How to Develop Remote Teams as a Remote Company

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Learn how to develop remote teams as a remote company to ensure high performance, collaboration, & communication. See our 5 team-building tips now:

Learning how to develop remote teams as a remote company can help your organization streamline operations and achieve better outcomes. But it can be tricky to get right.

So let’s start with the basics: remote team development is defined as assembling various remote employees to work together on a specific goal or outcome. 

For example, you may set up separate remote customer support teams in different time zones. Or you may want to spearhead a task force for the launch of a new product or service offering, curating a crew from multiple departments and specialties.

Luckily, the stages of team development are essentially the same whether you grab existing employees for your teams or hire new remote talent

So in this guide, you’ll find our five best remote team-building tips to ensure your success. 

How To Develop Remote Teams as a Remote Company in 5 Steps

In the mid-1960s, Bruce W. Tuckman outlined the five stages of team development [*]. Each stage has its own best practices. And the framework still proves useful nearly 60 years later and with the transition to fully remote workforces.

Let’s walk through each step and brainstorm ways to optimize your remote team-building journey:

1. Forming: Assembling the Crew

The forming stage involves selecting the best-fit employees for your team. Decide the hierarchy you’d like, including how many employees you anticipate needing to get the project off the ground.

Start with a Future-Minded Team Leader

This person should be capable of leading a team of employees with different communication and work styles. They should also be motivating and inclusive of diverse perspectives. 

According to research, future-minded leaders who envision what’s possible (rather than follow what’s already been done) have more agile, engaged, and innovative teams [*].

Follow Inclusive Hiring Practices

Follow the best inclusive hiring practices for remote teams, whether you’re adding new talent to your team or bringing over veteran employees. Look for puzzle pieces that fit together, not look the same. Each employee should bring something unique to the table that betters the team as a whole. 

So instead of having 12 lightning-fast coders on one team, consider sprinkling in someone with a keen eye for bug detection, someone who enjoys setting and tracking deadlines, another who doesn’t mind providing status updates to stakeholders, etc.

Don’t discount less-experienced employees with passion. A strong leader and supportive team members can nurture and coach promising employees to greatness.

Virtually Introduce Your Employees To Each Other

Ask your new employees to create an avatar with their picture (or another image representing them) and write up a brief bio for your employee page. This will help everyone get to know each other before meeting.

Try to schedule a virtual meeting to introduce everyone and discuss the new team’s goals in person. Get everyone excited and on the same page. Play a few icebreakers to make everyone more comfortable working together.

Outline Responsibilities & Expectations To Maintain Trust & Transparency

Create a shared knowledge base or hub of documentation to keep everyone in the loop. Include all the details about:

  • Project goals, deadlines, and key milestones
  • Which tools the team will be using
  • Communication protocols (i.e., which communication method should be used and when)
  • Each teammate’s role and core responsibility 
  • How success will be measured
  • How and when to give and receive feedback

Give your team access to your policies early so they know what’s expected of them before they get started.

2. Storming: Working Out the Kinks  

After the initial excitement wears off, your employees may experience some confusion or frustration during the initial challenge of learning to work together. They may disagree about how to approach your project or the best course for outlining processes that have never been done before.

Create a Safe Space To Ask Questions & Provide Feedback

It’s your leader’s job to establish psychological safety at work. Employees should feel safe to bring their authentic selves to team meetings and be valued for their contributions.

However, new teams may butt heads as they uncover the nuances of their coworkers’ communication styles, personalities, and work habits. 

Offer employees opportunities to share their opinions and discuss issues. Ensure everyone feels comfortable asking questions, providing feedback, and even disagreeing without being belittled or ignored. 

When issues arise, leaders must address them ASAP. They must clarify misunderstandings, mediate during conflict resolution, and help the team move forward in the best interest of everyone involved. 

Foster Social Connection with Remote Team-Building Activities 

Virtual engagement activities for remote teams allow everyone to get to know each other and form genuine bonds. These informal-yet-intentional hangouts help employees pick up on each other’s nonverbal body language, improving their communication and collaboration.

So consider holding virtual:

  • Watch parties of a popular show or movie on Kast
  • Lunches or after-work dinner parties 
  • Coffee breaks with a pet
  • Book club discussions 
  • Game nights
  • “Ask me anything” (AMA) discussions
  • Group meditation or yoga sessions
  • Meetings in the metaverse

Have lots of digital nomads on your team? Take a cue from the all-remote crew at GitLab and create a Slack channel called #office-today for employees to share snaps of their current work location.

Always make room for remote team-building activities. Think about how to make remote work fun for your employees, especially after a big project wraps or your team could use some de-stressing. These non-cheesy team-building activities should do the trick. 

Your crew will return to their “desks” with a better understanding of how each other works and a deeper appreciation for the value each person adds to the team.

3. Norming: Getting the Hang Of It, Together 

After those initial hurdles, your team is likely used to each other by now and falling into the groove of everyday work patterns. They understand what you’re looking for, how the workflow progresses, and where each of their coworkers excels. 

