6 Tips For Effective Remote Team Collaboration

When COVID-19 hit, many work teams moved from an office to a remote setting. 

Initially, this helped workers avoid contracting the virus. But many companies have chosen to keep remote work options available even now that the pandemic is (mostly) over, and it’s easy to see why.

Remote work allows companies to save on office space, eliminates commutes for workers, and lets them work from the comfort of their homes.

But as with any major work change like this, the transition takes some adjusting.

What do you do when managers and employees no longer have face-to-face interactions?

How do you maintain optimal productivity and streamline workflows across a distributed team? 

If you’ve asked yourself these questions before, you’ve come to the right place. 

Here are six tips to help your team collaborate more effectively online:

1. Over-communicate

Body language is one of the biggest things lost in remote communication. This is huge when you consider how communication is 55% nonverbal. A lot of meaning can get lost when you’re limited to text. 

As a result, it’s important to over-communicate when dealing with remote teams.

This doesn’t necessarily mean communicating overly frequently (which could be distracting and counterproductive). Over-communicating simply means going the extra mile to make sure you communicate clearly.

There are a few ways to do this: You can reread your messages for clarity, resort to short video calls when necessary, encourage asking questions, and confirm that others have understood you (which is especially important when it comes to team members whose native language may not be English).

2. Use cloud collaboration software

For remote teams, using cloud collaboration software is a must. It allows team members to seamlessly collaborate on projects across different locations and time zones.

For example, a team can collaborate on editing a shared document in real time so that the team doesn’t have to get together in person.

But cloud collaboration software also helps in asynchronous collaboration. 

For example, it provides a single place to store ongoing projects. Whenever a team member makes a change to a file, it’s updated for all to see. This helps everyone stay on the same page so managers don’t have to constantly ask for updates and the latest versions of files (which also helps eliminate duplicate versions of files). 

Have projects that are sensitive or confidential? Cloud collaboration software also lets you restrict access to files and only give it to those who need it to do their job.

3. Establish communication protocols

It’s easy for remote teams to get overwhelmed by communication overload.

That’s why it’s essential to establish standard protocols for communicating at work.

Start by setting up different communication channels. If you try to run all communication through a single channel, it will quickly get overloaded with too many conversations about too many different things. Then team members will start ignoring messages because too many are irrelevant to them. 

So create separate channels for different teams, ongoing projects, and objectives. 

For example, you could create a dedicated Slack channel for non-work-related topics. This not only keeps such conversations out of more serious channels, but it provides an opportunity for teams to get to know each other on a more casual basis so they can build strong rapport and relationships. Many companies call this a “watercooler” channel because it imitates the types of conversations that workers have next to the watercooler in a traditional office setting.

Beyond creating separate communication channels, it’s also important to establish expectations regarding how often and how fast to communicate. 

For example, you might set the expectation that team members respond to messages within 24 hours during the workweek. At the same time, you might require teams to respect others’ schedules by not contacting them outside work hours.

Whatever you do, make sure everyone knows what’s expected.

4. Prioritize team bonding

Team bonding helps foster creativity and innovation in the workplace. However, when you don’t see your coworkers in the office every day, bonding can be difficult. 

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible though. To facilitate team bonding in a remote setting, you must get creative.

For example, you could host virtual lunches, play an online game, or celebrate company milestones and employee birthdays over a video conference. 

It’s not exactly the same as meeting in person, but it’s much better than doing nothing. 

Need more remote team bonding ideas? Ask your team. They may have good recommendations, and allowing them to decide on the activity will help boost participation.

5. Respect time zones

Remote teams often include team members in different time zones, which means it’s important to be respectful of everyone’s schedules. 

This could mean embracing asynchronous collaboration, redefining what “urgent” means, and keeping video calls to a minimum (Zoom fatigue is real, after all).

When meeting over video is necessary, try to schedule the meeting when most team members’ work schedules overlap. 

By respecting everyone’s time zones, your team will be happier and more productive in the long run.

6. Make meetings more productive

There are few things worse than pointless meetings. If you must hold a meeting, make it as productive as possible. 

You can do this by preparing meeting agendas that outline discussion points, assignments, and objectives. 

You can also ensure team members come to meetings prepared with answers and reports. That way, they’re not winging it on the spot.

Assign someone to take meeting notes. These days, you can even use transcription software to do this. Some programs will automatically transcribe a video conference and then produce a summary via artificial intelligence (AI).

The point is to make your remote team meetings matter. If they’re unorganized and haphazard, your team may be better off without them.

The bottom line

Effective remote collaboration is a skill. Your team may not master it overnight. But by adopting the best practices listed above, you’re off to a good start. Take it one step at a time and allow your remote team to improve as it learns to adapt to a new way of work.

Passionate about design, especially smartphones, gadgets and tablets. Blogging on this site since 2008 and discovering prototypes and trends before bigshot companies sometimes