The remote work model has plenty of benefits: productivity is up, carbon emissions are down, people save time on commuting, and businesses save money on overhead and infrastructure expenses.
One downside to remote work, however, is that there’s no room for in-person collaboration. Because working together is critical for running a successful business, leaders must find new ways of synching and connecting employees so that can keep operations flowing. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the best tools and strategies for collaborating effectively in a remote work setup.
5 Tools to improve remote collaboration
1. Chat Apps
Slack, WhatsApp, and similar chat tools are one helpful way of streamlining communication. Using these platforms, you can send messages to your entire employee base or focus on a specific segment or person via separate channels. You can also send files.
Be careful about bombarding employees with unnecessary messages, though. This can get overwhelming and frustrating. Rather than sending a huge volume of messages that only apply to one department or a handful of people to a general channel, use direct messages or send your communications to a more segmented channel.
2. Full Productivity Suites
Full productivity suites like Google Suite and Microsoft Office Teams have a number of tools that are critical for conducting your business and facilitating better collaboration. Microsoft Office Teams, for one, includes Word for text processing, Excel for data organization, Outlook for email and calendar management, and PowerPoint for presentations. But it’s not just helpful for individual productivity — it’s also an amazing collaboration tool.
A cloud-based suite, Microsoft Office Teams allows you and your colleagues to view the same files, such as an Excel sheet, in real-time and contribute to it together so that the changes are manifested on everyone’s screens. You’ll all be looking at the same version and can see the most up-to-date edits. You can get similar features with the Google Suite, too.
3. Project Management Tools
If you aren’t already using project management tools to oversee, organize, and keep apprised of the progress of your projects, know that they can streamline you and your teams’ lives immensely. Tools like Trello, Jira, Monday, Wrike, and others will help you visualize the stages, assign tasks, set deadlines, deliver comments, and much more.
These tools offer far more than a means for strong collaboration. They also enable better project management thanks to their comprehensive set of tools, features, and configurations that allow you to customize their environments to your operational needs.
4. Cloud Storage Platforms
Many of the tools we already use regularly, such as Google Drive, are cloud-based. When you use cloud storage platforms, you’re not only ensuring that team members who need to access certain files and documents have it, but you’re also ramping up security and enabling real-time interactions. Whether employees need to make synchronized comments or view the same document during a meeting, cloud storage platforms can make it happen.
5. Video-conferencing Platforms
A list of remote collaboration tools isn’t complete without video-conferencing platforms. Zoom, Skype, and similar tools have become fixtures of our lives. You might have weekly meetings with your team, deliver presentations, and much more on the platform. It’s a pivotal tool for ensuring everyone is in communication and on the same page with one another.
Complementary Methods for remote collaboration
While using a combination of the tools above will certainly revamp the collaboration between your remote teams, it won’t be enough to boost your productivity. You’ll also need to implement some practices to leverage all those tools’ potential.
6. Establish Remote Work Etiquette
When your company is working remotely, chances are people are coming from many different locations — which means different time zones. This is just one area in which you, as a leader, will need to establish work etiquette for your team.
For example, when scheduling meetings, be sure to accommodate all locations and schedules when determining the best times for meetings. Another policy could be to always consider an asynchronous approach before immediately calling everyone together for a synchronous video-conferencing meeting. Often, issues can be resolved over a chat platform or email rather than a face-to-face session.
7. Set Boundaries
Collaboration isn’t all about communicating and ensuring that you have as much on-screen time as possible. It’s also about being respectful of other people’s personal space — even in a virtual sense. Boundaries are already blurred when it comes to remote work anyway: people’s homes are their workspaces, for one, and it can be difficult for people to sign off for the day.
Make sure you establish clear boundaries with your team, too. For example, you might set a “no work emails after 6 pm” policy to prevent your employees from getting overwhelmed and help them achieve a better work-life balance.
8. Communicate Expectations Clearly
A lot can get lost in translation when you can’t physically see what your team is up to every day at the office. To facilitate better collaboration and ensure productivity make sure you establish and clearly communicate your expectations for how you want this remote work situation to go. Lay out your ideas for procedures, day-to-day activities, and other functions and methodology for working collaboratively and productively.
Perhaps, for example, you want your team members to inform you as to when they’ll be taking breaks or signing off for the day. If that’s the case, be sure to say so, rather than getting frustrated when your employees fail to do it.
9. Make Time for Malfunctions
Problems happen. This is especially true when you’re relying on technology to conduct your work — technology that you’re probably not fully used to yet. It’s understandable to be frustrated when issues arise, but in order to create a more collaborative, constructive environment, you need to build in time for malfunctions, as well as communicate to your team procedures for making time for problems.
If you’re delivering a presentation, for instance, build in extra time to account for any delays or technical hiccups that might occur. That way, you won’t feel overwhelmed should you encounter issues.
10. Provide Plenty of Resources and Support
Many employees may struggle with the remote work environment, even after a full year of it. To ensure that your team is collaborating with one another and contributing to a productive work environment, you’ll need to offer plenty of resources and support. Be proactive — don’t wait for your employees to ask for specific platforms.
You might even conduct a survey of your employees to ask which tools and resources they might need to facilitate stronger collaboration and overall work.
There’s plenty to learn when it comes to adjusting to a remote work environment. But using these tools and methodologies will help you and your team acclimate to our “new normal” and achieve stronger collaboration.