A remote work environment can be a boon for employees with advantages like no-commuting time, high productivity, and more flexibility. These are the primary reasons remote working and hybrid teams have skyrocketed over the past two years. According to a study,77% of employees said they are more productive when working remotely.
On the other hand, factors like poor work-life balance, distractions, communication issues, and loneliness paint a dreary picture for remote collaboration. Moreover, due to the continuous work cycle and lack of initiative from managers, employees may soon find themselves isolated and unable to communicate with each other.
Communication/collaboration issues are the top challenges following unplugging after work and loneliness in the remote work setup. As an increasing number of companies opt for remote work and create hybrid teams, it is the responsibility of the organisations to develop an ecosystem that encourages collaboration among employees.
If you can encourage collaboration among employees, you will handle most of the challenges in a remote ecosystem. For instance, as employees collaborate more, emotions like isolation and loneliness are expected to reduce. Increasing collaboration in a remote team requires concentrated efforts towards achieving the objective.
This article sees some of the most effective ways to enhance remote collaboration in your team.
Top 5 practical recommendations for remote collaboration
Remote collaboration is both easy and hard, depending on the approach taken by the employers. These suggestions may help to make the best decisions:
1. Set ground rules for collaboration
There could be a varied comfort level in a remote work environment across the workforce. As a result, it is essential to set some ground rules for collaboration. When hybrid teams are expected to collaborate towards achieving business goals, these ground rules will help select the proper foundation.
These rules should cover critical aspects like periods in a day when remote meetings can be scheduled, expected email response times, allowed time window to contact each other, channels to be used for various meetings (voice or video), etc.
The idea is to clarify as many doubts as possible for the workforce when collaborating virtually. Even if your team has been working in a remote environment for a while, it is a good start to ask them for feedback on the existing setup and create ground rules based on the feedback you receive.
For instance, the most common challenges reported in a recent study were the inability to plug off, loneliness, and lack of motivation in a remote work setup. You can, therefore, set up some rules to tackle these challenges that help employees feel more connected in a remote ecosystem.
2. Make a transparent schedule for catch-ups
One of the biggest challenges in collaborating for hybrid teams in a virtual ecosystem is the blurred lines between work and home.
While the time saved in commuting is a blessing, it is essential to maintain a transparent schedule of catch-ups with the team. These schedules can be broadly divided into daily, weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly.
For instance, daily sessions could be within teams as a quick round-up of what the team members plan to achieve in a day. This will help check if some team members need help with their work schedules.
Weekly meetings could be slightly longer where progress on various projects could be discussed. These could also be used for brainstorming and planning for the next few weeks.
Bi-weekly meetings could be scheduled as one-to-one sessions with the individual team members and the manager. This would help in taking feedback on the current state of the employees and expected changes in the work environment.
Monthly meetings could be between team leaders and senior management to share critical updates related to the projects and make changes in the remote work environment to suit the needs of the employees. You can pick and choose the schedules as per your requirement, but the important part is to maintain a transparent schedule of meetings with the team and ensure that it is within the ground rules that have been set in the previous step.
A good practice is to establish an agenda for each meeting and share it with the participants in advance so that they are well-prepared and meetings can be made more productive. By following this practice, you would reduce barriers to collaboration among team members.
3. Reduce affinity distance
One of the biggest challenges in a remote work ecosystem is that affinity distance increases quickly. According to an article by Harvard Business Review, without consistent face-to-face interactions, it is difficult to have the same values, trust, and interdependency as in an offline world. As a result, remote teams are most affected by the affinity distance.
Affinity distance is very different from a physical distance and an operational distance. For example, people work continuously in a remote environment without tackling affinity distance. As a result, they may feel like they are interacting with email avatars and not actual human beings on the other end.
It is essential to have video calls or occasional physical meetings if possible, rather than relying only on calls and emails to handle this effectively. As you work towards tackling the factors that are making the team feel isolated, affinity distance begins to reduce, and teams can collaborate much more efficiently.
Even for hybrid teams, it is challenging to eliminate affinity distance. Although it is challenging to measure affinity distance among team members, it is better to take proactive steps to reduce it rather than wait for alarming signals.
4. Improve the technology infrastructure
Never assume that all your team members have solid remote workstations installed at their homes. Even before installing the remote employee monitoring software into their laptops, ensure that all relevant technology infrastructures in the organisation have been upgraded to meet the needs of a remote environment.
For instance, employees would need solutions like video conferencing applications, task management software, communication app, headphones, cloud storage, and even basics like a workstation or a monitor itself.
The requirements could even vary by industry. For instance, companies in the consulting business may require a specific set of tools, while BPOs and call centres may require a completely different set. There is no one size fits option here. You need to have clarity on the requirements as per your organisation.
To assess the requirements, you can organise a quick online survey among the workforce. This survey should help you understand the needs of employees for upgrading the organisation's tech stack.
For instance, you would also require good employee productivity tracking software to track the performance of the employees in a remote work environment.
This investment in upgrading the technology infrastructure in the organisation is vital for enabling collaboration among team members. You can also share the list of tools and software required to work remotely so that they know the must-haves.
5. Evaluate performance standards
Performance in a remote or a hybrid work environment cannot be measured like it is done in the offline world. The most crucial factor to consider here is that it has been a drastic change for the workforce to work remotely.
Even as you plan to have a relook at the performance standards that have been set for the employees, you should begin with some empathy towards your employees.
For instance, some of your employees may be struggling to handle too many digital tools simultaneously. Some of them may be struggling to manage work and home responsibilities. Some of them may be feeling lonely or disconnected. You need to consider all these factors in mind as you plan to set the new performance standards for the team.
To begin with, the criteria should be focused on results and not on the hours clocked. At the same time, the performance standards should encourage collaboration among team members. For instance, you can promote joint projects rather than assigning various projects to respective team members.
Alternatively, you can also design a project so that employees are encouraged to collaborate across the various activities related to the project.
If the performance standards motivate employees to collaborate, it would be a win-win situation for you and the employees.
These are some tips that you can use to increase collaboration in a remote work environment. Always aim for meaningful cooperation rather than wasting hours talking to each other.
It has been seen that hybrid teams have better collaboration with each other as compared to remote teams. As mixed teams can get some in-person meetings, they continue to stay connected to the traditional workplace.
Even if you opt for a fully remote workplace, you can use the tips mentioned above to increase employee collaboration. Virtual teamwork will work at better efficiency as you use the right tools and platforms. However, it will take some time to research the tools you would need for your business.
You would need to further invest time and resources in setting up and implementing the processes. However, you can be sure that every minute you spend towards increasing collaboration in a remote ecosystem is worth the effort.