7 Tips to Improve Collaboration with Remote Teams
Communication in professional environments is hard. It’s even harder when you’re part of a distributed, remote team. While the concept of remote working isn’t new, many organizations were forced to jump into remote work in the last few years, seemingly overnight. Collaboration with remote teams, including meetings and communications began to happen virtually rather than face-to-face.
The body language and intonation used in face-to-face meetings is easily dismissed in digital communications and can lead to gaps in understanding. Beyond that, digital communication is hard to get away from – your remote team may struggle to truly ‘turn off’.
If you’re trying to manage remote teams, and improve collaboration across your organization, you may be struggling with how to start. These seven tips for improving collaboration with remote teams will get you well on your way to standardizing project management and communication across your organization.
Improve Collaboration with Remote Teams
1. Establish communication norms within your organization
Does your message need a response? Is your communication under a time constraint? Establishing a shorthand for “I need an immediate response” or “we need to meet” can be beneficial. These kinds of shorthand codes can help your teams to know what’s urgent and what can be down prioritized.
Establishing communication norms also means setting realistic boundaries for when work communications should be sent and answered. What are the hours that you’ll need your remote teams to be available? When should they power down for the day? If they get a message at 8pm, do they need to respond, or can it wait until working hours the following business day?
Setting expectations that answer all of these questions can help improving collaboration within your remote teams.
2. Encourage video chats when possible
Video chats help to fill in the context that phone calls and messages are missing – body language. Video chatting with your remote teams can help to increase communication efficacy and help to make meetings and interactions more meaningful.
Video chats can also help to foster a culture of collaboration. It’s much easier to connect with your colleagues when you can put a face to their name and know who something about the person that you’re working with. Collaboration in face-to-face conversations, even when they’re held over video conferencing platforms, is much more effective than it is with written text.
3. Set clear objectives for projects
Leading remote teams requires clear goals and objectives. Your team should know what projects they’re working on, with whom, and how long they have for those projects. If projects are longer than general, then breaking the project into smaller parts and assigning goals to each part can help your teams stay on track.
Part of this should be having regular team or project meetings to do status updates. That way your team can discuss any roadblocks that are preventing them from getting the project completed and celebrate any wins together. This will not only keep projects moving forward towards established deadlines, but it will also help your team feel more cohesive and collaborative.
4. Practice transparency
Lack of transparency is a primary motivator for low employee morale. One way to make your employees feel valued, and like they’re truly part of a team, is by ensuring that internal and external information are shared appropriately with your remote teams.
Maintaining a culture of transparency can be challenging when managing remote teams, but it is possible. Hosting video meetings for significant updates, having team leaders send emails to their remote teams with updates at the end of the day – these can continue to develop transparency despite distance.
5. Use a project management system
A project management system is highly beneficial to remote teams. A good project management system will allow your remote team members to collaborate on projects easily. You’ll be able to assign tasks and timelines, show who is working on a project, and more.
Having the details of your remote teams’ projects all in one space makes it easier and more effective for your teams to work together. A platform that allows for notifications and automate reminders to keep projects moving forward will help you prevent tasks from falling through the cracks.
6. Put a significant focus on clarity
When your teams collaborating remotely, clarity is essential. While a brief chat message may seem to get the point across, you may leave your remote team confused and without enough direction.
Encourage your team leaders and team members to communicate with intention and explanation. Discuss the “why” behind the project you’re having the team take on and give a definitive deadline. Give examples when needed and encourage questions. Ask what isn’t clear so that you can better communicate what needs to be done.
When teams are struggling with clarity, not only does the work not get done, but the culture of the team suffers. Your team members won’t feel as much like a cohesive team and team leaders may struggle with frustration. Clarity is especially necessary when you can’t simply walk to the office next door to ask a follow-up question.
7. Create space for team bonding
Just because your teams are remote, doesn’t mean they don’t need the same amount and kinds of team bonding that your in-office teams would have. While it may be easier to get a team together for lunch when everyone is in the same office, it’s possible with a little creativity to bond your remote teams so they can feel more collaborative.
If you’re looking for ways to create team bonding online, a good place to start is a virtual happy hour or book club. You could also use a platform like Gather to create an online space that feels similar to an office, where quick chats are easy and informal. There are even companies that have created online escape rooms and trivia games, aimed at helping remote teams collaborate and connect.
If those ideas are hard to implement, even having a dedicated time to share bucket lists and talk about the week outside of work can help to create a team bond. You don’t have to start big – just give your remote teams space and time to connect with each other as people.
Remote work is now more prevalent than ever. Managing remote teams in a way that develops and encourages collaboration may feel challenging, but it really comes down to sharing the company culture throughout all of your teams. If your company wants to promote collaboration and transparency, you’ll need to set it up as a top-down initiative. If your company’s leaders and your team’s leaders promote that culture, you’ll find that managing remote teams in a way that fosters collaboration can be as easy as it is in-office.
Leveraging the right technologies and promoting a culture of transparency and collaboration throughout your remote teams can make a significant difference in how your teams work together. If you want to start, you simply need to pick a place and jump in. The seven tips we offered for improving collaboration in remote teams are an excellent place to start, but don’t forget about one of your most important resources – your team members.
As you are working towards better collaboration with remote teams, ask for feedback from your team leaders and your teams. Ask what their pain points are, what they’re finding difficult and what they’re finding easy. Ask them how they’re using collaboration tools and if they feel connected to their teams and able to effectively work together. If you feel they won’t be able to answer honestly, it’s always an option to employ an anonymous survey to allow remote teams to give feedback. Using all of that feedback, and your knowledge of project and team management, you’ll be able to set up effective remote teams in no time.
Here are fifteen essential Microsoft Teams Apps for project teams that you can leverage to improve collaboration within your teams.
BrightWork 365, a project and portfolio management solution for Microsoft 365, integrates directly with Microsoft Teams. In BrightWork 365, every program has a dedicated Microsoft Team. Each project within the program has a channel within that Team, added during project setup.
The integration allows employees to combine the collaborative features of Microsoft Teams with structured project management processes such as:
- Project Requests
- Task and Work Management
- Interactive Gantt chart
- Status Report
- Power BI Dashboards
- Reports for Issues and Risks