As remote work becomes more common, managing distributed teams is crucial to the success of software development projects. One of the biggest challenges is hosting effective meetings with team members in different time zones. According to a Gartner survey, nearly 80% of workers are using collaboration tools for work in 2021, up from just over half of workers in 2019. This is an increase of 44% since the pandemic began. However, there are many challenges that must be overcome, including technical issues, communication barriers, and cultural differences.
Multicultural teams can face additional challenges with communication and collaboration due to differences in language, customs, and work styles. To overcome these challenges, it is important to create a collaborative environment during meetings and establish clear communication guidelines. In this blog post, we will provide best practices for managing distributed teams and hosting effective meetings with remote team members. We will also discuss the challenges faced by multicultural teams and how to overcome barriers to effective communication and collaboration.
Best Practices for Scheduling Meetings
The first step in hosting effective meetings with a distributed team is to schedule the meeting at the right time. This can be a challenge when team members are located in different time zones. To overcome this challenge, it is important to select a meeting time that works for everyone, taking into account their time zones. It is also important to consider different national holidays, which may limit the availability of team members. Nearshore countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia have a large number of public holidays, and respecting these holidays is highly appreciated by Latin American people, as they are seen as opportunities to spend time with family and friends.
There are many scheduling tools available that can help with this, such as Calendly, Doodle, and Timezone.io. It is also important to communicate the meeting time clearly to all team members and to provide reminders as the meeting approaches.
Preparing for Meetings
Preparing for meetings is crucial to ensure their effectiveness and productivity. According to a study, 47% of employees consider too many meetings to be the biggest waste of time at work, and the average employee spends 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings.
By setting a clear agenda and sharing it with all team members prior to the meeting, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the meeting stays on track.
In addition, Loom reports that the average employee spends 2 hours per week preparing for meetings. By providing any necessary pre-work that needs to be completed before the meeting, you can ensure that team members are fully prepared and that the meeting is as productive as possible.
The agenda should include the meeting goals, topics to be covered, and any pre-work that needs to be completed before the meeting. This will help team members prepare for the meeting and ensure that everyone is on the same page. It is also important to share the agenda with all team members prior to the meeting and to provide reminders as the meeting approaches.
Effective communication during meetings is crucial to ensure productive discussions and equal participation from all team members. According to Microsoft, only 46% of employees feel more productive during virtual meetings than in-person ones, and 37% feel less connected to their colleagues. To overcome these challenges, it is important to establish clear communication guidelines and to use collaboration tools to enhance communication.
Video conferencing software, chat tools, and collaborative documents are some of the collaboration tools that can be used to enhance communication during meetings. According to Loom, 78% of remote teams use video conferencing for meetings, and 31% of remote workers say that video conferencing is the most effective way to communicate with their team. Chat tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams can also be used to enhance communication during meetings, allowing team members to ask questions and share information in real time. Collaborative documents like Google Docs and Microsoft Word can be used to take notes and share information during the meeting.
There are several tools that can be particularly useful for facilitating meetings in software development teams. One such tool is Jira, which is a project management tool that allows teams to plan, track, and manage their work. Jira can be used to create a backlog of tasks and issues that need to be addressed, assign tasks to team members, and track progress toward completion.
Another useful tool is Confluence, which is a collaboration and knowledge management tool that allows teams to create and share documents, meeting notes, and other resources. Confluence can be used to create meeting agendas, take notes during the meeting, and share those notes with all team members.
Active listening is also important to ensure that all team members feel heard and valued. 92% of people admit to multitasking during meetings, which can lead to missed information and misunderstandings. To ensure that all team members are actively engaged in the meeting, it is important to establish ground rules for communication and to encourage equal participation from all team members.
In addition to these general best practices, software development teams can use facilitation techniques from agile methodologies to enhance their meetings. These include:
- Agenda-driven meetings: Agile teams often use a structured agenda to keep meetings on track and ensure that all team members have a chance to participate. This can include a set of questions or prompts to guide the discussion and ensure that the meeting stays focused on the most important topics.
- Stand-up meetings: Also known as daily scrums, stand-up meetings are brief meetings that are held every day to provide team members with an opportunity to share updates on their progress and identify any obstacles they are facing. These meetings are typically held standing up to encourage brevity and keep the focus on the most important issues.
- Retrospectives: Retrospectives are regular meetings that are held to reflect on the team's performance and identify areas for improvement. During these meetings, team members are encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas openly and honestly, and to work together to develop actionable solutions to any problems or issues that are identified.
- Pair programming: Pair programming is a technique in which two developers work together on a single task, sharing a keyboard and taking turns typing and reviewing code. This technique can be used during meetings to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing and to ensure that all team members are engaged in the work.
By using these facilitation techniques, and tools software development teams can enhance their meetings and ensure that all team members are actively engaged and productive.
Following Up on Meetings
After the meeting, it is important to follow up on action items and assign tasks to team members. This will ensure that progress is made and that the meeting is productive. It is also important to schedule regular check-ins to monitor progress and to address any issues that arise. Here are some tips on how to follow up on meetings with your distributed team:
- Send a meeting summary email. A meeting summary email is an email sent to your meeting attendees after the meeting ends. It should include the main points discussed, the decisions made, the action items assigned, and the deadlines agreed upon. It should also thank the participants for their time and input, and invite them to share any feedback or questions
- Schedule regular check-ins. Regular check-ins are short and frequent meetings that allow you to touch base with your team members, track their progress, provide feedback, offer support, and resolve any issues. They can be done individually or in groups, depending on the scope and complexity of the tasks. You should schedule check-ins at a convenient time for everyone, and keep them focused and concise.
