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Shrinking the physical distance between remote employees requires you to make the most of the digital space; that which connects us virtually.
Even when companies had their arms twisted and had no other choice but to transition to a remote work model in the face of the rapidly-spreading COVID-19, the internet and software innovation made it possible to stay connected.
In this guide we’re going to take a look at the process of collaboration in the remote work model, how companies can strengthen communication between teams, and what the best tools are for collaboration at distance.
Collaboration at Distance
How employees communicate and collaborate while working from home represents a large shift away from in-person meetings and water cooler conversations at the office.
These days, there are unique challenges to contend with. For example:
- There’s the late night text from a colleague or superior that wouldn’t have happened before as they would’ve caught up with you before you left the office for the day.
- There’s the constant barrage of emails that make your phone screen light up at all hours of the day.
- And then there’s the endless slip-ups, accidental mutings, and other mishaps on regular Zoom calls and video conference check-ins.
But for all of the negatives, there’s a lot of positives with this new form of remote collaboration. For example:
- Parents are able to spend more time at home with the kids and run errands that they would otherwise need to schedule time off for.
- Some employees enjoy greater productivity levels as a) they’re no longer subjected to constant interruptions at work such as ringing phones, chatty coworkers, and regular check-ups form their boss, and b) companies are using team tools and screen monitoring to build accountability and motivation into the workday.
- People are spending less time commuting which means less frustration and perhaps even more time to get all-important shuteye.
So what conclusion can we draw about collaboration in a remote work model?
That there are frustrations, but that there are also great opportunities. If you can embrace remote work collaboration, and make it easy for your workforce (for example by allowing them to co-author documents remotely), you’ll reap the rewards in the future.
After all, there’s growing evidence to suggest that remote work is here to stay, with more and more companies including some of the tech giants transitioning to hybrid 4-day weeks and other non-conventional work models.
Now that we’ve all had a taste of working remotely, it’ll be a hard sell to go back to the 9-5 grind at the office for many.
So how can you optimize distance collaboration and boost employee retention in the long run?
How to Improve Communication
Communication should be a cornerstone of any attempt at collaboration.
Strengthen your internal communication lines, and there’s every chance that your efforts at collaboration will pay off.
There are various ways to go about improving internal communication. Here are some ways to effectively overhaul your communication both from the top-down and between different departments and teams:
1. Create a regular internal newsletter or memo
If you want to keep everyone in the company informed of the latest protocol changes and general updates, then it’s wise to send out a regular internal newsletter or memo.
If you start the work week with a brief, succinct summary of everything your employees need to know, you’ll have a much easier time creating a culture of collaboration. When you move out of the office, you lose in-person check-ups and briefings, so you need to replace that with something else.
You can also have the various departments within the company follow suit, so that sales reps, HR reps, and those in other departments are up to date on any information that relates specifically to their day-to-day without having to use company time to ask questions that you could easily answer up front.
2. Draw up an organizational diagram
An organizational diagram represents the internal structure of your company.
With it, you can plot out exactly who’s in charge of each department and team, minimizing the risk of confusion. This is not only useful for new hires who need a reference sheet to keep track of who they need to report to, but also to employees who engage in cross-functional initiatives with people in different departments.
As you can imagine, this streamlines communication and collaboration as everyone knows who they need to reach with any questions they have rather than having to spend time asking the wrong people.
3. Introduce the right tools
With the right suite of software and tools, you’ll be able to equip your employees with everything they need to communicate effectively.
Remote work communication and collaboration tools bridge the gap between employees, teams, and departments, making it easy to schedule projects, assign and delegate tasks, and communicate through various means.
Best Remote Work Collaboration Tools
The best remote work collaboration tools are those which streamline key team workflows, and allow each member to contribute to a project with no bottlenecks or delays in the proces.
Here are some of the best to keep your employees connected and set them up for effective collaboration:
1. Slack (context-specific communication)
A digital HQ, Slack is a one-stop-show for communicating as part of a team, department, or the company at large.
The standout feature is the multi-channel system which allows users to message one another according to context. For example, an HR rep can have one channel open with their colleagues, one for their superiors, and another for sales reps.
2. Zoom (video conferencing)
Zoom is an excellent tool for video conferencing and keeping everyone up to date virtually.
It’s a versatile communication tool that you can use for weekly team meetings, one-on-one performance appraisals, or large briefings for more than 100 people.
3. Trello (project management)
Trello is a project management tool that uses kanban boards to help users schedule and track progress on tasks and projects.
When you’re working as part of a team, dropping and delegating tasks with a tool like Trello can help streamline collaboration.
4. Chanty (task manager)
Chanty is a task manager tool that helps teams communicate, collaborate, and connect with other teams using unlimited group messaging and video. Chanty brings all apps such as GitLab, Google Drive, MailChimp, and other commonly used tools all into one place.
Adapting to the remote work environment can be challenging, but it also presents various opportunities for greater productivity and harmonious teamwork.
Establish internal communication to keep everyone in the company posted on the latest, use organizational diagrams to avoid confusion as to who employees should contact, and set up the right tools to boost collaboration in your company.