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How to Define and Strengthen Remote Teams

Dr. Coidakis Barss received her Ph.D. In organizational development, sustainable systems design from Case Western Reserve University, holds a Master in Science, Strategic Leadership and  a Master in Education, Instructional Design Technology. 


When your team is thrust into a challenging situation, know that it is possible to build a strong, positive culture through intentional design. 

While working in Houston during Hurricane Harvey, due to epic flooding, our teams transitioned to virtual meetings and remote work. In addition to conducting day-to-day work in service to the hospital, as a leader I was also responsible for the emotional well being of my team. 

We all agreed to meet daily at 10:00 am via virtual meeting. Our agenda included roll call and problem solving. Based on our experience, here are 5 R’s: Review, Retain, Reinforce, Reinvest, and Reframe.


Review your remote work practices and culture by following an After Action Review (AAR). Use these five questions to assess how your organizations and teams are adjusting to the new culture and norms: 

  • What is going well?
  • What is not working?
  • What may we stop?
  • What may we start?
  • What may we continue?


Retain your talent and keep them engaged by modifying your remote work policies for flexibility to support the differing needs of different teams. 


Reinforce your culture and how you bring to life the vision and values of your organization. 

  • Vision 
    • Research validates that teams who have shared goals are more effective. Integrate your vision into all communications. 
  • Values 
    • Communicate and demonstrate how you honor your core values by recognizing teammates who exemplify them. utilize hashtags like #teamwork #integrity in chats or texts.


Reinvest in your teammates. Invest in tools, education, and training to support your team. Asynchronous learning is a great way for self-paced development. A current and easy trend are 'playlists', a curated listing of online articles, assessments, videos, and TED Talks focused on a specific subject. Remote teammates may benefit from subjects like communication, collaboration, productivity, and relationship building. 


Reframe the idea of bonding and building relationships within the team. Intentionally create opportunities for teammates to connect.

  • Take a page from university online courses and set up a virtual 'water cooler' or 'hang out.' 
  • Set up voluntary virtual open office hours. 
  • Weekly or daily huddle meetings are a great touch base opportunity to form a community.





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About Author

Dr. Christina Barss
Dr. Christina Barss

Dr. Christina Barss is an experienced industry subject matter expert in improvement sciences and organizational culture change. Her unique blend of practical, academic, and art perspectives creates custom operational and employee engagement solutions that transform the bottom line. For example, her PhD in sustainable systems design focused on disparately located interprofessional teams in transition during lean transformation at a large, midwestern, urban, academic medical center. Dr. Barss' 12 years in healthcare were filled leading strategic enterprise-level initiatives to improve patient safety, quality, service, and innovation as well as teaching and coaching executives. From C-suite to frontline, she connects seamlessly and guides others in building trust bridges. Her continuous improvement science foundation began in the manufacturing industry. She presents nationally and internationally on design thinking, change management, organizational culture, corporate learning, executive education, and succession planning.

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