On each card was a list of tasks for that project stage. Team members moved and added cards with a description of their responsibilities until we mapped out the entire team’s workflow for a typical project. Anytime we had another project to complete, we followed that map as each team member fulfilled their list of responsibilities and tagged the next team member for the next project stage.

Tip 4 Clarify How Files Should be Organized and Documents Stored

Remote teams need an efficient way to share files instantly and electronically. Most remote teams share and save information on the cloud. When several people share the same drives (like sharing the same office space) you need to be organized or frustration is guaranteed to occur.

You’ll need to standardize ways of naming files and folders. If everyone names files the same way and organizes them the same way in folders, it will be easy to find a file, even if you’ve never worked on it before.

Tip 5 Time Management by Coordinating Work Schedules

Remote teams that have team members located in multiple cities, time zones, or even countries will have a different workflow than an office with team members all starting and ending their work day simultaneously.

It is important for team members to familiarize themselves with core working hours (times when most of their team is online) and when team members work. For example, if your team member starts work hours before you, consider leaving them a message that will be answered by the time you start your workday. Also, you may need to anticipate questions to ask while they are still online so you can complete your work on your own when they are offline.

Fun fact: those who live on the west coast will start work as if they are entering a bustling office, with plenty of emails and messages to catch up on. Those on the east coast will start the day with messages and emails that were sent the day before. And on the west coast, it does get a bit quiet and lonely at the end of the day when the team members on the other side of the country has logged off. (A little like staying behind at the office when others have gone home.)

Key Takeaways

By implementing these five essential tips, your remote team can achieve greater productivity and organization. Establishing clear communication channels, defining goals and responsibilities, organizing digital files, and managing time effectively are key to an efficient remote team.

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