Managing virtual teams is a top concern for today’s businesses. In a recent Society for Human Resource Management study, 89 percent of managers predicted telecommuting would continue to rise in the next five years, and 26 percent claimed flexible work arrangements were already increasing their team’s productivity. The numbers support it: Remote jobs increased 26 percent year over year as companies found ways to decrease costs and provide better employee experiences.
Whether your team works at home due to flexible scheduling or is located across time zones, today’s workers are widely dispersed. Here’s a closer look at 10 ways the right tools can foster collaboration and ensure remote working doesn’t feel quite so remote.
1. Embrace mobile devices
Investing in the right hardware is a key component of managing virtual teams. Remote workers often fare better when they have access to laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Mobility is a key value of today’s remote work culture, where staff provides critical support to your business anytime and anywhere. Equipping them with the right hardware enables them to focus on collaborating and creating value.
2. Invest in collaboration software
Unified communication software enables a business to create a secure, virtualized collaboration environment. While your team members can’t walk across the aisle to talk with a colleague, this solution is the next best thing. From easy file sharing and document collaboration to texting and product status updates, collaboration between team members becomes seamless.
3. Use personalization features
Today’s remote collaboration applications recognize that teams need a higher degree of personalization features. Simple touches, like uploading team photographs, providing access to short bios, and showing who is online, can help build relationships and create the sense your workers are part of a bigger team.
4. Engage cloud-based apps for enhanced information access
Nearly every application your business uses is available in cloud format, from communication applications to customer relationship management software. By strategically investing in cloud-based applications, you’ll enable teams to access the information they need, wherever they are. A lack of data access won’t inhibit collaboration.
5. Incorporate file-sharing applications
The ability to share files and work on them together is an important part of collaboration. Your finance team may need to review a spreadsheet and update it in real-time, for example, or a sales team might need to work together to refine a presentation. With virtualized collaboration environments, colleagues can share the same screen, edit documents together, and track all the changes in real time, resulting in whiteboard session-quality collaboration.
6. Communicate with video chatting, texting, and voice calls
Collaboration tools make meetings and one-on-one conversations easy. Remote workers can have multi-person video chats, allowing them to see each other and build deeper engagement, similar to face-to-face meetings. Texting allows colleagues to easily ask a question. Breaking down barriers to basic communication is an essential part of managing virtual teams.
7. Leverage to-do lists
Simple to-do lists help keep individual members of your team organized, while also allowing for proactive management. Managers can check to see what an individual worker is spending their time on daily. Teams get a sense of how everyone’s contributing to the broader effort, which helps identify new opportunities for collaboration and connection.
8. Improve transparency into project status updates and project management software
On a larger scale, transparency and visibility into project progress is essential. With remote teams, project management applications are frequently updated as tasks are completed. Managers can identify challenges before they become roadblocks. When remote workers see how their efforts contribute to the bigger picture, it helps them feel more connected.
9. Train remote workers on how to collaborate
The most talented and innovative employees may not intuitively understand how to be part of a remote team. Invest in training your team on how to stay productive on their own, on your company’s mission and values, and how to make the most of the collaboration tools provided. A well-trained remote worker generates better results.
10. Continually upgrade your collaboration infrastructure to support new tools and a good user experience
New tools are constantly being developed to make it easier for remote teams to stay collaborative, connected, and productive. Look for needs or gaps within your team and watch for tools that help solve those problems. Periodically evaluate new tools in the collaboration space to see if they’re offering new features that can help your team connect effectively. While these tools have benefits and values of their own, the demands of a collaboration-focused IT design are different from networks created solely for data.
If you’re adding in collaboration tools without preparing your infrastructure for the new tech, it may result in a bad user experience involving network slowdowns, server outages, and other inconveniences, which can create distrust of system capabilities. If this distrust is pervasive, employees may disregard and avoid using these collaboration elements and eliminate the benefits of collaboration tools. Focus on creating a fully capable IT infrastructure and, in turn, a positive user experience.
Remote work has numerous benefits for businesses, from decreasing costs to enhancing productivity. Businesses that invest in collaboration tools are poised to capture the full benefits of this work arrangement, maximizing productivity and business results.