If you lead a team or are managing a project team, you likely have remote workers. In fact, a Gallup poll conducted in 2016 found that 43 percent of American employees worked from a remote location at least some of the time, meaning they were working from locations that were different from their co-workers.
With such a high percentage of remote employees in today’s workforce, team collaboration can prove tricky. Consider the following eight tips to help ensure successful collaboration.
Review your tools. Good collaboration and communication relies heavily on great tools. Depending on your industry, you may use GitHub to collaborate on code, Dropbox to store files and media assets, or Google Docs for notetaking and document collaboration. And it doesn’t stop there. There are dozens if not hundreds of tools that teams use to stay in sync. Review your “toolbox” and invest in tools that make the most sense for your organization, processes, and project management approach.
Invest in video conferencing. Videoconferencing is the closest thing you can get to a live, face-to-face meeting. Many organizations invest in video conferencing because it’s easy to use, promotes communication and collaboration, and can reduce travel costs and time.
Replicate the elements of a normal office. Think about the little office things that remote employees miss out on and then figure out how you can institute virtual replacements. For example, remote employees miss out on “water cooler” chat that often occurs when employees meet in the kitchen for water, coffee, and small breaks. To replicate this, consider using a chatter tool to create a “watercooler” channel where employees can post random news, interesting articles, and GIFs to mimic the fun that happens over coffee in the kitchen.
Have a standing meeting. Regularly scheduled team meetings can help ensure everyone stays on the same page. They’re an excellent opportunity to talk through what everyone is working on, what problems they’ve encountered, and what their priorities are for the week.
Establish guidelines for remote working environments. Employees who work remotely should understand what is expected of them so they can work as productively as their peers who work in an office location that is optimized for productivity. This may include having a phone with a headset, two monitors, and even certain Internet bandwidth speeds. Some organizations even have a rule that remote team members must have access to a room of their own, and that room must have a door. They require this because the ability to control your environment and focus may be vital for the type of work they do. Additionally, it also helps team members participate in virtual meetings without any distraction.
Set expectations for meeting behavior. Similar to having guidelines for a remote work environment, it’s a good idea to have guidelines and set expectations for virtual meetings and calls. For virtual meetings to work, everyone has to have the same expectations. If some members of the team video conference into a call while others pick up the phone and dial in, it creates odd imbalances and pauses. If a few team members are together in one meeting room and others are remote, it’s the meeting organizer’s job to normalize the experience for everyone. For example, if you’re brainstorming on an office whiteboard, someone might need to transcribe the text into Google Docs for the remote team. You’ll want to actively tweak and improve the remote experience so that the local team doesn’t get complacent and the remote team doesn’t get quietly frustrated.
Get together in person when you can. There’s still something important about gathering everyone in one room. If you can’t do this, consider making a trip to visit your remote employees or meeting them somewhere convenient to both of you. These visits are appreciated by the employees and help boost engagement and maintain a feeling of connectedness.
Ask your team how they’re doing. It’s never a bad idea to solicit input from your team and ask them what’s working and what could use improvement. By asking for feedback, you can uncover any virtual challenges they may face and encourage them to help brainstorm solutions.
Consider conducting a remote team member wellness check after their first 30 days to see how it’s going. Do they feel like they can get in touch with people easily? Are they getting bombarded by chats and emails? Do they want to spend more time talking over the phone? This quick check helps ensure your remote workforce can establish a comfortable working environment.
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