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Learn | Twelve, October 2015

Best Practices for Working with Remote Support Teams


The foundation of any successful relationship is communication and it takes some work to find a flow and style that works for both parties. Adapting and adjusting are healthy and with every relationship, a level of flexibility is necessary. So the same can be said for your relationship with a remote support team. While a remote support team can save you time and energy if used to their best ability, determining out how best to utilize this resource effectively is key.

There is certainly something to be said for working side-by-side with colleagues in an office setting. You get to know a person when you see them on daily basis and you begin to understand their nonverbal cues, allowing you to assess how they are responding to a request or need. Such assessment is not as quickly obtained with a remote support team. The first few weeks may seem bumpy as your remote support team works to understand who you are, what you need and how they best meet those needs. However, if you keep the following tips in mind, the path to a beneficial relationship will quickly smooth out:

  1. LEARN. Remember that your remote support team has to learn the culture of your work and style. So let them ask questions but also offer up details about your industry and personal work styles and preferences. A remote support team member is often a generalist so they need to learn more about the work you do as well as how you operate to best support your needs.
  2. INVEST. Use the resources you have. Since you can’t talk face-to-face as easily, utilize the technology that you can access and spend some time upfront investing in the relationship. Schedule regular calls, email, text and even Skype when it’s appropriate. While initially it may feel like you’re adding more work to your plate, these interactions will taper off as you and your remote support team learn what style of communication works best. And you’ll both determine how to communicate in a more efficient manner.
  3. CONNECT. Establish clear expectations about when you’ll talk, how often you’ll talk, and how often you expect updates. Think about whether you need to talk every day at a certain time or once a week and whether you need regular status reports. Set deadlines or time frames to assist with this workflow so that you both are on the same page.
  4. PRACTICE. As you begin the relationship, test out some different tasks to determine the strengths of your remote support team to better understand how to use that resource. As you assign tasks though, clarify your desired outcome and if there are specific steps you need to see along the process. And ask your remote support team to verify they understand the task as this will help eliminate confusion upfront.
  5. TALK. The most important step is to be open, honest, and transparent. If something is not working for you, talk about it in a productive manner. Share what’s missing and brainstorm together what you can change about each of your interactions that will help. The change needs to be two ways for it to be effective. Remember, remote support teams want to be a useful resource so having open dialogue (in both directions) is key. It may help upfront to establish how you each prefer to receive feedback so that you each feel comfortable when you need to switch directions.

Hiring a remote support team is great way to leverage your time and resources. Just know that it may take some investment in the relationship early on to eventually see the benefit. Once you find your rhythm as a team, you will see great output. Sticking together through those bumps in the beginning can ultimately lead to a smoother journey for both of you.

Contributed by our Team Member, Eileen





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