Managing dispersed employees and learning how to organize a team for long-term remote working have become essential skills. Though the conversations about remote options and the future of work aren’t new ones, more and more companies are forgoing the cubicle and allowing employees to telecommute. One study done by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics found that remote work has grown a whopping 91% over the past decade. Remote work vs telework is a decision many employers must make these days. This has lead to employees asking themselves, "What does remote work mean?"

But, that upward trend experienced a major and unexpected spike this year when workplaces all over the globe suddenly transitioned to a remote model due to the COVID-19 pandemic and began hiring remote workers specifically. Long-term remote working appears to be here to stay and it’s up to companies everywhere to optimize protocols around how to organize employees during this transitional phase. 

Even after employees can safely return to their company offices, remote work will likely remain a popular and prevalent option. In fact, Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. 

Needless to say, remote work isn’t just a passing fad and leaders need to think seriously about how to manage remote workers for successful remote collaborations — not just for the next couple of weeks, but for the long haul. 

How to organize a team for long-term remote work

If you think you can sit back and watch as things fall into place, think again. Getting your team set up for long-term remote working requires some thought, strategy, and elbow grease. 

Here are some tips to reduce frustrations, ensure seamless collaborations, and continue producing high-quality work. 

1. Establish communication channels

The biggest challenge of working remotely has nothing to do with getting off the couch — it all comes down to communication. 

Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work Report, which surveyed over 3,500 remote workers from around the world, found that 20% of respondents cite communication and collaboration as their biggest remote work struggle. It tops the list, rivaled only by loneliness

This is why you need to iron out some communication best practices on your team. Set expectations for which communication channels should be used for which purposes. For example:

  • Instant messages: Casual conversations and time-sensitive requests
  • Video chats: Meetings, brainstorming sessions, one-on-one check-ins, performance reviews
  • Wrike: Project-related questions, status updates, and comments
  • Email: Team-wide announcements and updates 

This makes communication more efficient and helps prevent pesky crossed wires that are so common when working remotely. 

2. Streamline your processes

Clunky processes become even more apparent when your team isn’t working side-by-side. A survey from the Institute of Leadership and Management found that 88% of remote workers felt their team struggled to ensure consistency of practice. 

Inconsistencies can be frustrating for your team, so you need to make sure that everybody understands your systems.

One great way to do this is to create templates in Wrike, where you’ll set up an established flow of tasks and activities that can be copied for your different projects. That way, you don’t miss any steps, and you have a predictable, repeatable process in place for all of your projects. 

3. Set flexible but specific working hours

One of the things that makes remote communication so complicated is that you can’t take a quick peek to see if someone is at their desk and available to answer a question. 

It’s smart to keep a certain degree of flexibility on your team (especially since 32% of respondents in Buffer’s Remote Work Report cited the flexible schedule as the greatest benefit of remote work).

However, you can maintain flexibility while also ensuring that people understand the availability of other team members. Even if you don’t set rigid hours when people are expected to sign on, ensure that there are a few other measures included in your remote work agreement template that can increase transparency around working hours:

  • Require that team members set an “away” status when they aren’t at their desks
  • Ask that team members list their time zone in their profiles or email signatures
  • Make team members’ calendars visible across your team

These are seemingly small changes that can make a big difference in terms of transparency and availability when you manage remote workers

4. Provide access to helpful tools

Just because people are working from their couches or home offices doesn’t mean they want to be totally left to their own devices. They expect their employers to empower them with the tools they need to do their jobs well.

Unfortunately, almost half (48%) of employees worldwide are frustrated by their employer’s lack of investment in helpful tools. 

Make sure that your team is set up with all of the software and digital solutions they need to do their jobs effectively. This could include:

  • A collaborative work management platform
  • Time tracker
  • Video conferencing solution
  • Instant messaging platform

Technology has come a long way, and having the right tools in place can ensure your team remains effective and productive — regardless of where they’re working from. 

5. Make roles and responsibilities clear 

Research from Gallup found that only half of employees strongly agree that they know what’s expected of them at work. And, those expectations become even more mysterious when your team members aren’t in the office. 

Roles and responsibilities should be crystal clear on your team. You can accomplish this by:

  • Recapping meetings and team discussions with action items and assignees
  • Defining project roles in your project plans
  • Assigning tasks to team members in your work management platform
  • Providing detailed feedback during check-ins and performance conversations

These steps eliminate confusion and ensure your team members know exactly what’s on their plate — so they can accomplish great work without stepping on other people’s toes. 

