Remote work is the way of the future. It offers a plethora of perks for employees and employers alike. These span the gamut, from avoiding lengthy commutes to working in your PJs.
One area where remote work can hold you back, though, is collaboration. Traditionally an “in-person” activity, it can be challenging to work alongside others when everyone is physically removed and isolated.
If your team is struggling to collaborate together, here are a few tips to help you work together from afar.
1. Institute Standup Mini-Meetings
Meetings are often seen as the bane of a successful workplace. An excess of time spent closeted away in meetings can hamstring an office’s productivity and efficiency. This is just as true for virtual workspaces as for anywhere else.
The problem is, meetings are necessary at times — especially when you have a team operating from home. You need to keep everyone on the same page. This requires daily check-ins and a steady flow of shared information.
One way to do this without eating up too much of the day is to begin each day with a standup mini-meeting. According to the project management platform Shortcut, a standup mini-meeting is a time-restricted 15-minute meeting. It is simple, straightforward, and to the point. The goal is to discuss:
- What your team accomplished yesterday;
- What will you do today;
- What issues or impediments are reducing productivity.
Standup mini-meetings are a great way to stay focused and effective while everyone is together. They’re a great way to keep everyone on the same page as you work throughout the week. They’re also easy to adapt to a remote format, as it requires little more than having everyone hop onto a Zoom call or Slack channel for a few minutes to start the day.
By holding a remote meeting for 15 minutes each morning, you can ensure that everyone knows what they should be doing to move their projects forward.
2. Consider Cultural Differences
If you’re operating a remote team, there’s a decent chance that you’ll have a variety of different cultures present on your team. One of the employer-side benefits of operating in a virtual workspace is the ability to recruit the best talent no matter where in the world they may be.
This can give you access to the best employees for your team. However, it can also introduce several different cultural perspectives, as well.
This can be an amazing opportunity to enhance your products or services — when it’s handled well. If you neglect to make room for different worldviews, opinions, and behaviors within your workspace, though, it can be an issue.
For example, according to HBR, Japanese employees are often seen as operating with a hierarchical authority structure. In contrast, American workers are pegged as egalitarian to the core. Both of these views have some validity, but they also tend to slip into stereotypes, as well.
When leaders try to go into a work situation with a specific concept of how they should lead those from other cultures, it can create unexpected misunderstandings. Sometimes this is due to genuine cultural differences. At other times, it comes from preconceived notions that override one’s view of the actual interactions taking place.
In either case, it’s important to consider the cultures represented on your team. Don’t assume anything. Instead, reach out and learn how to best enable your team members to participate effectively. This will create an inviting atmosphere with healthy communication and, by extension, better collaboration.
3. Embrace Asynchronous Meetings
Along with cultural differences, another major area of concern with remote work comes from time. As workers fan out across a nation or even the globe, their workdays can become scattered.
An employee in Australia may find themselves just getting started with their day while their American co-workers are wrapping things up. At the same time, a German employee on their team may already be sound asleep. The whole situation can become convoluted — and can lead to disruptions in communication and collaboration.
Even if your team is regional or even local, the issue can still persist. If everyone is working remotely, there’s a good chance that your team will be on different schedules. Some will start work early, others will log in late, and night owls and early birds may not cross paths at all.
This can present a lot of collaborative issues. Coworkers can spend hours waiting for replies or trying to link up with another person on a different schedule.
One way to overcome this issue is by embracing asynchronous meetings. According to meeting software Fellow, asynchronous meetings consist of a “lag time” between sending and receiving communications.
While they are still overseen and guided with purpose, asynchronous meetings remove the need for everyone to gather at the same time. They offer a great way to keep things moving forward, whether your team is together or not.
There are many common recommendations to improve remote collaboration. Things like software tools and document- and file-sharing solutions are common. And these are certainly part of effective collaboration.
However, if you want your team to truly thrive, you have to look deeper than collaboration tools. There are many nuanced elements that can make or break your team’s collaborative success. From standup mini-meetings to their asynchronous alternative to addressing cultural communication, don’t be afraid to dig a little bit deeper to ensure that your team is collaborating well.