In a survey conducted in 2017, 43% of American workers reported that they spent at least some time working remotely. As more employees and organizations embrace the remote working model, it has given way to some unique challenges.
Buffer (an organization with 100% remotely working employees), conducted research into the many challenges associated with the remote working model. Here are the top findings:
As you can see, effective collaboration is one of the top two challenges, and for obvious reasons. Distance and in many cases, different time zones make it difficult to stay on track, especially if there are many individuals collaborating.
If this sounds familiar, read on. Here are a few tips to improve collaboration within your remote team(s):
Employ the Right Tools
The right collaboration tools are, obviously, critical to successful collaboration. However, the question is, what makes a collaboration tool “right”?
The answer lies within your organization. When choosing collaboration tools, ask yourself the following questions:
- What kind of work do you collaborate over?
- How large is your team?
If your team, for instance, needs to collaborate on meetings a majority of the time, a conferencing platform (Skype) and a project management platform (Flock) will get the job done. If, however, your team members need to collaborate over creative collateral, such as social media graphics or website content, you will need tools that offer more features.
For creative teams, virtual whiteboards offer some great advantages. Compatible with mobile devices, these whiteboards pack a host of features such as ideo conferencing, polling, and graph plotting abilities, among many others.
When it comes to collaborating with people in different geographical locations and time zones, effective communication is the key.
To make sure there is minimal miscommunication within your remote team, make sure of the following things:
- Communicate in as much detail as possible. Sure, including some fragments of information may seem unnecessary at times, but still do it. After all, it is better to be safe than to be sorry.
- When sharing messages that have multiple points, make sure you share all the points in the same message. This way, every teammate will be able to share their thoughts. This will help you cut short the time spent on each discussion.
- Document every conversation. No matter how small the conversation was, make sure everyone knows about it in detail. This way, you will be able to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the decisions that have been made.
- Finally, only communicate when it is absolutely necessary, especially on group chats. Every notification that an employee receives can be a potential source of distraction.
Don’t Forget the Importance of Team Building
The Buffer study in the beginning of this article also listed ‘loneliness’ as one of the top challenges associated with remote working.
With open lines of communication, loneliness can be effectively battled. To take this a step further, with virtual team building practices, you can instill a sense of belonging to employees sitting on the other side of the planet.
These efforts don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. Simply using an ice-breaker at the beginning of every meeting goes a long way. Another great idea is to have a virtual ritual for birthdays. Sure, you cannot send everyone on your team a physical cake. However, you can spend a few minutes on a video conference singing them the birthday song!
The point is, these informal opportunities to socialize with the team with make each individual actually feel like part of a team. Moreover, these informal social interactions may also result in more efficient collaboration by improving the relationship and hence, the ease of communication within your team.
While it is true that the remote working model presents employers and employees with significant benefits, the key to enjoying these benefits is to overcome the unique challenges associated with this working model.