Creating Vitality and Clarity in Remote Work

team performance virtual collaboration Aug 29, 2023


The use of structured collaborative practices can add a vitality and clarity to remote work that is often missing in informal, ad-hoc processes. In addition, the use of graphic frameworks, in the absence of the visual stimuli of face-to-face meetings, provides a clear focal point for exchanges and literally gets team members on the same page.  


Practices for “different time, different place” meetings (via e-mail, social media and shared websites). 

  1. Use pre-work documents on a portal or as an attachment to prepare for interactive, real-time sessions. 

  2. If you are conducting any of the practices through a threaded conversation in a portal, take time to insert summaries and overview comments to support the movement toward action and results. 

  3. Provide clear navigation aids that show links and locations of key source documents. 

  4. Provide members with explicit guidelines regarding response deadlines, and send reminders to encourage involvement. 

  5. If a practice involves a graphic framework for gathering input, generate inputs through mobile or video calls, and share successive versions of the framework so everyone can reference the same common image.


Practices for “same time, different place” meetings (via teleconference or video conference). 

  1. Take time to think through what will be dealt with in regularly scheduled meetings and what will require special, focused meetings
  2. When you schedule a meeting or set up a specific practice as an agenda item, provide members with a summary of the process and any expectations regarding their participation in advance, so that they can be prepared. 
  3. Work from a specific agenda and set of desired outcomes that you have circulated in advance. 
  4. Provide a brief check-in period at the beginning that allows team members to reconnect with each other. This is useful because participants will be joining the meeting without the social context provided by getting together face-to-face. 
  5. Establish a protocol that ensures that each member has an opportunity to speak to encourage full participation. This can be as simple as agreeing on an order for speaking (the equivalent of going around the table) or creating a digital seating chart with pictures sent before the meeting. 
  6. Get sub-teams involved in planning presentations for video conferences in advance through teleconferences.
  7. Actively manage the time for presentations and discussions.
  8. Use chat and polling to break up the monotony of slides and talking.
  9. Provide plenty of emotional breaks by doing wacky things, such as throwing virtual objectives at people (a function allowed in some applications), or playing music, or having everyone answer a whimsical question.
  10. End meetings with a summary of decisions taken and actions agreed upon.
  11. Follow up the meeting by distributing a written summary of the decisions and actions and updating your team portal, if you have one, to reflect the results of the meeting.


Practices that extend over the life of the team

A number of the practices involve creating a visual map of the team’s work. These maps can be extremely valuable with virtual teams and help provide a graphic context for everyone’s work—something that is easily lost as team members respond to the work pressures at their location. Once these charts or slides are developed they can be posted on the team portal, referred to in team meetings and updated as the work of the team evolves. Appropriate graphic imagery can help these charts and maps come alive and overcome some of the cultural barriers that words alone might encounter. 

Remember that there is no substitute for actually getting to know people. Visits and face-to-face kickoff meetings are invaluable for remote workers if you can arrange them. Having special encounters through communications media that don’t involve work, but are explicitly aimed at getting to know each other, is also very helpful. 

As a team leader of a fully or partially remote team, you and your communication become the reliable reference point, instead of a physical office and the cohort group. You have a wide variety of choices for what you can establish that becomes the reliable reference and infrastructure, but you do not really have a choice about needing to establish something. Start with a handful of tried-and-true practices, and then add from there—and don’t be afraid to experiment.



This article is adapted from our new Team Leader Guide 2.0

Interested in learning more best practices for Team Performance? Our proven Team Performance System includes an organization-wide framework to gain understanding of your team's challenges, a survey for assessing a team’s perceptions about itself, and more than 100 best practices to help develop a “playbook” for developing your team's effectiveness.

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