Remote Team Productivity: Unveiling Insights and Learnings for Creating an Extraordinary Team

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Building extraordinary teams in the ever-changing age of telework may seem like an intimidating goal, leaving you unsure of where to begin. However, understanding the factors that can help foster productivity and communication within remote teams is an essential component for achieving business success.

Remote teams encounter unique challenges in maintaining productivity and excellence. Striking the delicate balance between individual needs and team dynamics becomes important in creating an exceptional work environment virtually or in person. In this blog post, we will explore key strategies to optimize remote team productivity while embracing the distinctive differences and challenges presented by telework. By implementing these invaluable insights, your team can sustain a high level of engagement and collaboration, ensuring that you remain an extraordinary team even within the virtual realm.

Join Kevin Coray, an expert on extraordinary teams and co-author of the training resource, Extraordinary Teams, as he shares his personal story and invaluable insights into fostering productivity in the virtual office. Get ready to unlock the secrets to success in remote work and discover practical strategies for optimizing team performance.

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Don’t miss this intriguing webinar from HRDQ-U

From Losing Out to Standing Out: What We Know about Extraordinary Teams

Unveiling Virtual Team Frustrations

Imagine attending a retreat for a scientific grant-making organization and being greeted with an unexpected surprise – an incredible fashion show! The fashion show began with enthusiastic staff members taking on the role of MCs, diving into a lively discussion about the new closet section dedicated to the telework wardrobe. Once they discussed their business and work casual attire, they moved on to discuss the new telework sections of their closets and the weekly challenge of laying out their wardrobe for their telework days. Just before co-workers began to cross the cat-walk in pajamas, workout clothes, bike pants, grass-stained garden clothes, weight-lifting attire, scarves to hide unkempt hair, satin robes over blue jeans, and clashing combos of every type, the MCs mentioned that one of their pet peeves about telework was that there was no one to tell them how cute they looked.

Fast forward, and the purpose of the one-day off-site for this already extraordinary organization was to sustain productivity and excellence while fully embracing flexible work schedules. Most of the work that the staff does is completed in teams. Yet, over 90% of the workforce members have some form of flexible schedule, telework, or other flexible hours agreements. As a group, they clearly love the flexibility that these arrangements offer individuals but recognize the privilege and responsibility with which such schedules come. Staff members commented that when they are in the office, there are many times when very few of their co-workers are present. They have come to grips with many of the challenges and wanted to co-create alternatives and solutions for other challenges.

As I listened to these amazing teams and individuals describe their challenges in balancing individual needs and team needs, I was struck by how their issues fell into a couple of the key areas that distinguish ordinary teams from extraordinary ones.

Navigating Challenges in Remote Team Management

Telework presents unique challenges for remote team members’ productivity, requiring adjustments in communication and meeting practices. Questions arise regarding rescheduling meetings, the inclusion of virtual members, interpreting body language in virtual communication, and ensuring virtual team members feel heard and acknowledged.

It’s important to ensure that virtual team members feel remembered, heard, and included in discussions. Teams that have a high degree of telework risk moving down a rung on the continuum of extraordinariness, from extraordinary to solid or from solid to ordinary.  No one wants to lose this productive edge. Much of the solution lies in bringing the remote participants into their presence. Below are some of the challenges I noticed when discussing the apparent challenges of working from home.

Challenges of Telework:

  • Staying fully engaged when not present at the work site, aka a lack of productivity.
  • Embracing differences and respecting the shift in communication for virtual team members.
  • Need for rescheduling meetings for teleworking members.
  • Ensuring inclusion and remembering virtual team members in invitations.
  • Understanding body language cues in virtual communication.
  • Ensuring virtual team members feel heard and acknowledged.
  • Effective sharing of work products via technology.


Additionally, finding effective ways to share work products through technology is essential for productive virtual meetings and remote teams. The list of considerations and strategies for successful telework continues, highlighting the need for adaptable approaches in remote collaboration.

Extraordinary Teams Are Not Just High Performing

Extraordinary teams also provide opportunities for personal transformation while delivering outstanding results. In the development of the Extraordinary Teams Inventory, we’ve identified five characteristics of extraordinary teams in our work: compelling purpose, profound learning, full engagement, strengthened relationships, and embracing differences.

Exploring Two Key Characteristics of Extraordinary Teams in the Virtual Work Environment

1. Full Engagement

  • Change Meetings 101 to Extraordinary Meetings 101. We all know meetings need agendas, but too few have one. Virtual participation makes the need for an agenda that is visual and tactile even more important. Further, the agenda needs to recognize and address the shape-shift that virtual attendance brings. Specifically, build the agenda in a way that teleworkers have actions and pre-work prior to the meeting and have a specific time on the agenda.
  • Conduct an embodiment check. When the meeting starts, acknowledge the virtual participants and bring everyone together by centering the group on a purpose. What I mean is go around and let each member acknowledge how they are feeling. As a leader, model this by going first. Turn off your cell phone, put it away, and say that you are doing that. Verbally bring yourself present, mentioning what you are letting go of to focus on this meeting and its purpose.
  • Make the invisible visible. When discussions are held, move from a free-for-all to a structured format. One novel idea that emerged was a Flat Stanley approach – put up a photo of the virtual worker at a seat at the table, and as the discussion rotates systematically around the table, they have a formal place in it.


2. Embracing Difference

  • Conflict is hard face-to-face. It’s harder when we can’t see each other and react to body language. When conflict is apparent, say how you are feeling or what sensation you are having. Say something like, “I’m feeling uncomfortable about” and then make your statement. End by asking the virtual participant to state how they are feeling about the position. Say something like, “So, how does that sit with you?”
  • Bring patience and appreciation into the discussion. Having technology filters the finer points of hearing and understanding people and can contribute to less tolerance. Figure out ways to not just talk; share real-time visuals by taking pictures with your smartphone and sharing these across the telework gap.
  • Sub-group including the virtual member in a smaller group. Collaboration is the hallmark behavioral indicator of embracing differences. So, on a separate conference line where the virtual team member is actively engaged with fewer group members, have the virtual team member give the sub-group report to the larger group.


Want to learn more about the five characteristics of extraordinary teams? Discover more in HRDQ’s Extraordinary Teams Inventory 2.0

Facilitating Extraordinary Teams and Remote Team Productivity

Yes, extraordinary teams have the ability to achieve tangible results. But what makes them so spectacular is that they do something ordinary teams cannot; they cultivate an exciting, collaborative environment that’s built upon mutual trust, respect, and engagement.

As team members, individuals experience a positive personal change, and that means your organization reaps the benefits of better team performance and employees with increased skills, connections, loyalty, and enthusiasm for their work.

In the age of telework, it is essential to adapt and optimize remote team productivity. By implementing the strategies outlined in this blog post, you can elevate your team’s performance and create an extraordinary virtual work environment. Embrace the challenges and opportunities of remote work and unlock the full potential of your team’s productivity and collaboration.

Headshot of Kevin Coray
Kevin E. Coray, Ph.D.

Kevin E. Coray, Ph.D., is an industrial and organizational psychologist and master somatic coach. Kevin is a consultant to leaders, teams, and organizations. He is also co-author of the popular Extraordinary Teams series. Kevin brings over 35 years of experience consulting for coaching executives and teams and improving organizational performance as the leader of CGS Strategy, an award-winning national consulting firm he ran for 27 years.

Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.

Recommended Webinar
From Losing Out to Standing Out: What We Know about Extraordinary Teams

Elevate workforce performance and empower your team to stand out by transforming low-performing teams with proven strategies from Extraordinary Teams.

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