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If your team is operating remotely, you’re enjoying a number of key benefits. There are also plenty of disadvantages and challenges facing you. One of them is collaboration. Finding ways to efficiently collaborate when you aren’t physically present in the same room can be difficult. However, it’s definitely possible.
The Challenges of Remote Collaboration
When your workforce is scattered across different locations, time zones, and devices, it introduces some very real challenges into your business.
According to entrepreneur Devin Pickell, “20% of remote workers cited problems with collaboration and communication as the biggest struggle when working remotely, which isn’t ideal as 78% of CEOS surveyed by PwC recognised a permanent momentum shift towards remote collaboration in the workplace.”
More specifically, teams experience challenges like:
- Lack of coordination. When your team is working face-to-face in the same physical location, staying coordinated is as easy as hosting a daily team meeting and/or dropping into a coworker’s office to ask a quick question in the middle of the day. But when your team works remotely, you lose all of this infrastructure. Staying coordinated suddenly becomes a chore.
- Confusion over tools. It can take a while for a team to get into a nice groove of knowing what tools to use. (For example, when do you send a Slack message versus an email? And when is it okay to pick up the phone?) The problem is that as soon as you figure out how tools work, there’s a major software update or change that forces everyone to re-learn the process.
- Tech issues. As wonderful as technology is, there are always glitches, errors, and things that are outside of your control. This can create issues with collaboration (particularly in environments where real-time feedback is needed).
- Unclear expectations. It’s impossible for a team to be effective without clear expectations. They need to know precisely what’s expected of them. Unfortunately, this becomes challenging in a virtual environment where you lack face-to-face feedback and social cues.
- No feedback loop. You need clear feedback loops in order to help your team understand what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and how they can proactively make changes to produce better results.
Remote communication can be messy and complicated. But it can work. If you want to push your team to the next level, you have to learn how to master this aspect of running a business.
6 Ways to Improve Collaboration
You probably found yourself nodding along when reading the list of remote collaboration challenges highlighted above. Now the question becomes, what do you do about it?
Here are a few ideas:
Start With a Morning Huddle
As annoying as meetings can be, it’s helpful to begin each day with a morning huddle. This is a short 15-to-30-minute meeting where you invite key team members and discuss expectations for the day. Each team member should be given two minutes to highlight their biggest goals and challenges for the day.
A morning huddle allows your team to get on the same page before the day begins. Not only does this help people get clear on what they have to do, but it helps connect them to other people on the team. It’s easier to know what other people are feeling and doing when you get daily updates.
Develop a culture of over-communication. Your people should feel completely okay asking for clarification and/or following up with information. If something is already being handled or has already been communicated, that individual can respond with something like, “Thanks, already on it!”
Implement the Right Tech Infrastructure
Don’t underestimate the role of technology in remote collaboration. It can either hold you back and make life frustrating on a daily basis, or it can set you up for success by removing many of the challenging barriers that are keeping you from being productive.
For best results, partner with a company like Converged Tech Group, who understands how to implement Cisco cloud collaboration. This will make your life a lot easier by giving you access to the exact technology stack you need based on your unique circumstances.
Use Video Whenever Possible
There’s no replacement for being in the same room as another person. However, when that’s not possible, video is the next-best option.
According to entrepreneur Erica Dhawan, “Try switching most remote communication to regular video calls, which are a much better vehicle for establishing rapport and creating empathy than either emails or voice calls. And design virtual team-building rituals that allow people to interact regularly and experience their collaboration skills in action.”
There are many fun ways to incorporate remote team-building activities into meetings. For instance, you can play trivia, online escape rooms, or virtual murder mysteries. The interactive options are endless and aid in building relationships among employees.
Video allows you to read facial cues, make eye contact, smile, and build trust in ways that you can’t with text or voice-only. The great thing is that most remote collaboration platforms have some sort of video capability built in. This makes it easy to naturally integrate video into your daily processes.
Encourage a Feedback-First Culture
Your team should embrace feedback on all fronts. (This includes giving and taking critical feedback.) When you train your team to love feedback, it makes your job a whole lot easier. You can manage the big picture without feeling as if you have to micromanage every little detail.
Set Clear Boundaries
Boundaries are a must for every remote team. Just because you have the ability to message one another 24/7/365, doesn’t mean you should. (If you allow constant connectivity, it’ll lead to serious burnout.)
Set specific boundaries on when people can be contacted, how many hours employees are allowed to work, specific “quiet hours,” etc. This will prevent people from abusing the flexibility that remote work affords.
Take Control Over Your Team
If you don’t take control over your team and begin prioritizing better collaboration, nobody will. And if there’s one common trait that you’ll find in failed remote teams, it’s an unwillingness to be proactive.
This article gives you a few specific ideas that you can put into action right away, but don’t feel as if you have to do everything at once. Start with one small step and make some progress. Once you feel like you’ve mastered that aspect, implement something else. Over time, your commitment to moving forward will generate results for you and your team.
Thank you for reading!