Remote collaboration: How it works & 6 helpful tips for better teamwork
Whether your team works across cities or continents, good remote collaboration is key to everyone’s success. Improve your remote workflows with this guide.
By Darcy Hogendorn in
The adage, “necessity is the mother of invention,” rang true in 2020 when the pandemic took the world by surprise. Until then, a small percentage of people worked from home — either full- or part-time. But now, most workplaces have moved to hybrid models and in fact, the 2019 Upwork Future Workforce Report projects that 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.
With so many teams now working remotely (and it’s a great thing!), there are some inherent challenges that make things a little harder: finding time to connect across time zones, collaborating digitally, feelings of isolation and disconnect, etc. But the good news is that with the right remote collaboration tools, remote teams can be just as effective and productive as their in-office counterparts.
Notice we said “the right” tools. Many options are available, and some may not fit your remote-specific needs. Let’s narrow the long list down for you today by looking at remote collaboration and the best tools to maintain your team’s productivity.
At its heart, the intent behind remote collaboration is the same as in-office team collaboration: to work with your teammates toward a shared goal. However, there are some stark differences — namely, that team members are working in different buildings, states, or even countries. Rather than working side by side or calling someone in another department with a quick question, teammates need to navigate communicating across different time zones and geographic locations.
For example, a team member in one city may be hit with an internet outage from a snow storm while those in another city have summer weather. Or perhaps you have an urgent request for a team member when it's early afternoon in your timezone, but the middle of the night in theirs. Remote collaboration means staying effective and productive in spite of these differences.
When it’s done right, remote team collaboration produces several key benefits for the company and the individual team members. Let’s look at four of the most impactful advantages it provides.
There's no stressful morning commute to work. No coworkers are stopping by your desk for a 20-minute breakdown of their evening activities. No constant interruptions throughout the workday. There are plenty of reasons why working remotely can help team members increase their productivity.
A survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group finds that 51% of respondents were able to maintain or improve their productivity on collaborative tasks since they began working from home. With the right tools at their disposal, this percentage would only increase.
Employees appreciate flexibility in the workplace. They can work from home, the local coffee shop, the beach, or anywhere else in the world. Team members can enjoy getting their work done from anywhere without being required to go into an office. This setup helps increase job satisfaction, which can reduce potential employee turnover.
The freedom that remote work offers can give companies a competitive edge. Instead of hiring for an in-office role (which may only bring in talent from your city), you can widen your search to talent from all over the country. This is especially helpful in specific or difficult-to-fill roles. Welcoming candidates from larger geographic areas can increase new hire quality dramatically, as you have access to a much greater number of people with diverse skill sets.
Just because an employee is in their seat at the office doesn’t mean they’re working at maximum efficiency. It may sound contradictory, but remote teams are more transparent than their on-site counterparts. How? Through their communication tools. Managers can view their work, project progress, collaboration on tasks, and whether or not they meet their deadlines. With remote collaboration tools, all the team's work is laid out in black and white for everyone to see, encouraging greater accountability.
Boosting effective remote collaboration should be a goal for every manager who leads fully or partially remote teams. Creating strong teamwork bonds, open communication, and collaborative thinking is crucial. Let's break down six tried-and-true tips that help managers improve their teams’ effectiveness.
Choosing the best collaboration platform tools for your distributed teams is the key to making them successful and productive. But not all remote collaboration tools are created equal. Consider your team's needs and be sure to choose remote collaboration tools that integrate well with your existing tech stack — otherwise, your team members will waste a ton of time hopping in and out of multiple apps.
Rewatch is a valuable collaboration tool that allows teams to record, save, manage, and search their video content to help improve collaboration efforts and get more out of their video meetings. Its screen recorder makes sure nobody ever misses a meeting, and its @mentions and transcription features let team members tag each other on timestamped comments to keep the conversation going.
Video messaging is also a great way to keep things running smoothly without the need to schedule a million meetings. Your team can use a screen recording tool like Rewatch’s to create quick videos and distribute them to the team. From there, you can build an interactive discussion with comments, @ mention tagging, and timestamp tagging.
Using video messages this way offers the same benefits of a video conference (i.e., facial expressions, tone, body language), but doesn’t disrupt everyone’s schedule. This contributes to a more seamless, convenient asynchronous workflow that works with team members’ busy schedules — not against it.
Miscommunication is a pitfall of teamwork in general, but it can be even more frustrating in remote work. For example, suppose two teammates are emailing about a project and forget to include the rest of the team. In that case, those team members may not receive important information about a project or deadline, which could have disastrous results.
Mitigate the chances of miscommunication by designating communication tools. Make sure they log the communication in an organized, easy-to-find format. This way, if someone isn’t clear on a plan or doesn’t remember a past conversation, they can refer back to it.
Remote employees should be able to communicate differently, depending on their common goals. For brainstorming sessions, they may choose a virtual whiteboard or screen sharing app. They may opt for a quick direct message or @mention in Slack to ask a question. Or they may use file-sharing apps like Google Docs or Dropbox to share data or research about a project. For decision-making, they may opt to hold a team meeting using a video conferencing platform.
