How to support your remote and borderless teams

by Stephen Danos

The borders between teams, departments, and roles are blurrier than ever before, as many find themselves working remotely due to the COVID-19 crisis. More than 58% of American knowledge workers are working from home as of mid-March, a number that’s anticipated to increase as impacts of the pandemic grow, with workers balancing personal priorities with business initiatives.  

“Borderless teams” can be remotely distributed across the globe, and once we’re on the other side of the current pandemic, they may be just down the hall from each other. Borderless teams offer increased flexibility, reduced costs, and can be a powerful recruiting tool for employees who want to improve their work-life balance. 

But they also create a new set of challenges. How can managers keep teams aligned and productive? How can teams gain access to the up-to-date information they need from other team members in order to stay on the same page?


Report: How to handle the transition to remote teams

This trend is likely to stick around. According to a recent study, telecommuting for information workers in the United States grew 115% over the last decade, and will likely continue to grow in the post-pandemic world. Many leaders see a competitive advantage in encouraging borderless collaboration, since it enables teams to maximize talent across departments and time zones. When it’s working well, borderless collaboration also helps create a culture of collective problem-solving and idea generation.

More and more teams are interfacing from satellite offices through video conferences, email, cloud-based work management platforms, and various communications applications. While cross-border collaboration has its benefits, it’s not without drawbacks:

  • There can be a lack of visibility into the work being done and a loss of shared purpose and strategic misalignment. 

  • Distance can create divisions, so it’s important for everyone to share progress, deadlines, and other key information to ensure that projects are fulfilled end-to-end.

What are some things executives can do to encourage borderless teams without sacrificing productivity or engagement? Read on for some ways business leaders can help their remote teams stay in sync.

Illustration of tools: wrench, pencil, and ruler

Provide the right tools

Borderless teams are not a new concept, but the tools used to connect people across the world are changing. What’s needed now is a work management platform that enables teams to collaborate in real time and share the same view of work status — whether at a desk or in the field. With no barriers to sharing, publishing, and collecting information, one powerful platform for borderless teams is Smartsheet.

Smartsheet helps teams break out of silos, stay connected to mission critical information at all times, and enables project managers and task owners to move processes along. With the right tools and integrations, teams can be more agile, connected, and help their companies stay competitive.

Whether a team works for a medium or large enterprise company, Smartsheet gives them and their leadership unprecedented visibility and access to work in process through portals, dashboards, automated actions, and much more. 


How to lead remote teams, Part 1: Team touch points

For example, marketing teams might work with internal stakeholders and outside vendors, such as a marketing analytics company or a public relations firm. Through Smartsheet teams can share certain sheet columns with vendors while easing up on permissions for internal sales, product, and communication teams. 

It doesn’t matter if team members work on the same floor or across the world. With Smartsheet they can all stay connected to the information and everyday work processes that they need. 

And when work schedules are constantly in flux, having a centralized, real-time work execution platform allows for 24/7 progress against goals, whenever and wherever the work gets done. Using the automation features in Smartsheet, any user can easily set up automated update requests — so workers get reminders to update their work progress on a regular schedule.

With the Smartsheet mobile application for iOS and Android, individuals can act fast on status update requests and modify sheets, dashboards, and forms right from their smartphone. This ongoing visibility via mobile helps to break down information silos and maintain productivity, which is especially helpful for employees who are working remotely and balancing priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

In addition, Smartsheet integrates with popular applications and platforms — such as Slack, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Office 365 — so workers can get work done in Smartsheet from within their favorite enterprise apps.   

Illustration of interconnected puzzle pieces

Offer structure and flexibility

Most leaders know that neglecting remote workers is generally not a great strategy. Sir Richard Branson shared some thoughts on how companies can benefit from letting employees work from home or, at the very least, encourage flexible schedules. And a 2017 Gallup study found that productivity and engagement increase when workers spend “60% to 80% of their time — or three to four days in a five-day work week — working off-site.” 


Do these 5 things for a more productive remote team

While we’re living through the pandemic, regular communication can play a big role with all teams, as do clear expectations around deadlines and responsibilities. With Smartsheet, remote employees can stay in the loop on team objectives and be in the best position to help achieve them. 

Thinking about improving agility is front-of-mind for many business leaders as we all navigate these challenging times. If you’re looking for additional support on how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can explore our COVID-19 response resource center, with free templates, training, community, and content to support your crisis response.