“How do I switch my company to a fully remote mode?”
“How do I enable smooth remote team collaboration between my employees?”
“How do I make sure my employees stay motivated while working remotely?”
These are some questions raging through the minds of many companies’ leadership teams who are switching over to a fully remote or hybrid workplace.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant shift in workplace dynamics. It has driven companies to rethink their management structure, work set up, and become more adaptive to change. Transitioning to the new normal, most firms are planning to implement long-lasting solutions to collaborate with remote teams effectively.
However, if you are forming a distributed workforce for the first time, setting up a sustainable remote team collaboration system can be a daunting task. Having said that, pairing the right collaboration strategy with technology can make this transition fairly easier for you.
In fact, according to Alfresco survey, nearly 83% of professionals depend on technology to collaborate.
1. What is remote team collaboration?
The term remote team collaboration means virtually working with your team through various digital collaborative platform. It includes communicating in real-time, sharing ideas, updates, and feedback through a unified interface. For a company that’s new to remote collaboration, following are the digital amenities that support this initiative
- A virtual collaboration platform where you can meet one-on-one or in a group to communicate real-time. This includes a messaging app and a video conferencing platform.
- A file-sharing space, often cloud storage, that will work as a central repository for all your work and updates. Companies either use a globally available storage system like Google Drive, One Drive, etc., or internal server storage if handling highly sensitive files.
- Task- and time- management tools that easily help with collaboration and tracking like digital whiteboards, Kanban boards, program management software, etc.
2. Importance of remote team collaboration
Employees, managers, and leaders alike enjoy many benefits while working remotely. When employees and teams work together, it invariably leads to better coordination, and everyone stays committed to the deadlines and targets. Here are some reasons why remote team collaboration is crucial for a project’s success –
Fosters inclusion and diversity
Remote working has broken one of the main barriers of working from office– Geographical boundaries. With companies hiring from across the world, teams are now comprised of people from diverse cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. When employees belonging to these different backgrounds collaborate effectively, it provides a fair opportunity to everyone, regardless of their caste, community, race, etc., to voice their opinions. This fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion at the organization.
Gives a sense of autonomy
In a survey by Trinity Solutions, about 69% of employees responded that they considered changing jobs because of micromanagement.
When teams work remotely, it’s arduous for managers to keep a tab on each employee or resource. Thus, managers start delegating tasks to competent resources, which gives them a sense of autonomy and responsibility. Moreover, when these tasks are shared on a collaborative platform, it helps them understand how their work can contribute to the bigger picture, thus garnering self-discipline.
When teams work remotely, additional care is taken to ensure communication, exchange of necessary files, and updates happen in real-time. Or else, it can cause potential delays in meeting project deadlines. Uninterrupted collaboration between remote teams ensures that every update regarding the project or submission of files after every task is done instantaneously. Additionally, employees don’t waste time commuting for meetings, thus increasing productivity hours.
Promotes multi-faceted talent pool
As mentioned, there are no geographical restrictions when it comes to recruiting resources for remote work. This allows firms to hire the best candidates with exceptional competencies and form a multi-faceted talent pool. Further, managers can create a team of these resources who can contribute their learnings and ideas, and translate them into reality. Such resources bring in more innovation and are a ready asset for diverse projects.
Cultivates effective communication
According to Owl Labs CEO Frank Weishaupt, one of the main challenges of remote working remains to be ineffective communication. So, efficient remote team collaboration helps with real-time updates between the team members, thereby creating an effective communication channel. It also enables the managers and team members to be more transparent with each other concerning project updates, hurdles, etc., thus forming a culture of trust and transparency.
Thus, when remote teams communicate and collaborate well, they get an advantage by leveraging their strengths. Here are some significant things that can go wrong if the remote team collaboration is not handled efficiently.
3. How can poor remote team collaboration affect performance?
According to a survey by Salesforce,
About 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.
Poor remote team collaboration can affect the business negatively in many ways. It can impact different levels – from creating disturbance within the team to affecting project delivery or even posing security risks such as data breaches, especially when data security policies are not implemented properly on collaborative platforms.
When collaboration is disrupted, it will form silos between teams due to a lack of real-time updates, uninterrupted communication, etc. Thus, it will create more room for discrepancies and conflicts. This will eventually lead to a dip in their productivity, further deteriorating their performance.
Real-time collaboration allows managers to stay updated on the tasks’ progress, gives them insights into the resource productivity, etc. When this is interrupted, it can cause potential delays in projects due to the lack of timely receipt of updates and necessary files.
Additionally, poor remote team collaboration can also lead to employee disengagement. When employees are not interacting with their team members or managers, it can lead to isolation, loss of interest and productivity, etc.
4. 7 effective ways to boost remote team collaboration
One major component of boosting remote team collaboration is to be attentive to your employees and team members. Remote working has hindered the usual coffee breaks, lunch time gossips, and even celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries in person. So, so it is important to be humane virtually too. A few best practices can propel your remote team to collaborate and perform effectively. They are enlisted below:
Establish rapport & a sense of community
There is a lot at stake when it comes to onboarding your team onto a project. Without it, a team member might feel not-welcomed and left out, and might lose interest in the project right at the start. Managers can help break the ice and establish rapport between the team members before the project briefing. This can be achieved by organizing icebreakers and other team-building activities that are communication-intensive. It allows the team members to get to know each other, understand diverse perspectives, and connect on a human level.
