Updated October 2021
Until recent years, the idea of remote work, where employees work from home, was unfamiliar to most of us, especially those who worked in a more traditional office setting. Though there were remote jobs available, they were few and far between. Team collaboration is here to stay, and knowing the best practices for remote work is essential. Read on to learn more.
Over the past twelve years, the rise of remote work opportunities has been fueled mainly through advances in technology and a shift in what workers expect from their employers. Remote work can offer freedom and flexibility that the option of working on-site simply can’t match.
Between 2009 and 2021, the amount of people who work from home has risen by a staggering 159%! Today, 16 percent of all companies worldwide are now totally remote, with 62 percent of employees between 22 and 65 reporting that they work remotely occasionally.
Within the next seven years, it’s projected that 73 percent of all workplace departments will have at least some remote workers. More and more industries will begin utilizing remote work for their businesses and organizations due to the many benefits remote work can provide.
Read on below to find out just why remote work has experienced an uptick recently.
Why Remote Work Is on the Rise
There are many reasons that remote work is only getting more and more popular. In the wake of all the remote work standards imposed by the recent Covid-19 pandemic, more and more businesses are discovering the advantages of using remote work despite the unfortunate circumstances.
For today’s workforce, especially for younger workers, a healthy work-life balance is essential. Remote work can provide that and much more.
In fact, 75 percent of people like working from home because they report fewer distractions. Seventy-seven percent of workers claim to be more productive when working from home than in a traditional office setting. Remote workers make more money as well. The average annual income of remote workers is $4,000 higher than their on-site counterparts. No wonder people are starting to like the idea of working from home.
It’s cheaper for employees to work from home too. Remote workers can save $7,000 a year in expenses staying home instead of going off to work. The employees aren’t the only ones who can benefit. Companies can stand to gain a little more money as well. Those organizations that utilize remote work could see a $2,000 profit increase per employee.
Employees who work remotely at least once a month are 24 percent happier and more productive. Though there are many benefits when it comes to remote work, there are also some downsides, one of them being mismanagement.
Research From Harvard Business Review
A study by Harvard Business Review showed that around 40 percent of managers struggle to manage their remote workers effectively. For remote workers themselves, 17 percent claimed that communication and collaboration were the most significant struggles they faced with remote work.
Businesses need to implement strategies that make working together while apart a bit easier to overcome possible communication struggles and the various issues remote work could present for team collaboration.
Some other drawbacks to remote work are employees that feel alienated from their jobs, remote workers struggling with feelings of isolation, and difficulty separating their home lives from work lives.
To combat these possible downsides, read on below for some of the remote work best practices and tips to keep your digital workplace running smoothly.
How to Improve Team Collaboration in a Remote Work Environment
There are many ways remote work teams and employees can work together, the collaborate definition, to get their jobs done. All collaboration meaning is the principle of group work within the company.
In the same way employees would work together in an office, your team needs the right “equipment” to do their jobs.
The utilization of shared team collaboration platforms like Microsoft Office and Microsoft Teams can provide powerful online collaboration tools that simplify remote work. But there are all sorts of resources your team could use once you understand the basics of collaborative remote work.
To take full advantage of all the benefits remote work and coming together collaboratively can provide, it would help you out a lot to keep the following principles in mind:
Take Advantage of Remote Team Collaboration Tools
Aside from the previously mentioned online collaboration tools like Google Docs, Microsoft Teams, and the Microsoft Office Suite, other remote work collaboration tools are available to perfect your remote team. This will ensure your company experiences productivity and success.
Collaborative document platforms, like Sizle, were designed to ease the workload of those that rely on paperless documents to run their businesses. Collaborating in these digital workspaces is made easy with document toolkits. They’re designed to make teaming up for remote work, like co-authoring, a breeze.
For alternatives to Microsoft Teams’ team collaboration platform, you could also use digital communication channels like Zoom or Skype. Others use team collaboration software like Slack, Google Drive, or even Discord to communicate with their remote work teams.
These programs and applications make virtual meetings easier to have than ever.
Utilize Regular Meetings
Just like in a traditional workplace, regular meetings are important to ensure the continued success of your remote work teams. Though many people might dread meetings, they can end up being your best tool in finding your collaborative footing. Instead of gathering in a conference room around a table, your teams will use their webcams to see each other and talk “face-to-face.”
Setting aside a scheduled time for weekly video chat meetings and following a plan or team meeting agenda to keep them on track will do wonders for morale and overall productivity.
Even a meeting as short as 15 to 20 minutes can make a world of difference in the average employee’s workweek. You can plan for the week ahead, go over your goals and milestones, check on everyone’s progress, and address any suggestions or concerns the team might have.
