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Five ways to encourage synergy in a remote work setting

CHIEF OF STAFF FIVE: Due to its popularity, remote work models are rising in Southeast Asia, propelled by digital transformation and rising technology adoption.

A survey found that 15% of employees surveyed in Southeast Asia prefer to work from office full time, while the majority prefer working from home to save on transportation, reduced office distractions, comfortable clothes and more flexibility in work-life balance.

However, without an office to serve as a central point for teams to band together and cooperate, it’s important for leaders to revisit company culture on how to foster a fresh setting.

Here are some tips to consider:

1 Prioritise face-to-face interactions

Nothing can replace face-to-face interactions, therefore, ensuring that employees are given plenty of face time will help to reduce communication breakdowns. To increase trust and interdependency among colleagues, companies can try switching team communications to video calls to increase affinity and build a cohesive team.

However, there is a fine line between video calls and overloading employees with meetings. Some best practices include scheduling meetings in advance so team members have time to prepare, setting time limits for each meeting and tracking how much time these meetings are taking from the team’s daily tasks.

2. Establish remote working rules and etiquette

Working remotely could see employees struggle to switch off from work as there is a perception they are needed 24/7. To reduce negative feelings and avoid communication burnout, rules and etiquettes need to be established for chat tools, such as setting clear availability hours.

Teams may also benefit from providing codes to define urgent messages, such as defining those that require answers by end of day, while others that don’t need an immediate response.

3. Define team and company goals

A team that is on the same page is a team that collaborates effectively. Trust is more important in remote teams than it is for physically present workers since no one can see what the other is working on. Therefore, each team member must understand their responsibilities and how their tasks affect others.

Setting team goals and objectives gives everyone something to aim towards. Outlining individual tasks that relate to these goals will also help team members understand their role in striving towards those goals.

Using a goal tracking system can help employees keep track of progress, while creating a transparent check-in system such as weekly virtual meetings, will help the team up to date. When the team does hit the goals outlined, it is important to make sure that their efforts are recognised and if an individual performed outstandingly, they should be praised for their efforts.

4. Cultivate a culture of transparency

By utilising collaborative tools available on the market, like Asana or Hive, companies can create a virtual board where every team member can view each other’s progress.

These boards will be helpful for team members to ask for help when it is needed and create a more collaborative environment. As such, managers should encourage team members to reach out for help on these virtual boards while they play a supervisory role.

5. Nurture virtual “water cooler” conversations

When online tools become the primary way of communication, team leaders must be proactive in fostering closeness among employees. Some companies may offer forum-like platforms where each team member can share fun facts about their personal lives for them to get acquainted.

Organising online lunch hangouts, hosting online game tournaments, monthly Twitch movie nights and other informal activities will also help break barriers and establish friendships and camaraderie between team members.

A simple chatroom for informal conversations is also an efficient method that allows teams to share inside jokes or complain about difficult clients.

Most importantly, team leaders must be agile in the deployment of any strategy, especially if remote workers are a new addition to the team. Take what works, discard the rest and don’t be afraid to tweak any strategies to better fit the team’s specific style.

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