So, in this new digital working world, how can we make sure that our remote collaborations and teamwork are just as strong as they would have been when working together in person? Can we put tools and processes in place to encourage better communication to improve remote collaborations?
The benefits of improving remote collaborations
You might be thinking whether this is really necessary. Your teams may be working just fine at the moment without any big red flags. The work is probably still being handed in on time, and apart from the usual growing pains in any company, things are going pretty smoothly in this remote environment. Even if this is the case, a lot of benefits can come from working on improving remote collaborations.
This is bound to come out of actively trying to work together better. A lot of the time when we’re not in the same physical space there can be a desire to over-explain and give more information than really needed, which can make things a little confusing.
More effective problem solving
Another great advantage that you’ll find once you start working on improving remote collaborations. You’ll find that there will be more diverse and dynamic teams as it’s easier to set up email chains and the odd virtual meeting than it is to carve out an hour and a meeting room in the office. More minds working on a problem means more innovative solutions.
Higher employee retention rates
This is an interesting advantage that not many teams think of. The bottom line is that people will stick around much longer when they feel valued, trusted and when they feel that they are doing worthwhile work. Having better team collaboration and communications is sure to improve those feelings, leading to happier people working for you.
A big plus for most people. Remember being in the office every day and feeling like the majority of your time was spent sitting in a room full of people thinking ‘I really don’t need to be here’. You barely say a word, and you leave feeling like you’re even more behind on your work now than before that meeting? Meetings are a killer of productivity, and it gets much easier to see the really necessary ones when you’re in a different space. It’s also easier to have one person keep time in virtual meetings and lessen the time needed to say the same things.
How to effectively increase your remote collaborations
Communication is key
Effectively communicating across different time zones and teams is essential for better collaboration. If you can believe it, it’s even more important than working together in person because the ability to drop by someone’s desk to ask for clarification is now removed. Of course, it’s also easier to get a sense of someone’s tone or intentions when they are in front of you, versus over the phone or in an email.
You should encourage daily stand-ups in the morning to make sure everyone is consistently on the same page, make these as short as possible, they’re supposed to be simple check-in meetings.
Be clear when you’re communicating to your teams, ensure that you simply and concisely communicate in easy to understand sentences. Think about if the information you’re about to send is really relevant, if it changes how they will work on something, then, of course, send it over. But if it’s not going to make a difference, it can just cloud the task at hand.
Use virtual communication tools, chat platforms like Slack are invaluable when quickly confirming something. A great tip when using these is to use mostly Channels when talking about a project so that everyone involved can see the opinions, changes or updates from everyone else. If your team is only talking to each other in private messages it can be very difficult for other people to know what the status of each task is.
Set clear objectives
You can work on this in your stand-ups, always be clear about what you, ideally, would need from your team on a weekly basis. They should then be responsible for letting you know if those goals are realistic or not.
Clearly defining your team’s schedules makes it much easier for everyone to collaborate together, set meetings at appropriate times and define dedicated timings for things like feedback rounds. Does your whole team work in the same time zone? Do some people work a hybrid office and at home schedule? If so it would be beneficial to have these working times set up in a shared calendar.
Dedicate one person per team to be the documentation caretaker. This means in meetings they’ll be taking notes of any upcoming tasks that need to be taken care of and keeping these in dedicated shared folders. This way if someone has a question about a meeting they were in a week ago they can refer to the responsibilities documentation, keeping the flow of information easy and open.
Creating monthly company-wide update presentations is a great way to show the whole team that you’re dedicated to transparency and honesty. It also keeps everyone informed about company-wide KPIs, as well as being up to date with the projects and processes that other departments are working on. Having an open communication strategy will make your employees feel valued and trusted, which then turns into motivation.
Celebrate the good things
Working remotely can feel a bit like working behind the scenes – the work gets done but no one sees it happening. Celebrating both the small and big wins increases your team’s sense of belonging to a real team and increases the chance of effective remote collaboration. Doing this will also naturally increase the strength of you company culture. When this doesn’t happen employees can feel undervalued and isolated, making it more difficult to get the same work done.
Don’t underestimate the power of simple socialisation when it comes to better remote collaborations. Continuing your team events and switching them to virtual friendly activities can dramatically increase the amount of effective teamwork that happens, not only within teams, but with cross-collaborations as well. Online team events can still take the form of lunches, but during these events ‘work-talk’ shouldn’t be encouraged, the idea is to get people bonding on a personal level.
In short, you should be clear with your team’s objectives and intentions, keep up to date with project timelines by using the right tools, and think about your communication strategies. One of the hardest things to do while managing a remote team is getting personal connections going, so don’t slow down on the team events and you’ll notice a change in the effective remote collaborations across your team.