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Best practices for building connection within distributed teams

Best practices for building connection within distributed teams

The state of the workplace is always evolving. Today, companies find themselves choosing between remote and in-office models. This search frequently results in a hybrid setup, with some members of the team telecommuting and others in an office.

Naturally, remote work represents a change from the fully in-person model that previously dominated. Some of the natural results of putting team members in the same room — such as accessible communication and a sense of belonging — are harder to foster in a distributed work model, but they’re still important for productivity.

Over the next few years, organizations will need to find ways to drive strong connections with their distributed team members, building camaraderie among groups that may be scattered around the world. Through the careful application of technologies and techniques, these businesses will collectively create a new work style that drives stronger connections without letting go of remote efficiencies

So, what are these tactics and tools, and how do they apply to your business? Before addressing the specifics, it's worth taking a step back and looking at the state of remote work.

What's the state of remote and hybrid work?

Distributed work models are in a transitional phase. In 2019, companies were experimenting with telecommuting and permanent remote work, seeking advantages such as access to wider hiring pools and using work-from-home privileges as a motivator. Then, COVID-19 struck. Seemingly overnight, the push for remote work became a necessity.

The basic video conferencing tools that were available before were quickly supplanted by more advanced collaborative solutions. As the months passed, organizations adjusted their policies and strategies to reflect their new circumstances.

Now, the tide has turned again. Many companies are encouraging their teams to return to the office, and they’re facing new related challenges. After experiencing flexible remote work for years, professionals may prefer to keep that arrangement rather than switch back to a standard in-person experience.

In this new landscape, in the wake of so much forced, rapid change, companies are adapting to a new and evolving set of best practices around people management, technology deployment and much more. The crux of these efforts often revolves around a few key concepts, namely, keeping team members connected to one another and engaged by their tasks.

Why are connection and engagement so important for distributed team leaders?

Connection and engagement are closely linked concepts. When people feel connected to an organization's values and aligned with their colleagues, it's easier to keep them loyal to the organization over the long term and more likely to stay engaged.

That engagement, a sense that daily tasks really matter, can unlock a high level of productivity, as engaged team members tend to be better at meeting their deadlines, staying busy and producing high-quality work. Organizations that have accepted remote work as a permanent status quo must find a way to achieve this level of staff engagement, even without the ability to speak to colleagues face to face.

This is where the connection between leaders and their team members comes into focus. A direct supervisor's work style, approach and personality can shape the experience of working on a specific team. Leaders are the ones creating the work environment and setting the targets for their people, implementing the techniques that will forge connections.

Of course, it's too simplistic to say that distributed team engagement is entirely a product of how leaders act and that the individuals on their teams don't have their own part to play in forging connections. The best organizations give their people autonomy and count on them to display responsibility and accountability.

Once leaders realize their importance in setting the tone for their distributed teams, it's time to get into specific policy and tech considerations around connection and engagement.

What are the best practices for distributed team engagement?

So, what does a highly effective distributed work environment look like? The best companies in this regard are those that recognize the need for modern best practices and tech solutions that represent the state of the art.

Divided up into policies and tech tools, these priorities include:

Policies

Technology

The ideal distributed team structure will employ policies and technology that help people open up and communicate freely. With the chance of meeting colleagues spontaneously in the office no longer available, these measures have an important role in making people feel like part of a whole, rather than letting them go through their days isolated and disconnected.

What's next for engagement, connection and communication?

As work styles and structures keep evolving, the same general skills that have always defined positive engagement are still relevant — conflict resolution, teamwork and general interpersonal ability never go out of style. The most successful organizations going forward will be the ones that can bring these traits into the online realm.

As the push and pull between in-person work and remote employment continues, companies will find themselves making important new decisions that will shape the experience of working for them. These should include choices that reflect the reality of modern work, not trying to force people into roles they no longer believe in.

For example, now that working in an office is no longer the overwhelming default, leaders may want to invest in quality-of-life improvements, making the space comfortable and enjoyable to work in. This way, access to the space can be seen as a perk, rather than just the normal way of conducting business.

Every organization will have a slightly different path ahead, with a divide appearing between those that have adopted fully remote work and those that maintain some team members in offices. The guiding principle, however, is always the same: find what it takes to keep everyone engaged and commit to those practices.

Unlock a better way to lead distributed teams

Sometimes, the incident that helps an organization find a new and more suitable work style is an engagement with consultants or outside experts collaborating on a project. If the external team members have contributed remotely for a long time, they can serve as a model of practices and tech tools that could become pillars going forward.

Transcenda has spent years developing distributed work systems that get the most out of our team members, and can apply this expertise in the course of an engagement with your organization, pitching in together toward a specific goal on a blended team model.

By witnessing cutting-edge remote work styles up close, you can gain inspiration for the sustainable and long-term yet ever-evolving approach required to stay productive today and in the future. Contact Transcenda to learn more.

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