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How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote

Category: B2B News

The steady increase of companies employing a full or partial remote workforce isn’t budging at all. Therefore, it’s a safe bet for businesses to consider that it’s here to stay and will probably become the norm for generations of employees to come. Part of its boom is thanks to the steady rise of remote work solutions that are being used as a medium to bridge the physical distance between the workers. Now, the only concern left to deal with is how to collaborate effectively if your team is remote.

After all, it’s not the tech stack you build that’s going to determine the success of your remote work campaign. Proper strategies must also be put in place. These include setting a consistent goal, expectations, and more. To help you out, we have compiled so tips and strategies that you can try out to ensure better remote collaboration across your organization.

remote teams - how to collaborate effectively

When you shoot for a remote workforce, it’s like casting your net across the entire ocean. With broader access to talent pools, you’ll have more chances of finding people that are best suited to your business. Aside from that, there are other advantages to hiring remote workers. These include reduced expenses for businesses and their staff, improved employee retention, and higher productivity rate.

However, it must be said that it’s not always sunshine and rainbows when it comes to managing remote workers. There are still many challenges that must be faced by both employees and their employers. Only 5% of businesses don’t struggle in managing their global teams.

One of the main issues faced by remote teams is effective collaboration. That’s because even if they’re far from each other physically, work is still mostly collaborative. Most teams collaborate daily, and only very few collaborate once a month.

Source: SHRM.org

With that said, here are some tips you can use in laying some ground rules for collaboration that your remote teams could use to maximize the potential of your work setup.

1. Standardize Communication Platforms

These days, there’s a lot of communication platforms at our disposal–emails, texts, instant messaging, web conference tools, and more. Since proper communication is the backbone of successful remote team collaboration, it’s great to have so many choices when it comes to accomplishing just that. This, however, doesn’t mean that you have to use all of them. In fact, we argue the opposite.

If you resort to using many communication tools, mishaps are bound to happen sooner or later. Messages might not get conveyed properly or just outright ignored since the receiving party did not get it. Looking up information will become a hassle as well. You’ll have to conduct your search in multiple platforms just to find that one message where an important instruction was given. If such scenarios persist, things could go haywire real quick.

The best way to tackle this is to standardize your team’s communication platform. Choose one communication channel for getting in touch with each other. This immediately solves the issues of overlooking messages and having to search through multiple systems to find a piece of information. This convenience is why communication platforms are considered some of the best telecommuting tools today.

But of course, you don’t have to limit your team’s communication arsenal to one if it means sacrificing productivity. For instance, video conference software is good for team huddles. However, it’s not efficient to use it as the primary channel to chat. So you can simply adopt both and use the one that’s ideal for its purpose. As long as you make it clear to the entire team what each channel is for, everything should be fine.

RingCentral Video configuration

RingCentral Video is capable of handling up to 500 participants in a meeting.

Examples of communication platforms:

RingCentral Video

RingCentral Video is a comprehensive conferencing software ideal for holding 1:1 or group conferences, hosting online training and webinars, etc. With this, you can hold HD meetings for up to 500 interactive participants, making remote communication easy.

Slack

Slack is an all-in-one communication tool where you can hold online conferences, send files, and more. Using this platform, you can collaborate with your colleagues with minimal disturbances as it offers instant messaging options as well.

Detailed Slack Review

Skype

Skype is a business communication platform that is fit for upstarts and smaller teams because of its free offerings. This popular platform not only offers instant messaging options but also video conferencing and audio calling tools.

Detailed Skype Review

2. Create Consistent Work Rules

Being far away from each other doesn’t mean doing whatever each one pleases. Everyone’s still part of a remote team, with “team” being the operative word. This means that there are rules that each member must abide to. The management has to create good and consistent guidelines for their employees to follow. These guidelines make it easier for teams to learn how to work remotely.

This must include all aspects of work. For instance, employees must come to an agreement when it comes to working hours. There must also be clear goals for each employee every day. Be it completing an 8-hour shift, completing smaller milestones for bigger projects, and more. Additionally, the management must create a general rule for addressing work-related problems, such as establishing a way for flagging issues and the likes.

The policies must be formalized and agreed upon. And just like office-based guidelines, they must also be periodically revisited and revised when necessary. It’s one of the best ways to ensure consistent productivity and performance, regardless if you’re working in the office or outside.

3. Set Boundaries for Flexible Work Hours

One of the main draws of remote work is flexibility. Being able to work at the comfort of your home without strictly adhering to the 8-5 work hours is great. It can improve productivity, but only when handled right. And one of the factors that should be handled with care for in this scenario is the work hours.

Flexible remote hours doesn’t have to be absolute. More so if you’re employees must constantly work with others. Scattered working time will easily form a divide within your team. This could directly reflect on their performance.

For instance, someone might need a file, information, or an answer urgently from a teammate. However, since the other one isn’t online yet, his/her work could be halted or delayed. This is even more apparent in newbies or trainees where they usually have to be guided by a senior member.

The good news is that it’s not necessary to give up the flexible work hours that employees love so much. Setting a time where every member of the team is online can be effective enough in most cases. You could also try to arrange a window of hours where employees must be present on their job while the remaining work hours is theirs to set.

Regardless, scheduling tools are useful in this situation. Perhaps better, time tracking solutions with scheduling capabilities. These include Time Doctor, DeskTime, and Harvest.

