4 Unbeatable Ways to Keep Your Remote Team Working at Peak Performance

20 years ago if you were a guest at IBM’s head office you would have seen employees working from desks in the hallways such was our rapid growth. To manage the dearth of space, IBM pushed remote work. We were all using laptops and cell phones anyway, so why come into the office?

Two years later we received a memo that recommended all consultants come into the office to work if they were not required at a client site. An abrupt reversal driven by worsening employee turnover. Employees who rarely set foot in an IBM office had no ties to bind them to the organization when another offer came along. Leaving was easy.

People come to work for purpose and connection They want to be be part of something rather than a nameless widget-maker. If you want the best skills on your team, at some point you will be working with remote resources. Embracing remote work means more than selecting a video conference service. If you don’t plan to keep people engaged, productivity will drop, and not because they are enjoying regular naps during work hours.

Changing Your Mind

Trust is the grease that enables team members to work effectively together. The 100 things you subconsciously assess at a first meeting (distance at which they stand, handshake grip, posture, scent, makeup, volume) are absent or distorted when at a distance. Our relational self struggles to find commonalities upon which we can build a connection.It makes it tough to determine whether we can trust, and so people hold back while gauging the relationship.

1. Bring them in

Have new team members meet the group face to face. Concerned about the expense? Consider the last time you joined a new group and how much time you spent figuring out the ‘inside jokes’ and norms. It can be very alienating. Remote employees can expend way too much energy deciphering signals rather than working. An initial and regular physical meeting makes a huge difference in building trust.

2.Create personal connections

Ask team members to research each other’s city. What are the points of interest? Swap challenges to visit a place other members are interested in and report back on the experience with selfies. Even better, stream a live video from the site. Find other ways for members to share experiences to build history.

3. Build in fun

Run some icebreakers in your meetings. Start a game of ‘buzzword bingo’. Award points when team members catch one another using acronyms, phrases, and assumptions. This is a fun way to break down barriers when people ‘speak in code’. It helps team members learn each others’ language.

4. Manage by Objective

Ah, good old MBO. Setting clear goals and checking in on progress is the best way to ensure you get the performance you expect. Remote workers should have more regular contact so they don’t get off track. Do not make the mistake of taking their word that the work is getting done. Ask for evidence. It’s not micromanagement but risk management (check out this fantastic little grid to help you determine the difference).

Technology enables us to work from wherever we want. That gives us access to great technical skills around the globe, however, that’s not a guarantee of great remote skills. Don’t let distance become a barrier. Connect your employees with ties strong enough to drive both performance and loyalty.

Thoughtfully yours,

Jeff Skipper

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Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. He has been quoted in Fast Company, Forbes and HP’s enterprise.nxt. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.