This post originally appeared on the Louisiana Technology Park blog.
The COVID-19 pandemic shook our economic foundations: Startups and small businesses have had to reassess business models from month-to-month. When everything is uncertain, small businesses need continuity and consistency to succeed. During the crisis, team members have turned to each other to find that stability.
But the need to work remotely complicates this. In order to collaborate effectively, team members must be able to trust and rely on each other. “In a small company, relationships are more intimate and personal,” says Michelle Reina who, with her husband Dennis Reina, co-founded Reina Trust Building and co-authored Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace. “When trust is eroded, it can’t be hidden.”
When we no longer work together face-to-face, that trust has to be grown with intention. Here’s how to build trust and foster collaboration in your startup’s remote teams.
Clarify Roles and Expectations
In small companies, individuals are hyper-reliant on other team members to move projects forward. But when everyone is responsible for the organization’s overall success, roles tend to become vague. That becomes even blurrier in a remote environment. Before collaboration can occur, you have to clarify individual roles and expectations. Make sure each team member knows exactly what they are responsible for in your work process.
Establish guidelines for when and how to work, too. “Underlying every expectation is a need,” Michelle Reina says. Work together to determine what your team members need from each other and base your remote guidelines on those needs. For example, if a team member no longer has access to childcare, they may only be able to work specific hours. In order to collaborate effectively, schedule team meetings during that team member’s available time frame.