You likely won’t be shocked to hear that a lot of us are working remotely right now.
In 2022, it is estimated that about 26% of all employees will be full-time remote workers, according to research from Upwork.
While Covid-19 has obviously been a big driver, this isn’t a short-term trend. Indeed, that same study predicted more than 36 million US workers will work from home by 2025 – up 87% on pre-pandemic levels.
It’s hardly surprising. So many of us have online jobs now—from remote employees to freelancers looking to make money online—that there’s often little practical reason for us to be in the office.
However, one area that’s undoubtedly still a challenge – for both businesses and employees – is remote collaboration. With that in mind, here are eight best practices for virtual communication and collaboration.
Each individual has their own preferred channel and style – some prefer a humorous Slack message, others a formal email. Many companies nowadays even use visual communication.
These differences can spell disaster for remote collaboration. To work effectively together, teams need to know which communications belong on which platforms, and what sort of tone and style to adapt in different scenarios.
For example, one business unit at multinational science and tech company Merck implemented a rule that meant all emails sent for purely informational purposes included “NNTR” (No Need To Reply) in the subject line. It put a stop to unnecessary reply-all emails and reduced total email volumes by 20%.
Likewise, you should set standard times for recurring sessions. For instance, you might have:
You can even establish an expected email response time to maximize productivity. Timeboxing your employee’s hours at work can help keep your team more focused and boost productivity.
And to keep things as efficient as possible, consider keeping email or even text message templates for communicating about a certain topic.
Lots of best practices for virtual communication and collaboration focus on keeping messages as short as possible.
But sometimes an important message is too complex or nuanced to be communicated effectively in a three-sentence email or 15-minute video conference.
Going out of your way to keep these communications succinct could make it harder for your team to accurately interpret your message, which could result in a lot more communication down the line to clear things up and less employee satisfaction.
Rather than focusing on keeping communications as punchy as possible, concentrate on clarity. If a message is essential enough to send in the first place, it’s worth your team taking an extra minute or two to read and understand it.
Depending on what industry you are in, how big your team is, and what the general company culture looks like, your method of communication can differ. The final aim is always clarity. If you can save time along the way – that is a plus.
With video conferencing now a common part of our daily workflow, it’s important to remember that not everyone shines on camera.
Some prefer the opportunity to consider their response and type it out. Indeed, research has found that more introverted individuals feel freer to express themselves in a virtual, non-face-to-face environment.
In other words, being out of the office can actually help these people collaborate more effectively. But it’s up to you to make space for them to communicate by generating ideas and gathering feedback through multiple channels, including written communication, rather than relying solely on video meetings.
One final word of warning on this point – be wary of unconscious bias around things like spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Not everyone writes like Virginia Woolf, but this shouldn’t prevent their input from being heard and valued.
Just as everyone has their preferred communications channels, we also have our own favored tools for remote working.
This presents another potential barrier to collaboration. If each person on your team has a different workflow informed by their use of different tools, it’s going to be hard for them to work effectively together.
To overcome this issue, create a Google Doc and ask people to list every online working and remote sales tools they use across multiple categories, such as:
Your goal here is to create a standardized remote work tech stack that everyone uses. Build a list of all necessary apps and add descriptions of each so new starters can quickly get up to speed.
This is extremely important as your team goes on to deal with customers as well. For example, your team probably uses SMS, email, WhatsApp, and social media to communicate with customers.
Instead of having different people handle each communication method, consider using an omnichannel approach through which your team can see all customer communication under one roof. This helps resolve customer complaints faster and using the right software can also help teams communicate better with each other.
So, if your IT department wants to pass on a complaint to the billing department, it is that much easier. Commbox offers an omnichannel customer service solution to help you better serve your customers and gain their loyalty.
Finding tools that can boost productivity is as important as hiring good employees. If you have the right tools to aid you while you work, you wind up saving resources and creating better products/ offering better services.
For example, if your support team is overwelmed with work, using chatbots can reduce the by deliering automated responsed to customers. You earn twice by needing less agents and ganing more productivity.
A little employee recognition can go a long way to improving your team’s understanding of what effective remote collaboration looks like.
That means it’s your job as a manager to look out for examples of high-quality collaboration and to reward them accordingly.
Has your sales team worked together to close a big deal? Turn it into a case study, highlighting what worked well – the tools they used and the processes they followed. Then share it with the rest of your team.
Just because your team members aren’t working together in the same physical space doesn’t mean they can’t spend time getting to know each other a little better outside working hours. Virtual team-building events are a great way to boost morale amongst team members and foster a positive team culture.
Other benefits of virtual team building events include:
Virtual team building events are also a great way to welcome new team members to your company, and they give new team members an opportunity to get to know their new coworkers in an informal, relaxed setting. Some of the most popular virtual team events that have sprung up over the past 18 months include:
With better team morale, better relationships, and a deeper sense of trust, you can look forward to your team working more productively and efficiently.
No one likes working for a manager who micromanages them and doesn’t give them enough space to get on with their work. Of course, it is important to have processes in place to monitor and check the quality of your employees’ work, but micromanaging members of your team is a sure-fire way to destroy trust between yourself and your team and damage team morale.
Some constructive ways to keep an eye on the quality of your team members work without micromanaging them include:
In these one-on-one sessions, you can talk with each individual about their performance but you can also use these sessions to check in with your team members on a more personal level. Are there any challenges they are facing in their professional or personal lives? Do they have all the equipment they need to carry out their work effectively?
Having open conversations and asking the right questions is an effective way of building strong relationships with your team members.
When you and your team are on the same page about things such as deadlines, communication styles, regular meetings, everything becomes much easier.
When it comes to work projects, make sure you clearly lay out roles and responsibilities to each team member involved before a project starts and set clear project deadlines that everyone agrees upon. You can also hold regular review sessions with your team to check how the project is progressing and whether the set deadlines will be met.
If your team exceeds your expectations and delivers a great product, make sure you pat them on the back and recognize their efforts. Large Companies excel in employee recognition by rewarding employees with custom trophies, gift cards, merch, and more. Smaller companies focus on more symbolic recognition like giving employees a shoutout on social media.
Transparency underpins every aspect of collaborating effectively with your team. This includes being transparent about expectations and performance, telling your team members about any company changes that could affect them, and being transparent with your team if something needs correcting or changing.
Being transparent helps you build genuine relationships with your employees, establishes trust, and can show your employees that you genuinely care about them.
Workplace review company Glassdoor state that bosses and managers should practice transparency in all areas of their professional relations with employees. Ways of doing this include:
All of these suggestions can still work well if you’re managing a remote team and work well at fostering a sense of trust amongst your team.
Managing and collaborating effectively with a remote team can take some getting used to, but today’s technology can allow you to effectively communicate, collaborate and organize your team.
By following some of the best practices we’ve laid out you can make sure you foster a productive, healthy working environment for yourself and your team.
This article has been contributed by Freya Laskowski, a personal finance expert and founder of the CollectingCents website that teaches readers how to grow their passive income, save money, improve their credit score, and manage debt.
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