Some remote workers may feel cut off from the group, or communication may be lacking when it must overcome the distances of hundreds or even thousands of miles. No matter the problem, these production hiccups can often be overcome by teleworking teams using the many available remote collaboration tools in the right way. Here are some simple tips any teleworking team can implement to boost productivity and ensure that communication remains high despite long distances.
One of the simpler best practices, remote team members should work to never stray too far from his or her work space. That doesn’t mean that individuals can’t take the random break or so to clear their heads, but when individuals are working, presence apps should be tracking availability. Whenever someone wishes to ask a simple question, an answer shouldn’t be too long in response.
This may mean that some team members may have to deal with some strange working hours, especially if team members are separated by time zones. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that team members choose a particular time and stick with it, and at least 50% of each individual’s time should coincide with the team’s working time.
Use a Full-Range of Remote Collaboration Tools
While email may be the de facto communication medium, it leaves much to be desired. From video conferencing to remote collaboration services like Skype for Business, many other communication systems exist. A team may want to consider using them to make sure that the best medium is used for the right purpose. Luckily, software companies are looking to capitalize on the remote collaboration trend and are creating better communication tools every day.
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If a team member needs help deciding which tool to use, consider the richness of the message. Quick questions are great for instant messaging services, but if a message requires more detail and explanation to be fully understood, take the time to craft an email, or even start a video chat. There’s a major difference between good communication and bad communication, and even though one may seem to take longer in the beginning, it doesn’t compare to misdirected projects and work that should have been avoided if remote collaboration had been on point in the first place.
Approach Tasks From a Team Perspective
One of the major problems of remote working is team member exclusion. A good team will actively take precautions against such a potential problem. Sometimes, it may be a good idea to schedule a Google Hangout that isn’t just centered on work but rather serves as a way for individuals to talk about the latest news in and out of work. When there is no water cooler to chat around, a team will have to create its own break times for socialization.
Either way, team members need to be paying attention to other team members and be aware of any potential problems that may hurt overall productivity. That’s not to say that team members aren’t allowed to have private lives separate from their workplace. Rather, if team members are consistently bringing bad vibes into remote collaboration efforts and hurting the team’s functionality, then it’s a good idea to make that known, discuss it and potentially take action – even if it’s something as simple as coaching or as drastic as switching out the team member.
Have the Right Technology
Collaboration tools can go far when teams dedicate themselves to remote working processes, but sometimes the tech just can’t do what it’s supposed to due to worker circumstances. From the speed of available Internet connections to the interoperability of apps and mobile devices, a team will want everyone to be well aligned when it comes to collaboration hardware. Otherwise, the team may be fighting a losing battle.
Learn Which Communication Tool Works Best
The problem with communication isn’t so much how messages are displayed, but who’s receiving the message and its perceived overtones. For example, individuals who may rely more on body language to send subtle message may be lost when they start to communicate across email due to their tone or sarcasm. To operate correctly, remote workers will need to understand how to communicate well, how other team members will react to these messages and if the right actions will be taken from the communicated information. This will require two things.
- A good working relationship between most of the teams cogs
- Great communication abilities of team members –preferably those with the ability to communicate complicated messages with relative ease.
Create a Team Culture
As social creatures, employees will naturally form norms and values that create a team’s culture, and a team’s manager should take an active part when influencing those values. For example, some team project leads may assign everyone some sort of project management role in order to force team members to communicate. Another tactic is to make a point for team leads to praise individuals for particular successes. No matter the team, there’s always ways to create a team culture that has a higher probability for success.
Remote working can have a troublesome effect on productivity if not done correctly. However, remote working is far from an impossible task, and laying down some procedures and educating others on best practices will help stem any minor problems before they have major effects.
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