10 Ways for Remote Teams to Win During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is a hectic time for many businesses, between higher demand and more people taking vacations. You may have an entirely distributed team or remote workers helping out during this period. Use these ten strategies to get your remote teams on the right track throughout the holidays.

1. Create a holiday game plan.

Spend more time on your project planning during this season, as you have many logistical difficulties to consider. Juggling seasonal employees, temporary off-site employees and your primary team present more challenges than a typical game plan. Be prepared to adjust on the fly to unexpected situations that could throw the entire team off-course. When in doubt, add more flexibility rather than less. 

2. Centralize communications to avoid out of office problems.

When critical project assets and information are hiding in someone’s inbox, the last thing you want to see is an out of office message. You’re dealing with a lot of variable availability during the holidays, so rely on a centralized communication platform to retain access to everything you need to complete the project.

3. Focus on opportunities to work together.

Many remote teams fall into the trap of working individually on their own tasks, only coming together to fit everything together right before the deadline. You can’t risk this approach during the holidays when people drop in and out of the project as their schedules allow. Family emergencies, travel difficulties and other unexpected situations could leave the project hanging with no way to move forward. Start holiday projects with a collaborative approach, using remote team communication platforms with strong collaboration features, such as Trello or GitHub. Work in some redundancy on the key roles to accommodate the unique challenges of this time of year. 

4. Create a holiday celebration chat channel.

If you require all communication to be 100 percent formal and relating to the project at all times, you make it nearly impossible to build rapport among your remote team. Create a holiday channel or use an application that supports informal discussion tools. The team can talk about their family plans and show off their favorite gifts.

5. Arrange for downtime after the holiday push.

You often deal with shorter timelines during the holidays, whether you’re putting out time-sensitive seasonal materials or working around everyone’s vacations. Acknowledge that the team is going to work hard, but show the light at the end of the tunnel through post-holiday downtime. 

6. Build feedback into your holiday project processes.

You don’t always have time to work frequent meetings or feedback sessions into a fast paced project schedule. Don’t try to take time away from your timeline to provide much needed feedback throughout this process. Instead, leverage the social features in your project management tool to add input in real-time.

7. Check in often to learn about holiday disruptions.

Have one-on-one and group meetings with the remote team, ideally with video conferencing so you can get an early heads-up on any potential problems due to the holidays. Your team might hold off on coming to you when they have an unexpected time crunch, in hopes that they can somehow make it work around a rapidly changing schedule. When you’re being proactive with your outreach, you keep communication channels open. 

8. Adjust your project timeline expectations.

Holiday planning, traveling and other preparations create a lot of distractions. Your remote workers may be on the road and away from their regular work spaces. They may not have the quiet atmosphere they’re used to at home or in a coworking space. Try to keep these factors in mind when you look at the time it takes to reach each milestone. While you want to get everything done as quickly as possible, you don’t want to create a situation where tasks need to be redone. 

9. Pay attention to the holiday dates.

Remote workers may be all over the world, so you can’t assume that everyone celebrates the same holidays as you move into the end of the year. Keep notes on your calendar so you can coordinate time off, handle scheduling appropriately and know when to wish everyone a happy holiday. 

10. Have a virtual holiday event.

In-house teams often take part in company-wide holiday celebrations, which provide a break from the relentless pace often required for projects. While you might not be able to bring everyone together for an office party, you can plan other holiday events. Secret Santas still work even when you operate remotely. Consider covering shipping costs for the team to get a good participation rate. You can also send a “party-in-a-box” that includes snacks and other small gifts.

It’s hard to get things done during the holiday. People are focused on their friends, family and end-of-year plans, but you still have a project that needs to be completed before New Years. These strategies give you multiple ways to approach this issue, whether you want to use one technique or incorporate them all into an upcoming project.