If you had asked someone about their co-workers just a mere 10 years ago, they likely would’ve told you all about the people they share an office building with—colleagues that participate in friendly chats around the water cooler or the brewing coffee pot in the morning.

Today? Well, it’s safe to say that teams look a lot different. With the rise in technology and helpful platforms, teams no longer need to be located in the same brick and mortar location—or even the same country.

Needless to say, with this increase in tech solutions—along with the uptick in freelancers and remote workers across the globe—the composition of a working team has shifted quite a bit in recent years.

Let’s take a magnifying glass to this new phenomenon, and explore some ways that teams and freelancers can collaborate more effectively than ever—regardless of where in the world they’re located.

The Benefits of This Changing Landscape

Of course, traditionalists will argue that these “new teams” come with only handfuls of drawbacks. And, yes, there are a few downfalls associated with working remotely—such as missing that face-to-face interaction and having a tougher time instilling a sense of team culture.

However, while there are some pitfalls, there are also plenty of amazing perks that come along with these new types of teams. Here are just a few of them:

1. Increased Autonomy

A successful remote team is ideally made up of driven and motivated self-starters. For the most part, remote team members and freelancers have the flexibility to work when and from where they want—which means they often complete projects and make decisions without a supervisor peering over their shoulders, breathing down their necks, or watching the clock.

This leads to an increased sense of agency for workers, who are able to take ownership over their own schedules as well as the projects and work they complete. Employees who are given this autonomy demonstrate improved relationships, motivation, and overall job performance.

Even better? Research shows that flexible working schedules greatly increase employee satisfaction. In fact, 46% of employees state that work/life balance is critical for feeling happy with their jobs.

2. Improved Communication

It’s easy to think that communication would suffer in a remote working environment. But, that’s usually not the case.

Why? Well, in a traditional office environment, it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle—important directions are muttered in passing and then completely forgotten. However, that’s much tougher to pull off in a remote team—where effective communication is a priority and most things are shared via written methods.

Believe it or not, 54% of remote employees report more open and honest communications as a perk of their virtual team.

3. Extra Productivity

As mentioned earlier, people who work remotely need to be particularly focused and driven in order to complete their work. And, increased productivity is a definite plus side for remote teams.

Ready to be amazed? 91% of respondents in a recent survey reported that they’re more productive working remotely.

4. Decreased Overhead

Let’s face the facts—office space ain’t cheap. Luckily, a totally remote team saves on that expensive overhead by allowing employees to work from their own homes or their favorite coffee shops.

The equation is simple: Lower expenses means higher profits.

So, are all teams changing?

Well, no. As you likely already know, there are still plenty of workplaces that stick with the traditional idea of a team—people all in the same place working on projects together. However, don’t be tricked into thinking that remote work is reserved solely for freelancers.

In fact, plenty of businesses—particularly those in the tech space—utilize completely distributed teams. For example, social scheduling tool Buffer and helpdesk platform Groove are just two of many that maintain remote teams are the way to go.

So, now comes the key question: How can you ensure that a remote team is effective? What tips and best practices should you implement to make sure that you (and the people that you work with!) have a successful remote experience?

Well, whether you’re a freelancer or a full-time part of a distributed team, we have a few tactics you’ll want to be sure to utilize.

How to Work Effectively (and Remotely!)

1. Use a Centralized Task Management System

First things first, organization is key when you’re working remotely. You’ll need one central hub where all members of an organization (whether they’re freelancers or full-time employees) can put important information, leave comments, and stay updated on the status of projects and tasks.

One tool we think that's great for this problem is Dayboard. It helps you keep tabs on the daily tasks for your entire team. But, the important part is to find something that works well for everybody—so you can make staying in the loop as streamlined and simple as possible. Other options like Asana and Trello are great for long-term planning and reminders while Dayboard’s focus on the current day--allowing five tasks at a time forcing you to focus.

2. Implement a Digital Water Cooler

One of the elements that can suffer most in a remote team is that sense of company culture. Culture can be tough to instill through a computer screen—and, even further, colleagues lose that chance to socialize over a lunch break or head out for an after-work happy hour together.

Luckily, technology can swoop in and save the day. Make sure that you set up some sort of instant messaging platform for your team—whether that’s Slack, Hipchat, or some other solution—so that your team can engage in lighthearted, friendly, and immediate conversations—without the formality of emails.

3. Schedule Frequent Meetings

Just because a team is remote doesn’t mean that you can never interact directly. As a matter of fact, scheduling frequent team meetings (particularly video calls!) can be helpful in further instilling that sense of culture, and also giving people an opportunity to get caught up.

Using a service like Skype or Google Hangouts, remote teams can have regular “face-to-face” conversations to resolve issues—and also remind them that they truly are a real team (despite their locations).

Whether you’re a freelancer remotely collaborating with clients located across the globe or you’re a full-time part of a distributed team, you already know that there are numerous benefits that come along with working remotely.

However, figuring out how to be an awesome remote worker? That’s not always quite as simple to identify. So, utilize this research and these tips to step up your game—and knock your remote experience out of the park.

What's the current setup of your team or work environment? Is it time to move into the modern workplace, or are you already there? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer (writing this article for AND CO) who has a real passion for helping other freelancers grow their businesses. She has written for many publications including Forbes, Inc., Fast Company, Business Insider, Time, and Mashable.

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