Now that COVID-19 has forced so many people to work remotely and do online meetings instead of face-to-face, I find myself somewhat well prepared for it. Having worked in geographically distributed teams for about eight years straight now, I thought I'd share some of the lessons learned during that time. Our company has two locations in two different countries, and we mix teams between the sites. People also work regularly from home.
People are sometimes worried about organic interaction (coffee machine encounters) or isolation from the work community. I feel that the root cause, however, for both of these is the lack of communication, which is usually named the most common obstacle in remote teamwork. Technology can offer great help to improve communication over a long distance, and you probably know these tools already: Slack, Google Hangouts, Trello, a wiki solution, the usual bunch.
Unfortunately, the tools themselves don't automatically solve the problem. You need to know how to use them. The main principle, in my opinion, is to lower the threshold of reaching out to a colleague. Write a line on Slack instead of compiling an email (actually, I don't think you should be using email at all). Press the call button for even small matters. Thirty seconds is a perfectly fine length for a call. Use video, especially with people you don't know that well yet.
If you are working on the same problem with someone, why not call them in the morning and hang up as you finish work for the day? You don't have to talk all day, just like you don't when sitting next to someone in an open-plan office.
Do you need help with remote work? Drop me a line, and let's see how we can help you.