Some communication channels work perfectly for some situations but aren’t helpful for others. Managers must ensure remote teams are privy to multiple ways to communicate with each other and let them employ them in the most efficient way to keep them productive and in touch.
While there are many advantages to running a remote team, managing them takes a bit more effort. Working remotely can seem isolating, and team members may feel unneeded and disengaged. A 2020 study by Igloo finds that 32% of remote workers feel disengaged from their coworkers.
Managers should schedule regular check-ins with remote team members to monitor their professional and personal well-being. These can be virtual one-on-one meetings, quick messages, or a survey. Some managers may choose to use all these methods.
The goal is to keep remote team members motivated, positive, and engaged with their work, team, and the company. Frequent feedback helps avoid potential problems earlier and minimizes the damage that feeling isolated can cause.
As mentioned above, we can't overstate the benefit of using video calls to keep remote workers engaged. Seeing a person’s face — even over video — can go a long way toward building connections. In addition to helping improve productivity, video calls on Skype, Zoom, or other video conferencing apps can fight off the loneliness remote team members may sometimes feel.
Embed video calls into your team's standard remote work practices, from quick follow-up questions between team members to weekly conference calls to manager/team member one-on-one meetings.
Being able to work remotely is considered a workplace perk for most employees. Remote teams can be more productive, just as engaged, and work just as hard at maintaining the workflow as their on-site counterparts. Their productivity can be even higher if the company provides them with the remote collaboration tools they need to build and maintain strong relationships and communication channels.
However, it’s not always automatic smooth sailing for virtual teams. There are elements and obstacles that, if left unresolved, can frustrate and derail a remote team’s efforts. Remote teams often face three challenges: working across time zones, effectively managing their projects, and avoiding distractions.
Remote collaboration can hit a snag if team members are scattered across the world. Some may be just finishing their morning coffee while others are tucking their children into bed. Even a couple of hours of difference can hinder a team when meeting and discussing important aspects of a project or brainstorming the next creative idea.
Left unaddressed, time zone differences can alienate team members, leaving them out of the team’s collaboration efforts. Over time, this disconnect may disenchant them so much they decide to seek employment elsewhere.
Solution: Practice more asynchronous communication
Real-time meetings have their place in certain circumstances, but asynchronous communication is an effective way of communicating with team members.
Communicating asynchronously is the perfect solution for teams that span time zones. In addition to providing a way to keep everyone in the loop, asynchronous communication lets teams catch up and digest information on their schedules. This is less disruptive to their workday since they aren’t constantly reading and responding to messages, or receiving distracting notifications.
Another place remote teams may struggle is being able to keep projects on track. When everyone’s in the same office, it’s easy for managers to call ad-hoc meetings or schedule check-ins to make sure everyone’s on track. It may seem like remote team members are doing their own thing during projects, which can make it difficult to keep up with progress.
If a team can’t manage its projects effectively and deliver them by the deadline, the team suffers, the client suffers, and the company suffers. This scenario scares managers so much they may fight against letting employees work remotely.
Solution: Hire a project manager or download a project management tool
Don’t haul your people back into the office because you’re worried your projects will fall apart: There are other viable options. Hire a project manager experienced in managing remote teams. They can lay out the project in a visual app like Trello to keep teams focused on their tasks.
Another option is finding project management tools that house all a project's information. This strategy holds team members accountable for their parts, helps management proactively resolve problems, and keeps milestones and deadlines at the top of everyone’s minds.
We mentioned workplace distractions, but many possible distractions tempt remote workers, too. One drawback of many remote collaboration tools is the digital noise: Employees might not be distracted by coworkers dropping by, but the dozens of notifications pinging them every hour can be just as bad — or worse.
Solution: Encourage team members to optimize their digital workspace
Most remote collaboration tools have user settings that team members can adjust on an individual level. If you notice productivity slipping, encourage your team to review the notification settings in your communications tools.
For example, Slack users may want to consider only being notified for direct mentions. This way they won’t miss time-sensitive messages, but they have the option to review other channel updates at their convenience.
Similarly, your team can utilize tools like Rewatch to work better asynchronously. Rather than coordinating meetings around everyone’s schedule (or having team members stop their work to attend), you can create and send quick video messages that team members can view, interact with, and respond to on their own time.
Remote teams aren’t going anywhere, and the days of everyone being in the same office are over. Managing remote team collaboration is essential to maintaining strong business operations and producing high-quality work on time. Set your team up for success with remote collaboration tools, tips to help maintain high collaboration standards within remote teams, and proactive mitigation of common remote work challenges.
If you’re looking for a better way to make your virtual meetings more effective, Rewatch is the solution you seek. With its automatically transcribed and searchable video content, every point and direction made in the meeting is easily accessible to every team member. Its robust network of integrations makes it a seamless addition to your current suite of remote collaboration tools. Find out more about how Rewatch can boost your internal communications strategy.
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