Gift Card Express

How To Build High Performing Remote Teams

How to create a high performing remote team


No matter the size of your team, you want to ensure that they are performing they as well can. In fact, the smaller your team, the more important this is.

What is a ‘high-performing remote team’?

A high-performing remote team is a group of people who manage to work and think together as effectively as they do in person. Whether remote or face to face, top teams are goal-orientated, have complementary skills and can balance being collaborative and supportive while consistently delivering results.

What are the challenges of managing a remote team?

2020 has shown how it isn’t always easy to form and manage remote teams. Individuals working from home can fall prey to depression, isolation, and anxiety. In addition, the rapid merging of home and work life can lead to a lack of focus and efficiency. The three main business challenges to creating a high-performing team are: 1) maintaining clear two-way communication, 2) balancing productivity with individual and team wellbeing and 3) collaborating creatively online.

How do you maintain structure when your team is based in different places?

It is important to establish a framework for the team’s remote working day. When we work from home, there is no externally imposed routine to our day, and we get no visual cues from those around us about what we should be doing. This means it is easy to get distracted by social media, news reports, household chores, partners, housemates or kids.

Creating a helpful routine can be as basic as keeping an individual and/or team ‘to-do’ list on a whiteboard or online collaboration platform to show progress has been made. Individuals should keep their own work diary to show what they did each day. Managers I’ve worked with ensure there is a regular start-of-the-day online ‘huddle’ to connect the team with what’s going on that day and encourage people to raise issues and concerns.

How do you balance productivity with people’s rights to have a home life?

Just as a certain amount of structure is important, so is a little freedom. Remote managers need to have empathy for people who are constantly switching between their home and work hats. As long as productivity remains high, it’s important to offer as much individual freedom as possible.

How do you maintain creative thinking?

The key is to protect time and space for spontaneous creative discussion. Of course, small businesses under pressure need to remain productive. Focused agendas must be maintained for issues that require that discipline. However, again, a smart manager must be alive to the need for equilibrium. If all virtual meetings are too prescriptive, an agenda driven ‘Zoom presenteeism’ creeps in that will squeeze out the space for ideas. This means ensuring there is enough unscripted ‘together time’ for serendipitous water cooler moments to happen: those ‘lucky conversations’ that spark ideas when one human being bumps into another.

Replicating the fun businesses have in the office – but online – is a non-trivial challenge. One group meets weekly and spends two hours playing quiz like games that all employees can participate. Another puts an hour at the end of the week for colleagues to gather virtually for beers and ‘quarantinis’.

How do you help people to continue to learn?

The ability to unlearn and relearn amid disruption is vital. However, research shows it is like a cognitive ‘muscle’. Neglect it, it gets flabby. Exercise it, and it becomes bigger and stronger.

Even the busiest people can experiment with the ‘Five-Hour Rule’. This means designing your working week to liberate one hour each day that’s ringfenced for reflection and learning. Team leaders should promote the idea that everyone needs a personal development agenda – even in a crisis – by regularly explaining what they are learning.