15 Characteristics to Look for in Remote Teams

By Guest Post •  Updated: 05/18/16 •  7 min read

Note from Sean: More and more people are working in remote teams now. But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you need to understand in order to get your remote teams working together smoothly. This post from Kayla shows you how to get it done. 

Take it away, Kayla!

15 Characteristics to Look for in Remote TeamsWorking remotely from home is a dream for many people.

Fortunately, this dream is becoming more and more common with the growth of global business.

Today, about half of U.S. workers have a job that allows them to telecommute at least 20 to 25 percent of the time. And up to 90 percent of U.S. workers say they’d like to be able to at least telecommute part-time.

However, getting aligned with the wrong remote team can turn out to be a nightmare.

When done correctly, remote teams can work much more effectively than in-office teams. The key here is the methods, though. About 69 percent of employees in one study were more productive when working from home.

Finding the right team to join takes a bit of patience and research. Find out how you can develop your own remote teams and make them more efficient by taking a look at some of the characteristics of successful remote teams.

Ready to take a look?

#1. Team Members Share a Bond

One characteristic of successful remote teams is that they create a bond with one another. This can be achieved via a weekly conference call, Skype messaging or online chats.

Whatever the method of discussion, getting everyone together for a quick meeting where everyone can bring ideas to the table and address any concerns helps build bonds. You could also encourage discussion by forming a private Facebook group, for example.

#2. Team Members Work Together

Working in a silo without collaboration and sharing of ideas can quickly kill innovation within a company. When you’re working from home, you can easily get into the habit of just doing things on your own. However, look for a team where each member has a specific specialty area and they share ideas and help one another with the workload when needed.

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#3. There’s a Common Goal

When you’re working in an office setting, staff meetings and agendas must be attended to. There is a supervisor who oversees everyone’s work and makes sure all the different departments in the company are working together — in theory, anyway.

Look for a remote team that allows for individual freedom to complete work, but allows someone to oversee the purpose of the work and keep people on task. The entire team will be more efficient if everyone is working toward a common goal.

#4. Workers Are Self-Starters

People who are high achievers will tend to achieve a high level and quality of work no matter where they are working. These are the people who will work to complete a project on time in the office after everyone else is gone. However, on a remote team, they do the exact same thing. They just work at home, or wherever they wish, to complete that project.

#5. The Schedule Fits Your Sleep Patterns

If you’re a morning person, seek a team that does the majority of work in the mornings. By contrast, if you are a night owl, look for a team that will accommodate you. While many online teams allow you to complete the work during a time that is convenient to you, some do have rapid turnaround and sleep patterns can quickly become an issue.

#6. Project Management Software Is Easy to Use

Make sure you understand or can easily learn the project management software the team uses. Some project management platforms are pretty difficult to learn if you’ve not used them before. The last thing you want to do is completely destroy a schedule the team has worked hard to create. If you don’t know the software, inquire about what type of training is involved.

#7. Payment Occurs on a Regular Schedule

Unfortunately, some companies that hire remote workers also get a bit flakey about paying those workers in a timely manner. Find out how often you’ll be paid and if taxes are taken out or if you’ll be considered a contract worker. You should also check out reviews of the employer on sites like Glassdoor.com and by reading BBB ratings and complaints.

#8. Projects Have a Clear Hierarchy

It happens to every remote worker at some point — you start a project with a tight deadline and suddenly realize there is no possible way to finish it in time. The best thing you can do when this occurs is immediately notify your supervisor. The problem occurs when you have no idea who to notify.

A successful remote team is one where you clearly know who your immediate superior is and on up the chain. Responsibility shouldn’t be a guessing game.

#9. Collaboration Comes First

Some of the most successful teams understand how essential it is to collaborate with others. You’ve probably heard the saying that two minds are better than one and this is true for successful projects whether you are working remotely or in an office.

#10. The Company Isn’t Big Brother

One of the best parts of working remotely is not having someone staring over your shoulder all the time. If you need to take a quick 20-minute break to fix your child an after-school snack, you can make up those 20 minutes later in the day, for example. If the remote team requires you to install some type of software that takes screenshots as you work or is invasive in other ways, then you may want to think twice about signing up for that kind of control.

#11. Productivity Is Tracked in Some Way

At the same time, however, it is important that productivity is tracked in some way to keep everyone accountable. Working remotely 100 percent of the time can actually lead to disengagement. Just because you are an extremely hard worker doesn’t mean that others on the team will be.

A team can track productivity in many ways without being intrusive, such as keeping track of projects completed, having checklists of tasks and even by tracking time spent on a project.

#12. Instructions Are Clear the First Time

If you or other team members are constantly being asked to redo work or to revamp it into something new after it is completed, then that is a big red flag that there may be communication problems with the remote team. Proceed with caution.

#13. Team Members Trust Each Other

A good team is one in which team members know the others will complete work when they say they will, or will at least communicate what the delay might be. Some indicators of this are rapid responses to emails and open lines of communication. This level of trust can take time to build, but is vital to working successfully from remote locations.

#14. Each Team Member Has a Job Description

Just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean you should have all types of tasks thrown at you that you’re not qualified to handle. While it is good to be as helpful as possible, no one can do everything. Having a clear job description allows you to know what your immediate goals are and when you’re just helping a co-worker out.

#15. They Meet in Person Occasionally

Seek a team that meets up occasionally, even if only once or twice a year. Regular meetings are vital because after the first six months in a new job, morale drops sharply for about 85 percent of employees. However, getting to know fellow team members can help alleviate some of these morale problems and encourage workers to remain helpful to the team.

Although there are many different factors that go into creating a successful remote team, knowing some of the key factors can help you weed out the opportunities that might turn into nightmares. What you’re left with should be a job that meshes the best of remote working with the benefits of working for a team.

Kayla Matthews is a productivity blogger based out of Pittsburgh, PA. You can read her latest posts by following her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews

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Comments on "15 Characteristics to Look for in Remote Teams"

  1. Jonas says:

    Interesting article Kayla.

    It’s a super important topic, great that you have it covered.

    It all sounds good, but when you work in a group it looks differently… I think #11 is not easy to put in practice…

    Thanks for the article.

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