Guidelines for Remote Teams

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A lot of people have suddenly been thrust into working remotely and not having the personal contact with their team members that they’re used to. In this type of situation, it is easy to have misunderstandings and it is more difficult to establish and maintain trust. 

Trust among the members is the most important aspect for the strength and effectiveness of any team.

So, whether your team is new to working remotely or has been remote from the beginning, if you haven’t already talked about guidelines for communication, now is a good time to schedule a group call (by video if possible) to agree on your team communication guidelines and other ways you can strengthen your trust and respect for each other.

A team with high interpersonal trust = a strong and effective team!

Here are some aspects to consider when creating your team guidelines:

  • What are each team member’s expectations around status (who has power and how do they use it) and communication?
  • Will people be expected to speak up without being asked for their input, or should people wait to be invited before speaking (or offering their thoughts via email or chat)?
  • How much context do people need to provide in their communication? Do they need to specify every detail or can they assume that the other team members have enough knowledge (context) to understand what’s being communicated?
  • Are interruptions allowed while someone is speaking — or thinking?
  • Can criticism or negative opinions/feedback be given directly in the team meeting (or group email or chat), or should they be conveyed one-on-one in private?
  • Are deadlines and other specified times (e.g. for team calls) rigid or are they more flexible and subject to change? How flexible?
  • How will decisions be made? By the leader or by consensus? How will consensus be reached? How do you know who the leader is? How do you know when you have consensus?
  • Once a decision has been made, can it be changed? By whom? Under what circumstances?
  • Is the leader expected to be “above” everyone else or does everyone on the team have the same importance and status (i.e. strong hierarchy vs egalitarian/flat structure)?
  • Are team members allowed to communicate directly with — and even criticize or disagree with – the leader?
  • If you don’t understand something, when, how and of whom will you ask for clarification?
  • At the end of a meeting, how will you verify that everyone understands what has been decided and who is responsible for which tasks or other elements? (E.g. An oral recap of key points followed by each person summarising their own responsibilities, and then after the meeting, a written recap of key points and individual responsibilities sent to everyone on the team via email.) Will you follow this same procedure after one-to-one phone calls or emails?
  • Can you agree as a team that writing down the things that have been agreed does not indicate a lack of trust, but is rather a technique that allows all of you to work together effectively and harmoniously?

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