You can give different members of your team different roles and responsibilities during your meetings to keep them involved and try to change up these roles from meeting to meeting, just to keep things fresh and exciting.
Always Strive for Clarity
Creating a clear and honest environment for your remote workplace is always the best policy. Clarity is important to any team, whether they’re working remotely or on-site.
With a clear picture of what’s expected and how work should be done, employees can focus on their duties, feel more freedom and trust, and make for a generally more effective remote team.
Clarity helps team members focus, strengthens supervisor trust, increases engagement, and promotes the overall effectiveness of remote workers. Make sure your teams know the purpose behind the work you do, what you stand for, what you hope to achieve, and how you want to achieve it.
You should feel secure knowing that your teams clearly understand what processes and techniques are used company-wide and how they as team members are expected to fit into those organizational standards. Ensuring that your employees are all on the same page from the start can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Enjoy More Structured Communication For Better Team Collaboration
While effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful business, working in a traditional office environment can sometimes feel very unstructured and chaotic. Instead of aid workers, it can feel more like one interruption after another.
When doing remote work, employees have much more control over who they communicate with and when. They can decide when to turn off certain notifications or when to check certain apps. This can make communication between teams less stressful and increase productivity. The ability to take a moment and contemplate the points being brought up or questions being asked, whereas someone might feel rushed or feel pressure to answer immediately in real-time.
This might help to provide more thoughtful, weighted responses instead of knee-jerk reactions. It could also foster more effective communication because of the extra time to answer questions and discuss ideas.
Before you start, you’ll want to clarify which communication channel or channels you’ll be using to keep in contact. You can determine guidelines about where to send messages, who to send them to and when communication is mandatory. It might benefit you to make specific channels for different tasks and projects. This way, only the collaborators are involved, and communications don’t get too chaotic or interrupt the workflow of other employees.
Teams may also want to create channels specific to certain projects, subjects, or tasks. Then only the people who need to collaborate on those tasks are involved in the messaging, and the rest aren’t overwhelmed, bombarded, or interrupted.
Adapt and Overcome
Though there are many team collaboration tools available for remote work purposes, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every team and their specific needs. One team’s plans won’t necessarily be an excellent fit for another, and this could be an issue if you’re dealing with cross-team collaboration.
What’s more, plans and strategies could change over time, and a strategy that worked one month might not work in the next.
Aim to promote flexibility and adaptability to collaborate more smoothly and adjust to any changes in your game plan for success. This can also help ease high stress and anxiety levels in your team when they are sure you can roll with the punches as a group.
It also helps to be prepared for any technical problems you might encounter and have backup plans ready for any of those pesky, worst-case scenarios.
Working in a digital workplace means errors like this are to be expected, so you should be ready for them before they become a roadblock to your success.
Establish Goals and Milestones
When collaborating as a remote work team, setting goals and milestones is essential to your continued success. Milestones are simply targeted dates on which a project is expected to be completed.
These deadlines aid in creating forward momentum for your team by better visualizing your goals in smaller, more manageable segments. Breaking the deadlines down into multiple increments helps you monitor your projects’ status and catch any issues before the finished product is delivered.
Choosing due dates that align with work schedules and other projects is always a good idea. Without concrete, well-thought-out timelines, you won’t know whether your teams are behind or ahead of schedule.
Ensure that you’re asking for realistic deadlines, so your team isn’t forced to produce low-quality work due to time or schedule constraints. You don’t want to call every task a milestone because this can actually work against you. If your employees become desensitized because everything is labeled as a goal or milestone, they will no longer know your company’s more critical priorities.
On the opposite hand, not having enough milestones can also be detrimental to any given project. The bulk of the work without breaking it up into portions can make it feel overwhelming and impossible. Spacing your goals and milestones out evenly is the best way to ensure that your teams get the best results.
Allow Time for Team Building and Celebration
Just like birthday parties and holiday celebrations are important for cohesive teamwork and good morale, creating virtual spaces where workers can let loose and socialize will significantly strengthen interpersonal relationships and benefit your business as a whole.
You can find unique ways to introduce team members to each other and encourage camaraderie between employees, building friendships that will only foster more successful team collaborations in the future.
Misunderstanding and miscommunication might always plague our digital interactions, but building friendly communication networks between employees can make those instances of confusion easier to handle and less frequent overall. People on friendly terms will naturally collaborate more than those coworkers who are not so close and can make the process much more enjoyable for both parties. Giving your team the time and space to build up their bonds and connections is the most organic and effective form of team building.
