IT talent: 5 ways to better leverage remote teams

Are your team members spread across multiple locations? Here's how to maximize productivity, and even make distance work to your advantage
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Remote work is on the rise, and recent studies suggest that a quarter of all professionals in the U.S. will be working remotely by the end of 2022. This trend is enabling many CIOs and CTOs to find talent outside of technology hubs, and companies of all sizes are taking advantage of this by hiring based on time zone as opposed to geographic location.

However, managers are struggling to come up with ways to enable their remote teams to work together and finish their tasks in an organized and timely fashion.

With team members spread across three continents, I’ve had to think creatively about how to enable effective collaboration across 10 time zones. Here are five tips to enable any organization to operate smoothly despite the distance between employees.

1. Create scrum and dev channels

With so many avenues of communication available today, it’s easier than ever to speak to anyone anywhere in the world instantaneously and for free. All it takes is an internet connection to stay in touch with teammates around the world, and when dealing with a team dispersed around time zones and across borders, creating a new Slack channel or WhatsApp group is as simple as clicking a few buttons.

[ Also read Hybrid work: 4 ways to strengthen relationships. ]

These channels enable direct and transparent communication between team members in real-time. They’re simple ways for anyone to discuss issues and solutions, or even just shoot the breeze. And if one team member isn’t online while a discussion is happening, they can always just go back and see what was going on and get up to speed.

2. Host daily standups

Dedicated communication channels are great for short chats and questions, but to get everyone on the dev team on the same page, daily standup meetings with all the team members spread across the globe are necessary. Managers can use these 15-minute meetings as an efficient way to understand everyone’s status on a project and strategize the efficient delegation of remaining tasks. They also enable alignment on everyone’s top priorities for the day.

These meetings not only prevent miscommunication but also enable team members to feel part of something bigger than themselves. We’re all human, after all, and having facetime with other teammates – even if it’s only via a computer screen – strengthens interpersonal bonds, which leads to better outcomes and a better work environment. Daily standups are key to fostering these connections and are a great way to build a company culture when teams are spread across the globe.

[ Related read: Agile: 3 ways your organization can benefit during hybrid work ]

3. Use time zones to your advantage

Managing a team across time zones is tricky, but I’ve found that with the right mindset, careful planning, and a lot of flexibility, it’s possible to get projects done quickly and efficiently despite the sun setting for one teammate while it’s rising for another. If done correctly, it’s possible to finish projects in a shorter period of time than if everyone were working from the same office or time zone.

With the right mindset, careful planning, and a lot of flexibility, it's possible to get projects done quickly and efficiently despite the sun setting for one teammate while it’s rising for another.

For instance, if a dev team is composed of people spread across multiple time zones and each member of the team works an eight-hour workday, it’s possible to get more than the standard eight hours of development done over a 24-hour period. In addition, because most teams will have overlapping hours, collaboration is easy despite the time differences.

4. Trust your teammates

For all of this to work, you must trust their team. Leaders can’t be on call 24 hours a day, so there needs to be a certain amount of trust among everyone involved that tasks will be completed correctly and on time.

This works both ways: If a task is taking longer than expected, the team member assigned to that particular task needs to trust the rest of the team enough to communicate the delay and be comfortable enough to reach out for help when necessary.

I’ve found that delegating project tasks and enabling autonomy within development enables team members to come up with creative solutions and provides them with a sense of ownership in the project, which in turn leads to better performance.

5. Hours don't matter, results do

Keep in mind that the end-user doesn’t care how many hours it took to develop something or what time it was worked on. As long as the product works, the product – and the company – will succeed. Therefore, it’s irrelevant whether the development team is sitting in the same office working in the same time zone – all that matters is they’re working together.

IT teams have tools that enable them to foster a collaborative atmosphere no matter where teammates are in the world. While it requires a bit of outside-the-box thinking and a lot of trust, these tips have enabled us to build a better, more efficient, and happier team.

[ Want more advice on leading hybrid work? Read What is a hybrid work model? and Hybrid work model: 5 advantages. ]

Zach Cutler is the Co-founder & CEO of PR technology platform Propel PRM. Prior to this he owned and operated his own PR firm - Cutler PR - for nine years, and was the PR firm of record in the US for 70 tech startups, 5 of which went on to become decacorns, and 15 of which went on to become unicorns.