What I’ve learned from working with remote teams

Six tips to help make working from home more efficient and beneficial for all from Virginie O'Shea, who has spent over a decade working with colleagues, managers, and employees located in various places across the globe.

One thing that is often under-appreciated in most analyst reports is the human element of any market trends – why the numbers are the way they are tends to correlate to the activities and outlook of the humans underlying all of the data. Challenges and hurdles to overcome in any kind of change program also tend to have huge cultural aspects to them and as an industry, we’re currently coping with a massive number of changes. Not only are we working remotely, many individuals are physically isolated from other humans, including their managers and colleagues.

I’ve seen a lot of helpful articles on how to effectively work from home, but not so much about how to work well with others in a remote environment. I’ve spent over a decade working with colleagues, managers, and employees located in various places across the globe and though I don’t claim to be the world’s expert on how to manage it perfectly, I have learned a thing or two that I thought I’d share.

  1. Sometimes a quick call is better than endless back and forth over email.

There is ample opportunity for misinterpreting written comments in a remote working environment – especially if you are dealing with colleagues living and working in a different country. British sarcasm, for one, is hard to accurately convey without tone of voice or facial expressions. You could save yourself 40 emails by just arranging a quick voice or video call if you have to explain something relatively complicated or garner feedback on specific ideas.

  1. Sometimes email or dedicated channels for communication (ie Slack channels etc) are better than calls.

If you’re trying to collate a lot of information or provide a regular update on a topic, sometimes email or applications like Slack are a better means of communication. By providing a consistent context and channel for colleagues to refer to, time can be saved and needless meetings can be minimised.

  1. Group activities don’t have to involve video calls.

I and many of the other female colleagues I have worked with over the years absolutely abhor video calls. And I think it’s OK if people don’t want to be on video. Not everyone communicates in the same way and is comfortable with the same means of communication. While voice is sometimes essential in business communications – forcing individuals to sit in front of a camera isn’t always helpful as it can make them self-conscious and inhibited. Something that is fun for one person can be absolute torture for another – take into account people’s preferences.

  1. Be careful what you share on social media – especially in photos or videos.

If you absolutely have to post pictures on social media of Zoom group calls, remember not to share the meeting ID in the corner of the screen. The British prime minister just managed to let the public know the meeting ID of one of the Cabinet meetings via a photo posted on Twitter, don’t do the same if you don’t want random people joining your meetings.

  1. Use instant messaging applications for attaining quick answers but be mindful of bombarding busy colleagues.

Messaging can kill productivity if it is used too often – be mindful that colleagues have day jobs to do and answering questions can take valuable time away from their regular tasks. Some people also find instant messages stressful – again, not everyone is used to communicating in the same manner. Find out what works for your teammates and adapt accordingly.

  1. Overall just be mindful of other people’s time and preferences.

Some people thrive on regularly scheduled check ins, while other prefer ad hoc interactions. Given we’re all under increased stress, being mindful of your colleagues’ mental health and wellbeing is an important consideration.