4. Invest in the Right Project Management Tool

Complex projects typically involve a lot of moving parts that keeping tabs on all of them can be a challenge. In a remote work scenario, team leaders can’t simply go to the production floor to supervise their members. It’s also possible that multiple teams are working on similar projects and each of them uses different apps. Delegation of resources might be troublesome, too.

A good solution for all of these is to employ a good project management software — one that can consolidate all the abovementioned variables in a single, organized platform. Project management tools provide an avenue for your teams to centralize everything from communication to collaboration. People involved will have a clear go-to page in which they could see the updated status of their tasks. With all these in place, collaboration is a lot easier and more effective.

This is more efficient compared to using spreadsheets, emails, and other tools that need a lot of attention and are more prone to human errors. However, not just any project management software will do. It’s worth taking a look into some solutions and pick the one that will bring benefits to your business in the long run.

If you’re unsure which project management software to start with, you can give monday.com a try. It’s a collaboration-first platform that streamlines the process of contributions and teams helping each other. It displays a comprehensible set of data that shows the progress of each project. Assigning tasks is made easier, too, with the managers having access to both the general and detailed look about the personnel, tasks, schedules, and more.

monday.com

monday.com

Try out monday.com with their free trial

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monday.com used for social media planning

monday.com as used for social media planning.

5. Have One Storage Space for Official Documents

To be able to collaborate and work effectively, remote team employees need easy access to information related to their work. But since remote teams are working from different locations, it could be a challenge to always find the data immediately with ease.

This is where storage systems come in. They provide users with a single location where they can store any document. For remote teams, it is ideal to choose a cloud storage system. It offers many benefits like the ability to easily access and manage data, retrieve lost documents, allow employees to work on-the-go, and of course, help distributed teams work well together.

When using cloud storage, remember to consider the security and reliability of the platform. Since the access to information becomes distributed across several remote locations, the probability of data breach could rise. There are many ways to safeguard access to your data. You can set clear security policy, use tools that verify data access or provide users with access to data they only need, encrypt data and more.

When you store all business-related documents in one location, however, organizing the data can be a challenge. To help you deal with this, consider creating folders for different departments or different projects. You can also create file naming conventions for the team so that it’s easier to search and retrieve files later on.

As for the tools to use, there are many out there that provide good service for free, such as Google Drive and Box. You can check more in our list of file sharing solutions.

Google Drive dashboard

Google Drive is part of the G-Suite apps, which makes it great for sharing files across different systems.

6. Maintain Transparency Across Your Organization

When your team members are working remotely, you aren’t meeting face-to-face and are less likely to know what each one of you is doing. This could be a challenge and may result in poor performance or productivity. If you want your team to work together seamlessly and successfully, you have to make sure that everyone remains on the same page.

You need to take appropriate measures so that everyone is informed of the latest updates on the projects they are working on or the latest announcements in your organization. Build a culture without secrets. When you share with your employees all the information they need to know, you can develop trust. And trust is essential to any relationship.

Take advantage of technology. Choosing and implementing accountability software for remote workers can be a huge help in maintaining transparency. Moreover, you can use a communication tool that allows all team members to efficiently and quickly communicate with one another. Use workflow management software that helps you keep things on track and lets all team members see what their colleagues are working on.

Top Traits of Good Virtual Teammates in 2018

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Source: Culture Wizard

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7. Formulate Clear Expectations

A lack of expectations can undermine performance within your team and negatively impact your relationship, teamwork, and engagement. It can also result in grievances, unfair dismissal claims, destructive conflict, and more. So if you want effective collaboration among your team members, make sure they know what you expect from them. And you should ensure the expectations are clear. Take note that everyone has a different idea of what doing something “well” or “quickly” means.

To help you formulate expectations, think about the gaps that exist on your remote team. Figure out where you are falling short. But these expectations won’t do anything well if the team does not understand it. So once again, you’ll need to have effective communication with your staff. It helps if you provide them with justification and context for expectations.

8. Encourage Socialization Within Your Team

Human beings are social by nature, and this shows in their workplace too. Officemates have the chance to bond by talking with their seatmates, eating at the cafeteria together, etc. However, for remote workers, such chances don’t exist. In fact, 26% of remote workers feel socially isolated.

This lack of human-to-human interaction might affect the morale of the group. Some members might feel left out, lonely, and simply craving for connection with the people they work with. This might result in some of your employees being burned out or depressed.

A regular dose of physical presence for team members might not be an option at all because of great geographical differences. Therefore, one way to work around it is through the use of remote communication methods. Your remote members can take advantage of the technologies that are specially made to bridge physical distance for social activities.

You can set up less formal chatrooms where members can talk about non-business related stuff. A watercooler place where they can talk about their favorite movies, extend birthday greetings, etc. Virtual coffee breaks are also helpful in giving the members a chance to socialize more with their team. Physical meetups can also be arranged every once in a while, even if it’s just once a year.

Tips for Remote Workers

This article is created mostly with remote team leaders or managers in mind. The success or failure of a remote work setup is indeed highly dependent on the strategies that higher-ups will create and implement. That’s why we recommend also taking a look at our remote team management guide for 2020.

However, that’s only one side of the story. Remote workers themselves must also do their part by:

  • Finding a comfortable, distraction-free, work-conducive space in their homes.
  • Actively avoiding distractions like social media.
  • Tracking their time.
  • Checking for feedback.
  • Practicing self-discipline.
  • Taking breaks.

That’s just a few tips to follow if remote employees want to be more productive. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out our guide, which provides 20 essential rules for remote workers.

Jenny Chang

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

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