You might have to get a little more creative than you would in a traditional workplace; you can still host the kinds of events and rituals employees might enjoy on-site. These can include inclusion initiatives, birthdays, anniversaries, diversity celebrations, or even book clubs.
You could even recruit volunteers who enjoy planning virtual social events and might want to come up with fun ideas the whole team will enjoy.
A few ideas to get you started could be holiday-themed photo contests for Halloween or “cooking contests” for Thanksgiving; you could even do virtual secret Santa with some thrifty online shopping.
Create a Welcoming and Supportive Remote Workplace
Aside from ensuring there’s time for social interaction and team building within the digital workplace, you’ll also need to ensure that the collaborative environment makes your remote workers feel comfortable and supported.
Employees should feel at ease sharing their suggestions and ideas without fear. Constructive feedback is the best way to achieve this, as being overly critical can hurt morale and make your team less likely to speak their minds.
Leading by example and collaborating often with your teammates helps build a strong team collaboration dynamic from the top down. This will inspire your teams to follow your lead and create a thriving collaborative culture. If you’re aware of shy or introverted team members, you can engage with them in a gentle, welcoming way to help them better acclimate to the more social atmosphere. Engage with them in questions and let them know you value their opinions and views.
When introducing new team members to your collaborative channels, be sure to keep them updated on everything they know, so they don’t feel intimidated by all the latest information and can have a smoother transition.
Provide Opportunities for Collaborative Teamwork
Ensuring employees feel safe and comfortable in their remote workplace is important, and the collaborative platforms you use to create those environments should be used to your advantage.
You should be able to brainstorm, share files, create an effective schedule, organize your content, manage your group projects at every step, and track all the facets of your team’s workflow from beginning to end. You can use live chat for purposes other than meetings as well. Using one channel for every conversation can quickly get confusing, as information will quickly be lost in the large volume of messages.
If your teammates constantly see massive amounts of information that doesn’t pertain to them, they might be more likely to disconnect and pay less attention. You can separate your topics into different categories of discussion, so the communications aren’t so chaotic.
You can use one channel to discuss specific tasks, another to share resources, and another to discuss any technical issues. Providing plenty of space and separation helps keep ideas organized and helps keep everyone focused on their tasks.
No matter how welcoming you are, how great of a collaborative environment you provide, how much teamwork you foster, or how organized and prepared you are, nothing can lead your team towards the top, like recognizing and rewarding their successes.
When you celebrate your team’s progress and make them feel valued, they will be more motivated, engaged, and more likely to go the extra mile for their team. Workplaces with recognition programs experience less voluntary turnover and are more likely to experience better outcomes with their collaborative projects.
The more engaged and committed your employees are to the company’s goals and milestones, the more you’ll see positive correlations in team development, manager effectiveness, and overall performance. Fostering a culture that recognizes the importance of recognition could help you achieve this.
Your employees need to feel seen and appreciated. When these needs are met, they will feel more connected with their duties and enjoy their work all the more. They will look forward to getting online and meeting their goals, as they know that their hard work will be appreciated and rewarded. They look forward to collaborating as groups, and you’ll see the results of that eagerness very quickly when there’s an efficient, teamwork-oriented, digital workspace available to your employees.
As a bonus, you’ll experience a positive difference in your customer satisfaction as well, and potentially even an increase in winning business proposals and contracts. You’ll retain more quality employees whose hard work will attract and retain paying customers in the process.
This alone should inspire you never to miss a chance to recognize and reward your employees. To gauge how appreciated your employees feel, you can use one-on-one evaluations and written surveys to get a real-time look at their satisfaction levels. You can celebrate small wins as well, even when less substantial goals are met, like taking on extra tasks and submitting quality work. If you recognize a team member giving a little extra effort or just exhibiting behaviors you’d like to encourage, they’re more likely to repeat those actions in the future.
Some Final Thoughts On Team Collaboration
Though the pandemic may end and work life will go back to “normal,” chances are the levels of remote work will only continue to rise in the future. The benefits and convenience are sure to help fuel its inevitable ascent.
Using remote collaboration will be an important part of digital workplace culture for the foreseeable future. Given the right tools and strategies, it could be more efficient and cheaper to utilize remote work.
Following the remote collaboration best practices mentioned above, you can find success and provide your employees with a happier, more fulfilling work environment. They can enjoy more freedom, flexibility, and peace of mind.
For this type of digital workplace to work, you can’t slack off. You’ll need to be there to facilitate and oversee everything to ensure your collaborative efforts bear fruit. You should also ensure that all your employees are well trained to avoid wasting time and money due to basic human errors.
Achieve your goals, provide fulfilling careers for your employees, and watch your team thrive in their newfound freedom, even if it’s through a webcam instead of face to face.