The COVID-19 pandemic and advancements in technology have made remote team collaboration easier than ever before. Now, we can interact with people around the globe in an instant. For businesses, remote employees can come together in real time, no matter how far apart they are.

That said, distance still creates very real barriers to effective communication and productivity that can significantly impact remote team collaboration.

Fortunately, we’re here to help with our top strategies for boosting remote collaboration in remote work environments. We’ll explore the key barriers to look for before diving into successful remote collaboration strategies for overcoming them.

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Key collaboration challenges of remote teams

Effective collaboration is what makes a team a team. However, collaborating in a remote work environment can be especially tricky — and it manifests in different ways for individual team members. Here are some of the reasons why.

1. Out of sight, out of mind

Working remotely is remarkably commonplace now. Teams can work around the globe thanks to remote communication tools and cloud-based technology like:

Remote work culture has been a fact of life in the 2020s (and we won’t dwell too much on how that started). But despite the numerous Zoom team meetings and the influx of remote work policies, many of us still haven’t changed our views on geography.

In other words, some people are still wed to the idea that physical presence equates to significance. The result is that greater distance = greater irrelevance.

So, unlike office teams that come together around one desk, remote teams are comprised of people spread over vast distances. The result can be that remote team members don’t exhibit the same levels of attentiveness or responsiveness to each other as they would if they were physically adjacent. 

2. The importance of the inadvertent

Being in the same office means having encounters with other people (both on your team and outside of it) that aren’t always intended.

For example, you might interact with someone in the common area while waiting for the kettle to boil or have a quick chat in the elevator. These spontaneous exchanges can be significant information swaps, and the cross-fertilization and development possibilities can be enormous.

On the other hand, the critique of remote teams is that they tend to have tightly regimented exchanges. Virtual meetings are always arranged to discuss specific matters, curtailing the potential for off-the-cuff and off-script encounters. 

3. Things can get lonely

It’s not easy for everyone to work remotely. For some people, work is all about social interaction, banter, and belonging to a group. These people’s productivity, morale, and job satisfaction may suffer if they feel isolated.

Remote work can get lonely

Combatting remote loneliness can be tricky, as inevitably, part of the remote deal is that there will be less teamwork and more time for independent work. That’s where remote collaboration strategies come in. Let’s look at these in more detail.

5 Strategies for Remote Collaboration

From establishing new communication norms to onboarding the team to a remote collaboration tool, you can improve remote collaboration in numerous ways. Here are five strategies you can implore for better remote collaboration. 

1. Always be clear

Remote collaboration can be hindered in numerous ways, but lack of clarity is often the culprit. Being clear is a good maxim for all businesses, but it’s especially important when it comes to remote team collaboration.

If your team struggles to come together to meet important deadlines, it may be because assignments were unclear or collaboration was difficult due to asynchronous work schedules.

To avoid this, set clear guidelines from the start. Start by asking yourself questions like:

  • What are your team’s goals?
  • How will you track these goals? 
  • What information do they need to do their job?
  • Where will this information be held? 
  • What remote collaboration tools can you provide to support them? 
  • What communication tools should the team use? 
  • Will teams have to work in the same timezone, or can they work asynchronously?

You might also give teams access to your diary to see your availability. Or set up a shared calendar so they can contact colleagues for additional support. That way, they will feel comfortable seeking clarification when needed.

Deadlines need to be clear, too. Make sure everybody knows what to do and when it needs doing. That way, the team works on the same timetable and can collaborate more effectively. Crucially, nobody holds anybody else up by not knowing what deadlines apply.

Project management tools and collaboration tools will be extremely useful here. They help keep everyone on the same page and ensure clarity and consistency.

2. Make the most of video

In a world filled with phone calls, instant messages, and emails, it’s easy to feel alienated from your work, colleagues, clients, and the business as a whole. That lack of face-to-face social interaction can have a significant impact on all of us mentally.

To overcome this, organize regular team video meetings to build camaraderie. Scheduling weekly meetings also helps create a routine for team members. Plus, by regularly seeing each other’s faces, they’re more likely to feel comfortable collaborating.

As a team leader, setting aside dedicated time to meet with team members individually is also important. For any meetings you’re not included in, encourage your team to organize their video chats, too. Ensure the team knows they can always jump on unscheduled calls, much like they would walk over to a colleague’s desk in the office.

There are plenty of platforms that can help:

  • Google Meet
  • Zoom
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack

If your team is sales-focused, it’s worth considering an outbound call center solution with more comprehensive internal and external communications features. These platforms combine phone, SMS/MMS messaging, and video chat in the same platform, boosting productivity and collaboration. 

3. Use a project management tool

If you can remember everything about a project, what stage each team member is at, and the next steps, then give yourself a big pat on the back. For the rest of us suffering from slightly more human performance levels, a project management system can make all the difference.

Project management tools show everyone who’s doing what and provide detailed instructions for a given task. This means a team member in doubt about a deadline, workflow, or anything else can easily find the information they need.

Hubstaff Tasks Kanban boards

The best thing about project management tools is they reduce the chances of tasks slipping between the cracks. They also provide a unique perspective because most allow each member of your team to visualize work the way they want to. This could come in the form of calendars, Kanban boards, to-do lists, or timelines.

Project management software is the key to eliminating roadblocks and completing crucial tasks. 

4. Encourage team building

Remote teams often suffer from a reduced esprit de corps. The less the team comes together, the less common purpose and identity virtual teams will feel.

Yes, you can have virtual meetings in a remote setup, but sometimes, this isn’t enough to teach real team spirit and boost motivation.

What do physical office-based teams do? They often have shared extracurricular activities, and you can do the same thing — but it may not take the shape of paintball or karaoke.

However, with some creativity, you can still find ways to bring everyone together to do something fun in a virtual space. You can find tools to host online office games, play trivia, or create your own quiz. Or, take a page from Hubstaffers and start your own quarterly virtual retreat.

No matter your choice, you may be surprised at what this does for employee morale, remote team collaboration, and productivity.

5. Build a culture of trust

With remote working comes a need for trust. You’re not going to have everyone right there under your nose, so you won’t be able to see exactly what they’re up to. For some managers, this can cause concern. For employees, it leads them to question company culture and team management. Both sides are happy to learn that it pays to be trusting of your team members. 

The key requirement is that tasks are completed well and on time and that your team works together to achieve individual and team goals. If this is happening, then you don’t need to micromanage.

Instead, focus on problem areas. Does one employee in particular always miss their deadlines or never update their manager with issues? If so, do they need to improve their time management or communication skills or use a collaboration tool?

If another employee struggles to use your new call center software, could you provide additional training or assign a senior team member to mentor them?

By investing time in helping your team improve, you show that you value them, which will help build trust. You can use time tracking tools to help you check in on employees’ mental health.

But, although these are widely available and often effective, don’t overuse them. You don’t want team members to feel like you are watching their every move. Using productivity tracking software to micromanage employees can damage trust and lead to turnover.

Remote team collaboration is all about connecting

Working remotely has numerous benefits, but it also requires careful consideration if you want to truly help your remote employees be more productive.

Establishing remote team collaboration means thinking about what your remote workers are being asked to do and the circumstances that apply. How can you connect team members?

Simulate proximity using video, maintain clarity, and give them some team-bonding opportunities that their office-based counterparts enjoy.

More importantly, communication is vital to collaboration. Let your team know that they can always reach out to you. A word from you, no matter how many miles, can make all the difference when it comes to remote collaboration.

You can steady the ship, you can inspire, and you can include. Great team leaders are made of such things, no matter where your team calls home.

Category: Remote