How to organize a team for a project when working remotely

All of the above tips can help you create a positive culture and set your team up for remote work success. But, let’s go beyond your daily work and get more granular. 

Imagine that your team is about to tackle a daunting new project, and it’s the first time you need to make something like this happen while working entirely remotely. You’re wondering how to organize employees to get your project across the finish line with as few headaches as possible. 

1. Host a remote kickoff meeting

Just because you're working remotely doesn’t mean you can skip the kickoff meeting. This is a crucial part of the project process for defining roles, outlining scope, sharing goals, and mapping out a timeline.

Organize all of your project players for a remote kickoff meeting that you can do via a video conference. Share an agenda beforehand so that everybody knows what’s being discussed and what they’re expected to contribute. 

Working remotely means you have an added benefit for your project kickoff: you can record it! Record your meeting and store it with your other project-related documentation. That way, you can return to it if any questions or confusion come up. 

2. Keep project information somewhere accessible

If you thought never-ending email threads and messy shared drives were a problem before, they’re only going to be a bigger issue when you and your team are all working from different locations.

It’s important to keep all of your project-related information (meeting summaries, timelines, project plans, assets, and more) in one centralized spot. A work management platform like Wrike is great for this. 

Keeping those organized and accessible makes it easy for everyone on your team to find the most recent version of whatever they need without having to waste time digging for it. 

3. Schedule status updates for increased accountability

Out of sight, out of mind isn’t something that you want to happen on your remote project team. Yet, Deloitte reports that lack of accountability can be a big problem on remote teams. So, you need to put measures in place to ensure people stay on track and accountable. 

A work management platform boosts accountability, as your entire team can see who’s responsible for what (and whether or not they’re on schedule).

However, make sure you also schedule regular check-ins with your project team so that people can provide status updates. In addition to monitoring progress, this also gives you a chance to address sticking points and bottlenecks before they become major problems. 

Tips for organizing team tools and software

As we mentioned earlier, having the right tools and software in your remote team’s arsenal is a great way to improve your effectiveness and efficiency. But how do you make the best use of those apps and solutions? 

1. Start with a need

A lack of helpful technology is frustrating, but so is being completely overwhelmed with tools. Tool fatigue is real, and 43% of knowledge workers say that they have to switch between too many apps just to get basic work done.

You don’t want tools for the sake of having them. So, work backward by identifying a need on your team and then searching for technology to satisfy it. 

For example, if you and your team realize you need a better way to manage your projects, then you’d look for a work management platform. Identifying a need first will help you avoid “shiny object syndrome” and only institute tools your team can actually benefit from. 

2. Create shared systems and processes

If your team doesn’t use your tools in the same way (maybe Damion marks tasks as “In Review” when they’re ready for edits while Amara marks them “In Revisions”), it’s bound to create chaos and confusion. 

Make sure that your team has a cohesive system for using your tools. Conduct thorough training sessions and create shared documentation so that team members know the right way to use those solutions. While it involves a little extra effort upfront, it’ll save you time in the long run. 

3. Automate and templatize what you can 

Your tools should help your team save time. One of the best ways to do that is to automate and templatize whatever you can.

For example, create templates for your work intake forms, creative briefs, or frequent projects. Or, set up automation in Wrike to have tasks automatically assigned to a team member based on the task status.

The more manual effort your tools remove from your team members’ plates, the better. 

4. Collect regular feedback 

Your team’s tools aren’t a “set it and forget it” sort of thing. You should regularly ask for feedback to evaluate what your team is using and what’s no longer serving a purpose.

These frequent feedback sessions not only make your team feel heard but also give you an opportunity to identify challenges or complaints about your current tools. This way, you can address those hurdles by providing additional training about how to use the tool more effectively or finding a different software solution that better fits your remote team’s needs. 

Introducing the best team organization app

Managing a team is no easy task, and you’re bound to run into even more challenges when working remotely. 

Fortunately, technology can help. Wrike is a collaborative work management platform that can connect your team, monitor progress, streamline your tasks, and help you and your remote team crank out successful projects — whether you’re working side-by-side or across the globe. 

Ready to get started? Sign up for your free trial of Wrike today.