Building a high-performance team when working remotely

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

— — Henry Ford

Teamwork is essential to the success of any project. It improves efficiency, brings in new ideas, and helps build connections among members. However, it can sometimes be tricky to coordinate among a group of people and inefficient teamwork can be a roadblock instead of the foundation to achieving your goal. With the pandemic and everyone working from home, it is even harder to communicate effectively with your teammates. I often found myself frustrated by spending hours on Zoom calls with my team but ended up not getting anywhere. Is there a way to make online teamwork more productive? In this blog, I will share my experiences from being the project manager in my practicum project with CPMC, and what I have learned that will help build a high-performance team even when working remotely.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

The challenges with teamwork online

The project started when we were one month in our MSBA program, and because of the pandemic, all of us had been studying online and had never met or talked with each other. Not being able to physically be together and socialize posed a negative impact on the team’s morale.

On top of that, online communication is far less effective than in person. Since we are all students with other coursework, I hardly got timely replies or feedback to my questions through Slack. Simple conversations that only take 5 minutes in person now take hours. It is also difficult to get a clear picture of what everyone is working on and what progress has been made.

The lack of effective communication plus the absence of connection among team members definitely slowed the team down at first. We were also having trouble getting the data because we didn’t have access to our industry partner’s system. The project was not off to a good start. Fortunately, we were able to quickly adjust and regroup. By the end of the first quarter, we completed everything that was scheduled to be done and started preparing for our next tasks in the upcoming quarter. So how did we do that?

Achieving high-performance teamwork online

As the project manager, it was my job to make sure everyone on my team is feeling valued and doing the right job. From countless virtual meetings and group messages, I have concluded the following tips to build a high-performance team when working online.

With working online, you lose the convenience of being able to see what everyone is doing. But you also don’t want to micromanage and keep checking in with your teammates all the time. This is when a transparent system will be really handy. Midway through our first quarter, we as a team created a template that documented detailed information about each task, their current status, the person responsible, and the time allocated. All we needed to do then was to update the template on our own and this made visualizing the work in progress effortless. It also provides a clear record of everyone’s responsibilities and tasks. You can design a template or use any project management tools available if you are working with a bigger team, the key is to make it open to all members and have a clear set of rules on how to use it.

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

2. Use technical tools to stay organized

You are already working online, why not utilize technology to the full and make your life a little easier. There are so many tools that you can use to help make your project more organized. For collaborative work, you can use shared drives and shared docs to avoid having different copies of the same document. A shared calendar can help the team quickly schedule a time slot for meeting. And project management tools like Jira are great ways to manage your tasks and keep track of everything. Since we are a smaller team, we mainly just used shared drives and shared dos, but the idea applies to all.

Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash

3. Build personal connections

Good personal connections are important to building a high-performance team. It helps create a sense of unity and mutual respect and makes communication and coordination easier. As I mentioned before, working online makes it harder to bond with your teammates and that is why you need to put in the extra effort. I tried to incorporate casual chit-chat into our meetings, and have conversations that are not about our project with my teammates individually to understand them more on a personal level. We are also planning on meeting in person when allowed to in the future. Although it might feel kind of awkward at first, you will find that people soon get used to it and the communication is much smoother afterward.

Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash

With the help of technology and more companies allowing employees to work from home, people will need to get accustomed to working in teams remotely, and certain adjustments are needed to achieve productivity. I hope this blog gave you some inspiration on how you can work with your team better, no matter online or in person.