In many organizations, remote collaboration is now essential, especially as a growing number of workers want to be able to work from home. However, for those managing remote teams, there are a number of obstacles that need to be overcome if this kind of teamwork is going to replicate the kind of collaboration that is possible when team members are all present in the same workplace.
Read on to learn more about how you can optimize collaboration in remote teams. Or learn about all of ViewSonic’s workplace solutions here.
As more employers allow their staff to work from home, the need for remote collaboration increases. In a typical office environment, collaboration is relatively straightforward. Employees can be physically present in the same meeting rooms and workspaces, allowing them to freely share work, ideas, and updates in person.
Yet, when it comes to managing remote teams, there are logistical considerations and obstacles to get past. People are physically separated and communication can be affected, while there is the potential for technical difficulties to arise too. In this article, we explore what you can do to optimize collaboration in remote teams.
Providing the Tools and Software
Almost all remote collaboration is going to be heavily reliant on digital technology and software, which means it is imperative that you provide remote teams with access to what they need. In this section, you will find a breakdown of some of the most important software solutions to consider if you wish to achieve optimal team performance.
Communication and Planning
To facilitate effective collaboration from remote teams, it is crucial that those teams have access to the right software. In particular, communications software is needed to allow people to converse in real-time, share ideas and reproduce the kind of interactions you might get from in-person teamwork.
One of the best options here is to provide employees with access to the Microsoft Office 365 range of products, which includes both Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Planner. Both of these packages can be useful for collaboration, with the former allowing for video conferencing; the latter serves as a planning tool, allowing tasks to be assigned to specific team members, files to be shared, and progress updates to be issued.
An alternative to Microsoft Teams can be found in the form of Zoom, and this can be good for organizations that are not heavily invested in Microsoft Office 365. While Microsoft Teams has a more comprehensive range of features, the simplicity of Zoom can be appealing, and both packages allow for both one-to-one and team-based video calls.
One possible solution would be an all-in-one video-conferencing monitor.
Other Tools and Software Packages
Aside from video conferencing software, it is important that you provide employees with the other tools they may need to do their job. This could mean ensuring they have access to core applications – with possible options here including Microsoft Office and Google Workspace – but it may also require the provision of specialist software too, depending on the industry your business is operating in and the nature of the work you carry out.
In addition, myViewBoard serves as a visual communication solution, with support for a range of features, including digital whiteboarding, multi-casting, and cloud integration. This can be particularly useful for remote teams who have access to touch screens and for any collaborative efforts that rely on things like drawing and live annotations.
Of course, you will need to make sure all team members have access to a computer that can reliably run the software. It may also be beneficial to ensure all team members have a dedicated work phone, as some communication tools work better via smartphone apps, but employees may not wish for their personal phone numbers to be shared.
Managing Remote Teams Effectively
Next, it is vital to understand that offering up the right tools and software is only part of the battle. For optimal remote collaboration to occur, teams need to be carefully managed. This not only involves management of the actual project(s) being worked on, but also the management of individuals and creating the right culture.
For remote collaboration to work properly, without slowing productivity or adversely affecting the quality of the final output, project managers need to take control of the situation. On a basic level, creating a schedule for team members to stick to, allocating tasks to individuals or groups, and tracking progress are all essential.
Those who are managing remote teams also need to think carefully about how to build those teams. This means selecting the right people to get the job done and making sure they are equipped to do what is needed.
Remote workers must know how to use the communications software they have been given, so they can carry out group video calls and one-on-one calls, depending on what is required. Features like breakout rooms may need to be used too, and if there are workers in different time zones, this needs to be factored into scheduling decisions.
Remote Work Culture
Aside from managing projects and making sure the work is performed by the right people at the right time, a key part of the successful remote collaboration will involve creating the kind of culture for good teamwork to occur.
This means taking the time to create a truly supportive environment, where ideas can be shared freely, without fear of judgment or ridicule. In both remote and in-person collaborative environments, real innovation relies on “outside the box” thinking, and people need to have the confidence to make suggestions or think out loud.
Those responsible for managing remote teams need to try to cater to different work styles and need to embrace individuality, as well as teamwork. Furthermore, it is absolutely critical that team leaders encourage universal participation, as collaborative efforts lose their benefits when people do not contribute to the group effort. This may require you to identify those who are not participating, find out why, and manage them through the situation.
Overcoming the Remote Challenges
Another factor that goes into optimizing remote collaboration is overcoming some of the challenges and difficulties that are built-in to any arrangements where employees are going to be working from home. This includes everything from well-being issues to the potential reliability problems that are associated with internet connections.
There are a number of logistical issues that may need to be overcome for remote collection to work properly. The biggest of these is ensuring that all team members are able to contact one another reliably, which can potentially become a problem if internet connections fail, or become too slow, preventing reliable video conferencing.
The alternative is to also use mobile phones and mobile apps, such as WhatsApp, where communication can be text or voice-based instead. This may not always be as good as video conferencing for replicating the kind of collaborative meetings people are used to, but it is a useful option to have available.
Aside from the more technical aspects of ensuring remote collaboration is possible, it is also important to make sure the team is available at the same time. This is not a major challenge if every team member is in the same country, but it can require some careful management if there are multiple time zones involved.
With the best preparation work in the world, it is a simple reality that some team members will take to remote work better than others. As a result, you may need to deal with issues surrounding social isolation, especially if team members live alone and are required to work remotely on a permanent basis or for extended periods of time.
It is important that those managing remote teams make themselves available for discussions so people who are feeling isolated are able to approach them. There may be possible solutions here, such as allowing people to work in a shared workplace on occasion or organizing social events for the team outside of work hours.
Finally, optimizing remote collaboration will also mean taking steps to minimize any other well-being issues that may result from people working from remote locations. Ideally, it is best if some measures are taken in advance to prevent issues from arising in the first place, and this means tackling the most common problems first.
A good example of this is based on ergonomics. Within a workplace, office ergonomics concerns are relatively easy to manage, because you can see exactly how people are working and you know the desks and chairs they are using. When people work from home, this is no longer automatically the case, but employers can still provide these things.
Workers need to know the basics of ergonomics, too, such as how far they should sit from their computer screen, why a good office chair is important, and why it needs to be adjustable so that it sits at the appropriate height. Solving these kinds of issues can minimize absences, boost morale, and avoid any unnecessary long-term health issues.
Modern technology has helped to make remote collaboration perfectly viable, but if performance is going to be optimized, there are steps employers and team managers will need to take. Providing the right software and tools, managing projects properly, encouraging universal participation, taking proactive measures to limit well-being issues, and providing solutions for those experiencing social isolation are among the biggest priorities here.
Get more out of work wherever you are with one of ViewSonic’s workplace solutions. Or want to optimize your workspace for productivity, communication, and collaboration? Check out Home Office Setup Ideas: The Ultimate Guide to Setting Up a Productive Workspace at Home.