5 lesser-known tips for effectively managing distributed teams
We’ve written previously about tactics to help businesses quickly pivot to operate online and the benefits of working remotely. But as more and more businesses are harnessing the advantage of distributed teams, it seems like the right time to take a step back and evaluate your progress.
If you’re of the mind that there’s always room for improvement, this is the article for you. Here are our top tips for managing your distributed teams more effectively that you may not have thought about.
1. Over-communicate across all geographies
Distance can be a killer when it comes to distributed teams. We all crave human connection, so it can be an uncomfortable transition when we start working without this regular contact that we’re used to.
No longer are we having conversations with our teammates on the way to the lift. We’re no longer having a quick chat while making a coffee, or calling informal meetings to confirm timeframes, just because we can. These small interactions can be the spaces where important information is transferred, so one big way to manage your distributed teams more effectively is by over-communication.
Within reason, of course. We’re not saying you all need to share photos of your lunch everyday on the team Slack (once a week is enough), and we don’t mean bombarding teams with a running commentary of project updates.
Over-communication can be as simple as creating a living company Google doc or Wiki that houses all your projects’ updates and their latest information. Keep it relevant, update it regularly, and keep it simple. Even something as obvious as noting when tasks have been closed out ensures everyone has the opportunity to be kept in the loop.
Ensuring all staff are across these small decisions and actions replicates those short 10-second chats you otherwise would have in person. And this way, everyone is across the outcome. This can have a flow-on effect of teaching your teams to document all decisions, so you can always refer back to information, and will provide a thorough manual for new team members when they onboard.
2. Make the most of your team ‘golden hours’
Working in a distributed manner means that it’s much less common for your teams to be in the same place, at the same time, or even in the same time zone. Remote and distributed work has made it much more likely that your teams are working in entirely different regions, and as such, their daily office hours are less likely to overlap.
But those times when every team member is at their workspace at the same time—wherever this may be—are known as ‘golden hours’.
These are the times you want to make the most of, as a team. Have your daily start-up or Scrum meetings. Use this time to collaborate. Confirm the key things that your teams are working on, discuss where and how each team can help each other, and where necessary, organise handover so the team that’s just starting their working day can continue on with your projects.
And if one team finds themselves having meetings at inconvenient times, consider rotating your meeting times so that this doesn’t become an ongoing issue.
3. Find the right balance between structure and time to get work done
One thing that teams face when working in a distributed manner is the shift in their daily structure.
Team meetings, Zoom calls, and online catch-ups are a great way of mimicking the structure of a ‘traditional’ working day. But while regular meetings like this are a good way to keep up the necessary human interaction, it’s also important to ensure your staff have the time to actually get their work done.
A successfully distributed working structure needs some working space built into it. To do this, set purposes for your meetings, and stick to them. Team meetings are for your project teams to discuss the work at hand, your Scrum is where you’ll hear each other's' daily plans, and the weekly meeting can be a space to just check-in, talk through weekly highlights, and see each others’ faces.
Plan these key meetings or events you need to achieve, but leave enough ‘free’ time for your teams to actually do the work that achieves your goals.
4. Remove payment bottlenecks with virtual payment cards
Working in distributed teams can often see your old processes go out the window. But your payments don’t have to be one of them.
Setting up virtual debit cards within your teams can empower them to manage their budgets more effectively, without losing sync with your accounts team. Better still, they reduce time-consuming payment bottlenecks and gatekeeping, and make it easy for your teams to go about their business without requiring access from yourself or your accounts teams.
And by dint of being managed online, virtual payment cards can be created in seconds, and your staff can start using them instantly. The ability to assign unique payment codes and payment limits means you can keep a better track of your spend while building improved accountability in your staff, wherever they’re located.
5. Using a document first approach
One common complaint from the pre-distributed days was about meetings that could have been replaced with emails instead. Interestingly, that hasn’t changed. A document first approach embodies this, albeit in a more productive manner.
A document first approach is exactly what it sounds like: you create a document first. This can take the form of a briefing document, or an overview, that outlines your new project, covers all the relevant pieces of information and includes space for input from the necessary parties.
This allows for the key points of the meeting to be digested, clarified, and questions to be asked and answered, providing everyone involved the chance to all get on the same page, before a meeting is even called. Then, after you and your teams have taken some time away from the document, you can come back to it, finalise any outstanding questions and conversations, and where necessary call a meeting to align the project team.
This method of working ensures everyone takes an active part in informing the meeting. They arrive at the meeting full-bottle on the project at hand, and you confine the scope of the meeting to only those points that need addressing.
It’s a fantastically simple way to limit your meetings and reduce meeting fatigue. We go into a deeper dive on our document first approach here.
How Airwallex empowers your distributed teams
Airwallex Borderless Cards help you and your teams streamline your financials—wherever your distributed working finds you.
These clever virtual cards are simple to create, and you can have them up and running in seconds. There’s no need to run your cards through layers of account processing, simply set up the card, assign your staff member, set the payment code, and you’re away. Plus, switch on our modern expense management features and be done with lost receipts, month-end madness and manual error forever.
With access to our interbank FX rates and with zero international transaction costs, your staff can use Airwallex Borderless Cards confidently. You can set spending limits, too, so your staff know they have full accountability of their spending, allowing them to make their own purchasing decisions, and providing them with the freedom they otherwise wouldn’t get with a physical card. Automatic spend tracking makes it easier to see where your money is going, and you’re able to categorise it by project, supplier, or item, delivering a clear cash flow trail.
So if you’re looking at more efficient ways to make the most of your new remote and distributed working arrangements, get in touch with us to discuss how Airwallex virtual cards can help your business thrive.
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