How to Run Distributed Teams Efficiently

Some people believe distributed teams belong in a distant future. However, the data shows it’s a reality: 20% of the global workforce performs their duties remotely. In the United States alone, between 2008 and 2015, there was a staggering 115% increase of people working remotely, at least, half of the week.

While those numbers keep growing up to the right every year, there are still many challenges to be overcome by those who opt for that model. How can you ensure, as a leader, that your culture will remain strong – no matter where your coworkers are – while keeping agility and efficiency?

Based on our past experiences and industry research, we put together a few tips for distributed teams who want to curb those challenges.

1) Efficient meetings

If you run a collocated team and your standups, retros, and one on ones struggle with lack of organization and preparation, you’re not only wasting people’s time but throwing away a good opportunity to build alignment with remote coworkers. “Timebox” all those sessions and ensure, especially for one on ones, that there’s an agenda shared beforehand, so everybody can prepare and know what to expect. Tools such as Teamworki allow you to do that at no cost.

Another helpful tip: set the expectations, at the beginning of each meeting, around how long it will take, what should be discussed at that time (and what shouldn’t), time limits per member, how remote people can indicate whenever they want to speak (how do they raise their hands while not being there?), when people can bring questions, etc.

2) Break the ice

The highest performing teams I’ve worked with used to run, every once in a while, an icebreaker (read more here). Either before a meeting such as a retrospective, as part of celebrating a milestone, or when onboarding new members. In distributed teams, however, you have to be aware of how you can adapt some of those so that anyone can participate, no matter where they are.

Perceive icebreakers as the opportunity remote folks have to bond with their peers. Social isolation is one of the top issues reported by those. Even something simple such as a “virtual coffee” with a random colleague or an online videogame match (with voice chat on) can help.

3) Gauge morale

Not being able to bump into your direct reports on the way to the coffee machine or in the elevator can make a huge impact. What if you could replace the “how are you doing” questions that pop up in such encounters with a remote-friendly version? Tools such as Teamworki enable leaders to gauge the morale of their squads by configuring schedule “morale checkup” questions: those are prompted via email and/or Slack and can provide powerful insights into potential issues or blockers.

We hope that those tips can help your distributed team on a journey towards productivity and high performance. Bear in mind that our product can help you get there. Over 300 team leads, functional managers, and agile coaches trust our software to run more productive meetings and gauge team morale. Sign up below for free (no credit card required) and please give us feedback!