When you have teams who are telecommuting and working remotely, as so many businesses and managers do right now, there are benefits but also challenges.
Among those challenges are keeping employees connected to the company and one another. Collaboration and team building should be top priorities in the management of remote employees.
Without collaboration and the sense of team and engagement, you’re likely to see high turnover and reduced productivity.
The following are some ways to improve collaboration among your remote workers, and subsequently build stronger and more engaged teams.
Use a Team Chat Feature
Team chats are a great tool for collaboration because they allow people to communicate directly, efficiently, and more informally than they would with emails. Employees often find the majority of emails they receive aren’t relevant to them, and a chat solution lets you set up different channels based on topics or workstreams.
There are opportunities to have a casual conversation that can be good for team building, and one-on-one chat features are helpful to reduce distractions for employees who don’t need to be part of certain conversations.
When choosing a chat solution, you might consider one that can turn into a “face-to-face” video conversation as needed.
The more organized your chat tool will keep conversations, the better from a productivity standpoint.
Keep People on the Same Page
While you don’t want to inundate remote employees with too much communication, you do want to encourage collaboration and a sense of connection by making sure everyone is on the same page with big conversations or decisions.
You can implement this by sending out a brief, direct email each week that sums up any major news everyone needs to know.
Create Boundaries and Protocols
We’re now six months into the coronavirus situation, which means that many people have been working remotely during this time.
If you haven’t already done so, you should have firm policies in place that highlight boundaries and expectations as far as communication and collaboration.
The more formalized your policies can be, for example, as far as hours when employees are expected to respond and how quickly a response is expected, the less room for miscommunication and misunderstanding. Misunderstandings can lead to breakdowns in overall communication and that can impair collaboration.
By formalizing policies, you don’t leave as many opportunities for these things to happen.
There are two main things to consider when it comes to creating policies and boundaries.
First, you want to consider time, and then you want to consider type. As far as time, you should have office hours that start and end at a certain time each day. If an employee gets an email after that time, they shouldn’t be expected to respond until the next day.
You should also have a way to categorize the type of communication based on its urgency. Define low priority versus high priority communication, and the expectations for responding to each.
Make Data Widely Available
If you want everyone to collaborate and work together effectively, they need access to the relevant information.
That means that you have a centralized repository of data and other information employees may need so they can all see it, and all use it in their work.
Cybersecurity is a priority here, however.
Use a Project Management Platform
With the growth of remote work in 2020, you should invest in a project management platform. These tools remain the best way to foster collaboration but also accountability.
This will give you a place to organize data, and also allow employees to work amongst themselves and organize projects in a way that works for them. There’s also a sense of visibility provided by project management platforms that can help encourage collaboration.
Have the Right Tools
Overall, the biggest takeaway for businesses and managers right now is that if they want collaboration and they want a sense of team among employees, they need to provide them with the right tools. There need to be ways for employees to log on and see what’s happening at any given time, and then get in touch with people as needed.
The goals of any tools you use for managing remote employees should be transparency, availability of information, and streamlined communication.
You can also try to add some fun into the mix and make sure employees stay connected with your corporate culture, no matter where they might be working from.