The Way We Work
August 10, 2011 by Stephanie Gonzaga

A long time ago, you used to be the only one managing your time, your work, and your communication lines with the employer. Nobody besides your employer told you what to do, called to see if you were available, or checked if you’d finished your tasks for the day.

Suddenly, you’ve been hired and assigned a specific role within a remote or virtual team. This team is composed of other freelancers who work at their own schedules and who are in charge of other aspects of the client’s project. You realize that working in a remote team has its own unique challenges, and that it’s important that you are aware of who you are working with and what your responsibilities are as a member of the team.

But we know it’s not always easy to adjust to working in remote teams, let alone build rapport and trust with other virtual professionals, so we’ve listed 6 tips to help you build good team relationships and work smoothly with others in a remote team:

1. Respect your teammates.

Heed Confucius’ Golden Rule when working in remote teams. If you want your teammates to treat you with respect, trust, and openness, you must do the same when dealing with them. Think of them as classmates, thesis partners, or colleagues that you care for and respect wholeheartedly.

2. Familiarize yourself with how the team works.

Get to know the system the team is built on, learn the technologies used to collaborate, and find your spot within the circle. At this point, you should already note down when everyone logs in to work, the availability of those who you’re working closely with, and how to communicate work updates, issues, and other important updates with everyone in the team.

3. Be on time for meetings.

meetings-remote-teamsMeetings are an essential aspect of a team. It gives everyone a chance to know and discuss about important work issues, changes, and other necessary details related to the project and the team.

There are meetings when only a selected number of people are needed, and there are meetings where every single member is required to attend. If your presence is a must, don’t make it a habit to make a grand entrance every time your employer/project head calls for a meeting by logging in late. Do your best to always be on time, so that:

  1. You’re fully aware and knowledgeable of the important details of the meeting.
  2. You have enough time to listen and share your thoughts about what was discussed.
  3. You don’t keep your fellow team members waiting.

4. Provide contact information in case of emergencies.

A family problem, a busted computer, or other similar situations may pull you from your workstations without notice, so you should have one more line of communication for the team to use.

Provide usable contact information, such as your mobile number, email address, or Skype ID, to both your employer and the members of the remote team in case you’re not around and they need to contact you regarding project issues and critical emergencies.

5. Complete and fulfill your assigned tasks and responsibilities.

Now that you’re a member of a remote team, your main goal is to complete all tasks assigned to you and to fulfill your responsibilities as the web developer/copywriter/QA/whatever freelance track you specialize in.

Your assigned work may be directly related to someone else’s, so it’s important that you finish off your own tasks for the project move forward. And if you constantly fulfill your duties, everyone will consider you as someone who does his job and is reliable at all times.

6. If there are problems or issues, bring them to the table.

It’s inevitable that there will be conflicts and misunderstanding between team members. For instance, one of your teammates may have experienced an issue coming from your end, even though you know that you’ve done everything correctly. In cases like these, nothing good would come out of hiding and grumbling behind people’s backs.

help-neededThe best way to handle arguments and disagreements is to bring everything to the table. Listen to what your teammates have to say about the problem, then share your own concerns in a professional and calm manner. If the employer should be involved in the discussion, offer to gather everyone for an important meeting to clarify everything once and for all.

It takes time to adjust to a remote team, but with these 6 tips and a positive attitude towards working with others, you’ll see that being in a remote team of professionals can be fun, meaningful, and a great learning experience after all.

What other useful tips can you share to those who are new to working in a remote team? I look forward to reading your comments!

Stephanie Gonzaga

Freelancer, Blogger, and Creative Writer

Stephanie Gonzaga is a freelancer on oDesk and blogger of The Freelance Pinoy, a freelancing blog for the Pinoy solo professional.