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Challenges and Tips for Better Remote Team Work

Man working from home.

Covid-19 has forced many organizations to transition to working remotely. Here at Stikky Media, we have always worked 100% remotely. However, we do recognize that for people and businesses that are new to this, working remotely may present some challenges. In this post we share some of our best remote work tips and tricks, including the technology we use, to ease the way for both employers and employees to make the best of remote team work.

First of all, it should be noted that there are many, many benefits to working remotely, for both the employer and the employee. Employers often fear having a remote workforce because they think people will slack off. In fact, studies show that the opposite is true. Not only are people generally more productive when working from home, the bigger danger is that they will overwork and burn out.

Working remotely potentially allows employees a better work/life balance since commute time is freed up for hobbies, family and friends. While this is obviously good news for employees it also benefits employers as well. Good work/life balance makes for happy, productive employees.

And while we are talking about the lack of commute, working remotely is good for the environment as well, since people aren’t using their pollution-spewing cars as much.

But what about the challenges? Below we tackle three of the most thorny problems and offer the solutions we employ here at Stikky Media.

1. Remote Work Challenge: Digital Miss-communication

There is no doubt about it, digital communication is not as good as face-to-face communication. We are social creatures. We not only value close communication for emotional reasons, it is much more efficient as well. We are naturally attuned to gleaning important information from body language and the natural back and forth of in person discussions, and that subtlety is simply missing in digital communication. It is important to be aware of this fact, and make allowances for it. The following tips will help make sure communication is clear and unambiguous.

Man talking on a cell phone.

How we solve it:

Ask for clarification

If the digital message is cryptic to you, ask for clarification. It is much better to ask for clarification than to make a wrong assumption and go off in the wrong direction, leading to a loss of productivity and frustration for everybody.

Use different technologies for different communication purposes

At Stikky Media we use a variety of communication technologies: Slack, Gmail, Uber conferencing and good, old, tried-and-true phones. We generally use different technologies for different purposes.

Slack is an internal messaging platform that takes the place of the type of informal work-related chats you might have around the office. It is a quick and efficient way to communicate with team members. Much back and forth goes on in our slack chat channels, which are organized by client. However, communication can “get lost” in the roll-out, if there is a flurry of messaging.

For that reason, formal and client communication takes place through email. Email leaves a ‘paper trail’ that can be filed and referred back to.

Uberconference, a robust web conferencing platform, is great for more formal team and client meetings. While video conferencing is an option, we generally just use voice. Screens can be shared for presentations. We follow up on most of our client meetings with an email summary, which, once again, leaves a paper trail that helps to clarify communication.

For informal or one-on-one voice communication, our tip is to use the Slack voice option or phone.

Diagram of the different project management components.

2. Challenge: Fragmented Project Management

It depends, of course, on your line of work, but work projects often require the input of a team, each member contributing to their area of expertise. Collaboration is often key. For example, at Stikky Media many of our projects are vast in scope, integrating many of our services such as SEO, paid search or copywriting. 

 In short, projects generally have many parts that need to be organized and coordinated and each member needs to be accountable for their part of the project for its success. This level of coordination can be more difficult when in-person team meetings aren’t possible, but there are excellent technologies out there that can help keep projects moving on the right track.

How we solve it:

At Stikky Media, we rely quite heavily on two platforms to help organize and collaborate on projects: Teamwork Project Management, and Google Drive.

Teamwork Project Management helps us organize and keep on top of all the moving parts that are a part of any complex project. It allows us to assign tasks and monitor how they are progressing, log time, file documents — keeping it all neat and tidy and accessible.

One of the easiest ways to collaborate virtually is through Google’s suite of productivity and collaboration apps, Google Drive. Not only is it free but it’s easy to share files, making it possible to avoid version control issues. Every file can be securely shared within your team, with specific people both through email invitation or via a link.

Remote work tip: we use Google Drive both internally and with clients when sharing documents and getting feedback. If you need a cost-effective way to collaborate, it will definitely make your life easier.

3. Challenge: Feelings of Team Fragmentation and Isolation

Without actually seeing people in person, some sense of fragmentation or isolation can set in. This is especially true if issues of miss-comunication start creeping up.

How we solve it:

Following the tips for good digital communication will help reduce feelings of being misunderstood which can lead to feelings of isolation. A clear organizational structure also helps – so people know who they can turn to if they are having questions about their tasks. Reasonably prompt replies to questions also smooth feelings of fragmentation in workflow. But as well, a certain patience and flexibility is required on the part of everybody. If answers aren’t immediately available, move on to something else, and come back to the first problem when it is clarified.

Slack is a good place to have a community channel or a humour channel, where people can share things that aren’t necessarily directly related to work, but can build a sense of community. Team meetings via Uber also help ease the sense of isolation.

Key Take-aways on Managing Remote Work Challenges

Transitioning to working remotely has many benefits, but requires a few adjustments. Combining these tips with a few well chosen technologies can help ease potential problems such as digital miss-communication, fragmented project management or feelings of isolation. We hope this aids your business to make the transition many of us have had to quickly implement recently due to the pandemic.

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