- 90% of employees think that flexible environments lead to an increase in their morale.
That’s what a study made by Staples showed in 2019. It’s been 3 years since, and no one could have foreseen what followed: the boom of remote collaboration caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Overnight, most of the workforce all around the globe was pinned down at home. And that’s when remote collaboration entered the stage.
Of course, working with remote teams is not something cutting-edge. Companies used to hire people no matter where they lived and paid them for their services, cutting down geographic barriers along the way. However, the pandemic enforced this shift all of a sudden, and some people might have been caught off guard – both employees and employers. What we know today is that remote work is here to stay and that’s why, In today’s article, we teach you how to make remote team collaboration work at its finest.
What is remote collaboration?
According to Gartner Glossary, ‘remote collaboration – also known as ‘work from home’ (WFH), or ‘telecommuting’ – is a type of flexible working arrangement that allows an employee to work from a remote location outside of corporate offices’. Remote collaboration imposes the use of digital technology to share ideas, work files, and communicate in real-time, without the need for physical interaction between employees.
Remote team collaboration brings challenges and benefits to both leaders and employers.
‘How to make remote team collaboration work?’ – this is one of the main struggles employees have to deal with, in their quest to create a productive work environment. Thank God there are remote team communication strategies for effective remote team working. Stick with us to learn how you can make the best out of your work, as an employer, or as an employee, if you’re working with remote teams!
How to make remote team collaboration work?
1. Turn icebreakers into a ‘time out’ strategy
Let’s face it. No one is having the time of their life, 24/7, at work. S*** happens and that’s absolutely normal. In those moments, you need to be prepared to deal with the tension in the (virtual) room. Icebreaker questions for work are a great way to loosen up the atmosphere. Say ‘time out’ and randomly ask some of the following:
- What was their most recent Google search?
- What is the most interesting movie they’ve seen lately?
- What’s their biggest guilty pleasure?
- What’s the best team building book they’ve read?
- How would they define the best team building activities?
You could also go for icebreaker questions at the beginning of a virtual meeting, just to make everyone comfortable, or for icebreaker games to play during your virtual coffee break.
2. Communicate clearly
If you had to remember only one thing from this article, this would be it: effective remote team working = clear communication.
To do that, you need to:
- Provide your people with the right tools to fit the company’s goals and boost team productivity. (*We’ll talk about these tools later on).
- Clearly define all your employers’ schedules and give everyone access to each other’s availability. Know the time zones the employees are in, when these overlap in terms of working hours, and what the appropriate response time is.
- Don’t leave things open to interpretation when using written language. People can misunderstand a text, an email, or a comment, in the absence of tone and body language. Be crystal-clear and encourage that as well in working with remote teams.
3. Be transparent and trust-worthy
Trust and transparency are keywords when it comes to remote collaboration. People must trust each other in order to work effectively. They must see what the others are working on and how well they do it. To ensure that, you could:
- Go for daily check-ins, where the team can let their colleagues know what they’ve been doing the day before and what they’re up to for the day;
- Inform the others of the challenges they anticipate;
- Ask for help if needed
- Go for regular catch-up calls, that will not only boost productivity, but also the well-being of the team overall.
*Note: Do not turn these interactions into micromanagement tools, to constantly verify your team. Effective remote team working is based on professionalism and trust, not on controlling and belittling your colleagues.
4. Cut off unnecessary meetings
The best advice in this field comes from managers who’ve been interacting with lots of people throughout their careers; that is, reducing the number of virtual meetings in remote team collaboration. Usually, employees feel the need to increase the number of meetings to compensate for the decreased contact time, since employers don’t run by each other at the office day by day. However, virtual meetings have proven to be the most detrimental to productivity. Our advice is to hold those meetings that are absolutely necessary.
5. Help each other
When it comes to effectively collaborating with remote teams, this could be one of the most significant aspects. Supporting one another is more of a core value that should come from the company’s leaders. While working remotely, it is very easy to become distracted. There could be several factors. A team, for example, may lose morale and feel ignored by peers. A lack of appreciation may also have an impact on team members’ confidence. As a result, it is critical to reach out and maintain an open communication flow in order to understand everyone’s feelings. Furthermore, you cannot expect everyone to embrace the remote work culture effectively. Some people may require more time to adjust. The key to fostering a sustainable and productive remote collaboration is to support one another.
6. Strengthen the bond
In remote team collaboration, adaptability should be prioritized. Each team should be encouraged to come up with a workflow that works for them. For example, they could begin and end each day with a video call. It would give them a chance to share their planned task accomplishments and request help from other team members.
It is also nice to have scheduled virtual activities throughout the week to maintain a strong bond of collaboration on a company-wide level: Monday morning ‘catch-up coffee hour’, Tuesday afternoon workout, Wellness Wednesday with fruits and smoothies, or Friday afternoon for after-work drinks. If you also have some tech people on your team, maybe you could throw a live gaming session. These kinds of activities will keep employers connected to one another over long periods of time, which will reflect in their strong communication and high productivity.
Another aspect that strengthens the bond is encouraging video chats. Seeing your coworkers instead of just listening to them creates a more engaging interaction. With platforms such as Skype or Zoom, you can easily switch from video to screen sharing when you need to show a coworker something. Face-to-face conversations make remote collaboration more effective and dynamic.
7. Use the right tools
Each remote team, particularly those engaged in a digital agency, must be able to organize their work. These are the primary functions that remote collaboration requires in tools:
- Task scheduling
- Task allocation
- Results dashboard
If the day seems to be slipping away from you, there are tools available to help you keep track of time. Time management systems and software are useful for staying on top of your time, energy, and responsibilities. You can use something like Asana, which manages your projects and time. Other examples would be Timecamp, Trello, or Todoist.
Using the right tools assists teams in understanding what is expected of them at all times, as well as when the most important items are due. It also promotes effective remote team working because multiple people put in some effort at the same project. Here are some of the main tools most companies depend on:
- G Suite
- Microsoft Teams
8. Do not neglect company culture
With each step you take, you and your coworkers get closer to perfection. Remote collaboration can go above and beyond with technology, bringing everyone to their full efficiency potential in such an environment.
Company culture is frequently a source of pride in the workplace. When employees work together to support one another, a healthy environment is created for everyone. This dynamic can also exist remotely. You can use video chats again, but this time in a more casual, friendly manner. Face-to-face, supportive conversations via video chats, group chats, or phone calls keep company culture at the forefront. Birthdays, promotions, or any exciting event should be commemorated digitally. Checking in on one another during the workday can be a priceless and quick way to show your coworkers that you care and want to know how they’re doing. Collaboration isn’t just for tasks!
9. Did anyone say ‘virtual team building’?
Yea, no frowning. ‘Virtual team buildings’ are possible. Everything is possible nowadays and you need to find some time to unwind as well, even when working with remote teams. Workload and commitments can be exhausting. As a result, it is critical to engage in some fun activities in order to foster relationships and get to know each other better.
Virtual employee engagement activities teach them to communicate and cooperate better, while virtual team building activities are an excellent way to encourage remote team collaboration. The latter is used by successful teams to promote teamwork and positive work culture. More than that, virtual activities may be too much fun because they provide you with a myriad of ideas to play with. It could be anything from giving each other a tour of your homes or gardens, playing online trivia games, sharing bucket lists, or creating a story together. On eTeamBuilding, you can find some great games: