How to Increase Collaboration in Remote Teams
It has become clear that remote teams are a firm part of the contemporary business landscape. For many companies, this approach has become more than a mere stopgap to cope with the pandemic. Rather, it’s proven to hold a range of benefits for everyone involved. Companies gain from lower overheads and increased productivity. While employees can minimize their commute and achieve a good work-life balance.
Yet, there are still some significant challenges to leading a remote team. One of the most difficult is the disconnect between members. Their distance, disparate working methods, and shifts in communication can be detrimental to collaboration. As such, productivity and innovation can suffer, which is exacerbated by a lack of trust often present through in-office scenarios. If these problems aren’t handled correctly, the results can be disastrous to the health of your company.
We’re going to examine some of the ways you can increase collaboration in remote teams.
When team members are isolated from one another, it is easy for them to become entirely focused on their tasks. This can certainly be productive for separate workers. But after a while, it can also leave employees unmotivated to connect with their team colleagues and work together for mutual benefit. As such, it’s important to establish methods to keep the motivation for collaboration alive.
This can begin with simple methods to keep your team engaged when they’re working together. This doesn't just mean injecting fun into their meetings or activities, though this can help. You should also create scenarios to make it clear that their experiences and the outcomes of a project are improved by close co-operation. This could be achieved through virtual team-building exercises, weekly meetings, and smaller projects.
You may also find breaking the monotony of the remote work environment can be an effective motivating factor. Co-working spaces are increasingly accessible in most major cities around the world. These spaces are usually fully equipped and it's easy to instantly book for one-off or regular usage. This gives fresh opportunities for your remote workers to collaborate in a physical environment and shake up a routine they may feel is getting a little stale.
However, you may also find collaboration fatigue is a hurdle to effective team cooperation. As such, keeping each member motivated can revolve around actions to keep them energized when operating together. This could include suggesting some healthy lifestyle changes that prevent them from becoming mentally or physically exhausted. It could involve starting meetings with some stress-relieving exercises or checking in to make sure team members are taking time for breaks and exercise. It can be wise to encourage the team to keep one another mutually motivated in this way.
Use the Right Tools
Few things derail a remote collaboration more quickly than staff members not having the resources to succeed. A lot of attention is being given to how communication platforms like Skype and Zoom have helped make remote work possible, but this is by no means the be-all and end-all. There are a growing number of software platforms geared toward making collaborative activities practical and effective in remote circumstances. These can be key to keeping your staff cooperative.
Collaborative ideation is one area that many teams struggle with when using communication platforms alone. There are a variety of online brainstorming tools to overcome the hurdles of keeping sessions organized and assisting teams to refine ideas together. Virtual whiteboards shared by all members of the team give space for workers to contribute in real-time, with color-coding to identify members’ efforts. Online brainstorm mapping can also be implemented to include their ideas asynchronously if your team is in different time zones.
You should also consider how remote project management platforms can fit into your working practices. These help to visualize all the tasks in a project and allow members to stay abreast of progress. It also provides individual employees perspectives on where their activities fit into the overall efforts of the team.
One of the reasons staff members may thrive in or target jobs in remote settings is because they have a preference toward independence. This can be a good trait, particularly as you need to be able to trust your employees to function away from the group. At the same time, there is also value for the growth and collaborative efficacy of all members if they each make efforts to strengthen their team bonds. You’ll also find trust and friendship among team members boosts retention.
This should include finding opportunities for team members to learn more about each other and appreciate one another’s contributions. Wherever possible, facilitate processes through which team members look to their colleagues first for assistance rather than just heading to you as the company leader. Indeed, rotating leadership of weekly team meetings can be a good way to increase the visibility of each member. This helps to highlight each employee’s presence in the team and strengthen respect.
However, there should certainly be some emphasis on social aspects. This doesn’t mean strong-arming everyone to get involved in social activities outside of work. People are protective of their personal time.
You can be effective by inviting staff members to run a fun or interesting activity during work time for them and their colleagues. If you’re all working in the same city, it may be appropriate to book a meeting space to host these sessions in. It can also be wise to include a social chat channel into your communication framework. This not only forges social connections but also helps the team learn more about one another’s interests.
As remote operations become more prevalent, there is an urgent need to address the challenges this approach presents. Collaborations can be more difficult to facilitate, but there are strategies to smooth the path. Establish motivational elements and provide your staff with tools to support cooperative activities. It’s also important to place some focus on strengthening team camaraderie and trust. Many businesses are still learning how to overcome these hurdles. But with some commitment and resources, your team can work together for the benefit of everyone involved.