Now that they’re settled in their roles, leaders will be wise to:

Encourage Continuous Improvement 

Leaders should pay attention to how their employees perform their tasks and identify areas for improvement. These may be as simple as tweaking a process to boost efficiency. Or it may include doling out stretch assignments that take your employees out of their comfort zones and push them to grow.

Consider ways to level up your team’s technical and interpersonal skills, such as:

  • Holding workshops on remote collaboration
  • Enrolling in monthly webinars from experts
  • Scheduling refresher courses
  • Practicing communication exercises for remote teams
  • Offering opportunities for cross-training and upskilling 

Strengthening your employees’ transferable skills (like emotional intelligence, empathetic listening, critical thinking, etc.) will make teamwork flow seamlessly and increase productivity.

Look at Failures Constructively 

No one likes missing a deadline or experiencing setbacks on a project. But rather than getting angry at your team (mistakes happen!), use these hiccups as learning experiences.

Talk about the challenges your employee faced and see if you can come up with solutions to prevent them in the future. Find the positive in an otherwise negative situation. Remember to focus on the issue, not the person. 

4. Performing: Now You’re a Well-Oiled Machine 

At this stage, your team has (hopefully) formed strong relationships, knows how to play to each other’s strengths, and works well together. You’ll likely notice off-the-chart productivity, engagement, and morale.

Now’s the time to:

Ensure a Healthy Work-Life Balance

It’s vital to prioritize your team’s well-being so they don’t burn out during this time of high performance.

Hold routine check-ins and one-to-ones. Make room for talking to your employees about how they’re doing and what’s bringing them joy. Discuss recent success with projects and things they may be struggling with.

Make sure employees are disconnecting from work during their off time. Since many remote employees work from home, separating their work and home lives can be challenging. But this always-on mentality is a one-way ticket to burnout.

To encourage a healthy work-life balance:

  • Do not praise employees for working long hours
  • Require a minimum number of days off per year and encourage using them
  • Discourage employees from checking in during their day(s) off 
  • Experiment with a 4-day work week
  • Normalize mental health days in your PTO policy 

These actions will help your team recharge so they can return to work with a full battery, fresh ideas, and loads of enthusiasm.

Show that you care about employee well-being. On top of all the best company benefits every remote team should get, you should also provide perks to show your employees that you care about them on a personal level.

Think about giving your remote workers:

  • Gym memberships, online fitness class stipends, meditation app subscriptions, etc.
  • A laptop so they can work outside
  • A smart water bottle to track their hydration
  • Healthy meal delivery services
  • Fitness trackers with rewards for daily exercises and active breaks during the day

These ideas will keep your team running at peak performance and counteract the harmful effects of sitting at a desk all day for work.

Consider Leadership Training for Promising Employees 

Times of high performance are also ideal for offering mentorship opportunities to those who show the potential to grow further. 

To develop leaders on a remote team:

  • Look for employees who effectively communicate. Team members with stellar communication skills provide status updates without being asked or reach out about challenges they’re dealing with before missing a deadline.

  • Keep an eye out for solid teamwork abilities. Employees who consistently assist coworkers, promptly answer questions, and are eager to work with constructive criticism make excellent leaders.

  • Give proactive employees a chance to lead. Let them spearhead a project, take charge during a team meeting, train new hires, etc. They’ll develop confidence and experience in their leadership abilities. 

Enroll star candidates in management training courses. Then put them at the top of your promotions list so they grow with your organization. 

5. Adjourning: Wrapping Up or Retaining for the Future

If your team was created for the launch of a product, the final stage of team-building concludes with the deliverable. Your employees will have reached all your initial goals, feeling proud of their accomplishments. So recognize your employees for absolutely crushing it.

However, you may never reach this final stage if you’ve assembled a forever team. In that case, you’ll want to:

Create a Virtual Space for Employee Recognition 

Recognizing your employees for their hard work is one of the best ways to retain remote talent

So dedicate a Slack channel to your employees’ achievements and celebrations. Leaders should regularly shout out kudos for their employees. Coworkers can send birthday wishes or congratulate each other on big wins (like a promotion or new certification). Send them surprise gifts to show your appreciation.

Recognition also includes listening to your employees. Send anonymous surveys to gather honest feedback and measure employee sentiments. Iterate on suggestions to become a remote workplace of choice.

Invest in Employee Development 

Investing in your employees’ professional and personal development shows that you care about their success. It’s also a no-brainer because the more skills your team picks up, the stronger and more productive they become for your organization.

Many remote companies make learning part of their company culture. They offer employees:

  • Tuition assistance or student loan repayment options
  • Learning stipends (for books, professional membership fees, etc.)
  • Memberships to online course providers
  • Employee mentoring and peer-to-peer learning opportunities 

Give your employees the flexibility to pursue their development on their own time and make it easy to do so. Don’t forget to hold career advancement talks so they can envision themselves in future roles with your organization.

Building the Best Remote Teams Starts Here

How can you build teams remotely?

Start by posting your remote job on We Work Remotely, the #1 destination for remote job seekers. As the largest remote work community in the world, we snag over 4.5M visitors. And they’re all looking to join remote teams like yours.

We make it a breeze to develop your remote teams from day one. Just use our free remote job listing template to get started today! 

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