When the team is well connected, it gets easier to work cohesively towards the common goal. Moreover, by inculcating respect, they can brainstorm better, innovate more, and work together for the project’s success.
Align timelines and boundaries
Research shows that 70% of employees end up working on weekends as well, and 45% regularly put in more hours than before.
This can lead to burnout quickly and deteriorate the mental and physical well-being of the workforce. Thus, it is crucial for managers to set timelines, realistic deadlines, & clear expectations, and optimally allocate tasks right at the beginning. Companies can also implement asynchronous communication channels to employees working across time zones to facilitate fast sharing of completed files and prevent any lag.
In those times when synchronous communication is crucial such as daily stand-ups, managers can set up an agreed-upon time that aligns with everyone’s time zones and work hours. It will help everyone stay on the same page and prevent any discrepancies without getting fatigued.
Keep track of KPIs and celebrate milestones
Just as real-time file sharing is crucial, real-time tracking of employees’ productivity, and exchanging feedback are also important. Managers can track the project KPIs using a project or resource management tool in real-time and then conduct the feedback sessions in case of any challenges or deviations from the expected outcome. This gives space for open communication, a chance for improvement, and allows the team members to rectify early on before the project gets impacted.
Moreover, this real-time tracking of relevant KPIs also provides insights into the project timeline and thus gives a chance to celebrate significant milestones. Managers can hold virtual rewards and recognitions to acknowledge the good work and motivate the team, eventually enhancing their remote work productivity. This uplifts the team’s motivation, thus encouraging them to collaborate more and improve their results further.
Conduct regular stand-up meetings
As discussed earlier, it is challenging for managers to stay updated on the project’s progress and individual tasks when the team is dispersed across geographical locations. To combat this challenge, managers can conduct daily stand-up meetings before they begin the day or during the pre-decided time zone that suits everyone.
They can get updates from individual team members, understand resource schedules, discuss priorities, and make necessary revisions. However, managers should ensure that these meetings do not cross 15-20 mins and are kept precise and brief to retain productivity. These meetings also enable the team members to identify any hurdles they are facing or foresee and brainstorm to mitigate them.
Promote transparency and reliability
When people from different backgrounds collaborate remotely, trust is a challenge that could crop up very often. It can disturb the synergy between the team members and managers, which will further reflect in productivity and the project’s performance. Thus, managers must ensure that they garner a culture of transparency by conveying the roles and responsibilities clearly, providing honest feedback, and even communicating the setbacks to the team. This fosters trust between the team and managers.
This encourages the employees to be open about updates, ideas, challenges, and conflicts, which leads to efficient remote collaboration. Moreover, managers can show reliability by holding the employees accountable for specific tasks, generating a sense of autonomy and responsibility.
Prioritize employee engagement & recreation
Remote working has led to more isolation and loneliness without the usual water-cooler conversations and cubicles meet-ups. To keep these employees motivated, employee engagement is vital for any organization that works remotely.
The Gallup research shows that virtual team building activities bring in 41% lower absenteeism and 21% higher profitability.
Companies can organize virtual engagement activities, recreational games and organize hobby clubs for the employees from time to time to keep them engaged. Managers can also take their team out for retreats that offer great team bonding activities. This will revitalize employees and strengthen their bond, and they can collaborate better, work more efficiently, and produce better results.
Centralize updates using the right collaboration tools
As mentioned earlier, technology is a great enabler for the smooth functioning of remote team collaboration. Some necessary tools that can enable collaboration are task management tools with Kanban boards, clutter-free messaging and conferencing platform(s), cloud services for central data repositories, and many more.
Similarly, a modern resource management software can be a great addition to the tool inventory. It can provide 360-degree visibility of the entire resource pool regardless of their location, procure real-time KPI reports and dashboards using BI, and so on. It’s important to note that a tool inventory is unique to every organization based on their needs and requirements. Overall, these tools can aid collaboration, enhance productivity, and improve overall efficiency.
Remote working might become permanent for many organizations in this post-pandemic world. Fortunately, the technology advancements and access to a plethora of tools have made the transition much easier and helped create a harmonious environment by facilitating remote team collaboration. With the personal connection decreasing at the work level, companies and managers can refer to the tips mentioned above to build a solution that blends the digital and human aspects of project success.
What are the effective collaborative practices that you have adopted for your organization?
6. The Glossary
7. SAVIOM Solution
SAVIOM is the market leader in helping multinational clients manage their resources efficiently and effectively. With over 20 years of experience, this Australian-based MNC has a global presence across 50 countries and has helped 100+ clients with their Workforce Planning Software. Saviom also provides tools for Enterprise Project Resource Management, Project Portfolio Management, and Professional Service Automation. Boost your remote team collaboration with Saviom.