It can be hard for teams not working in the same space to collaborate effectively. But with more and more workplaces shifting to a remote workstyle permanently, even post-COVID, it’s important employers work to encourage effective collaboration no matter where colleagues are physically located. Rather than accept nothing is as good as face-to-face collaboration, managers must innovate ways to get their teams working together closely from afar, if businesses are to thrive post-pandemic. Read on for top tips on how to promote close collaboration within remote teams.
One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is losing the opportunity to communicate effortlessly with your colleagues. There is no water cooler chat, nobody asking ‘Do you want a coffee?’ and no casually grabbing lunch together. There is no direct substitute for these casual face-to-face interactions, other than scheduling in a lunch/coffee over video, so in place of that, it’s important to establish the principle of over-communication. Over-communication could take the form of providing regular updates over email, having a daily team check-in and keeping a stream of conversation going over Slack. This leads me nicely to my next point.
Foster informal communication, too
While it might seem jarring at first to encourage your team to share funny gifs, the antics of their pet cat or details about their social life over channels like Slack, it is actually really important for aiding collaboration. Informal communication helps your team to bond and feel comfortable approaching each other, asking questions and helping each other out. A funny meme might appear like a distraction at first, but when you dig deeper, it is an opportunity to connect with your colleagues on a human level. Who doesn’t love to share something funny, after all? This human connection can be harder to forge when you’re only ever seeing each other over a screen. So, don’t dismiss this as frivolous, and encourage your teams to have non-work-related coffee breaks together, too.
Prioritise team building activities
Even if your remote team is already collaborating effectively, prioritising team building can help elevate your team to new heights. What a team-building activity does is create a pathway for future collaboration. Think of it like this. If in a park, a path has never been created, then people will rarely walk there. It’s the same with collaboration. If you’ve never collaborated much before, there’s no pathway established, which can feel like an obstacle. But once a team has had a go at collaborating, the path is established, which makes it easier to walk that path and call upon a colleague in the future.
As Emmett Wolf once wrote, “a man is only as good as his tools.” And the same holds for teams. Rather than just willing your team to work better, why don’t you make it easy for them by giving them the tools they need to do just that? Whether you’re looking for project management tools or communication tools, there are plenty of collaboration tools around now to keep you connected and working together well. What’s more, some apps even offer free trials, so you can try them out with your team before you commit to a paid package.
Establish some video chat ground rules
While it’s hard to know what we would have done without video conferencing tools during the COVID-19 pandemic, video calls can present some challenges for remote teams. For example, it’s easier than in face-to-face meetings to continue doing something else while you’re in a video conference. Also, it can be harder to connect with people when you can’t see their facial expressions. Establishing some team ground rules for how to communicate over video calls can help avoid bad habits. Ground rules could include:
- Always having the camera on
- Stopping whatever you were working on to focus on the call
- Making “eye contact” where possible
- Shutting out distracting noises (again, where possible)
Making sure you follow these basic ground rules will facilitate better communication and a higher level of trust between your colleagues.
Creating a culture that fosters collaboration and communication between team members above all else will help a remote team overcome geographical and time boundaries to innovate and problem-solve more effectively.
About the author:
Switch Extension is the creator of Switch, a productivity app that helps users accomplish their daily tasks more productively in a single browser with features such as multiple tab and multi-account management.