Enhancing Communication and Collaboration for Distributed Team Management
To improve communication and collaboration among team members in distributed team management, it is important to establish a sense of shared purpose and understanding. This can be challenging when working with multicultural teams, as there may be differences in language, customs, and work styles. To overcome these challenges, it is important to create a collaborative environment during meetings and to establish clear communication guidelines. Providing translations or interpreters as needed, using visual aids to aid understanding, and being sensitive to cultural differences in communication styles can also help build trust and enhance collaboration. Here are some tips on how to do this:
- Build awareness. To communicate and collaborate effectively with people from different cultures in managing distributed teams, you need to be aware of your own cultural assumptions, biases, and preferences, as well as those of your team members. You can do this by conducting self-assessments, seeking feedback, learning about other cultures, and asking questions. If you are interested to know about cultural traits of the best destinations to hire software developers in South America, check this blog post
- Adjust communication strategies. To avoid misunderstandings and conflicts in distributed team management, you need to adjust your communication strategies according to the cultural context of your team members. This may include choosing the appropriate medium, tone, style, and level of formality for your messages, as well as using clear, simple, and respectful language. When adjusting communication strategies for multicultural teams in distributed team management, it is important to consider the cultural context of team members. For example, South American professionals tend to value personal connections and prefer a warm and friendly tone in communication. They also tend to use indirect communication styles, such as avoiding direct criticism or disagreement and may place a higher value on nonverbal communication and body language. By being aware of these cultural differences and adjusting communication strategies accordingly, you can build better relationships and enhance collaboration with your distributed team members.
- Practice active listening. To show respect and interest in your team members’ perspectives in managing distributed teams, you need to practice active listening during meetings and interactions. This means paying attention to what they say, asking clarifying questions, paraphrasing their points, acknowledging their emotions, and providing feedback
- Leverage diversity. To foster creativity and innovation in distributed team management, you need to leverage the diversity of your team members’ backgrounds, skills, experiences, and opinions. You can do this by encouraging participation, soliciting input, valuing contributions, celebrating achievements, and resolving conflicts constructively
Managing distributed teams while Avoiding unproductive meetings
Reducing the number of unproductive meetings is crucial for distributed teams, as they can waste time, energy, and resources, and lower morale and performance. According to a study by Atlassian, the average employee spends 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings, and 47% of employees consider too many meetings to be the biggest waste of time at work. On the other hand, reducing meetings by the equivalent of just one day per week drove a 62% increase in autonomy, a 45% increase in communication, a 15% increase in cooperation, a 28% increase in engagement, a 35% increase in productivity, and a 48% increase in satisfaction. It also drove a reduction in micromanagement by 33% and stress by 26%. Here are some tips on how to avoid unproductive meetings:
- Have a clear purpose and agenda. Before scheduling a meeting, you should have a clear purpose and agenda for it. You should only invite the people who are essential for achieving the meeting’s objectives, and share the agenda with them in advance. You should also set a realistic time limit for the meeting, and stick to it
- Use asynchronous communication. Instead of having a meeting for every issue or update, you should use asynchronous communication tools, such as email, chat, or project management software, to share information and feedback with your team members. This can save time, reduce interruptions, and allow people to work at their own pace.
- Evaluate and improve. After each meeting, you should evaluate its effectiveness and outcomes. You can ask your team members for feedback, measure the results against the objectives, and identify areas for improvement. You should also document the key takeaways, decisions, and action items from the meeting, and follow up on them accordingly.
Figures on the impact of meetings on productivity and satisfaction:
- Nearly 80% of workers are using collaboration tools for work in 2021, up from just over half of workers in 2019.
- Effective meetings can reduce employee turnover, increase customer satisfaction, improve problem-solving, enhance creativity, and boost morale.
- The number of meetings increased by 13% after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the average length of meetings decreased by 20%. Moreover, people spent 12% more time in meetings per day, and the number of attendees per meeting increased by 14%.
- The estimated cost of unnecessary meetings for U.S. businesses is $37 billion per year, and 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings. Moreover, 92% of people admit to multitasking during meetings, and 41% of people prefer to communicate via email rather than meeting face-to-face.
Effective communication and collaboration are essential for distributed software development teams, and hosting effective meetings is a crucial part of achieving these goals. As remote work becomes more common, the number of collaboration tools and meetings has increased significantly. However, not all of these meetings are productive or effective, and employees spend a considerable amount of time in unproductive meetings.
To overcome these challenges, software development teams should follow best practices for scheduling, preparing, facilitating, and following up on meetings with remote team members. These practices include selecting the right time for the meeting, setting a clear agenda, establishing communication guidelines, using collaboration tools, and following up on action items. By following these best practices, remote teams can overcome barriers to effective communication and collaboration, build trust enhance teamwork, and improve productivity and job satisfaction.
Effective meetings can help reduce employee turnover, increase customer satisfaction, improve problem-solving, enhance creativity, boost morale, establish alignment, and foster learning and development. By reducing the number of unproductive meetings and following best practices for effective ones, software development teams can save time, clarify roles and responsibilities, increase accountability, create a sense of purpose, improve teamwork, encourage feedback, resolve conflicts, celebrate achievements, and motivate employees.
Hosting effective meetings with a distributed team is challenging, but it is essential for successful collaboration among international teams. By using best practices, software development teams can overcome barriers to effective communication and collaboration, build trust, enhance teamwork, and improve productivity and job satisfaction.
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