In these challenging times, many businesses have chosen to migrate to a work-from-home setup and embraced remote team collaboration. Much of this is due to the SOPs necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, although quite a few businesses had adopted a remote work model that suited their needs prior to this.
According to a workplace survey conducted by Staples in 2019, 90% of employees believe that flexible arrangements increase employee morale. This also makes for a healthier work-life balance and saves both time and stress of the commute.
What’s more, the survey also revealed that 77% of employees believe that allowing a remote working policy will lower the agency’s operating cost. Whilst on the topic of building a healthier work-life balance, you should be aware of some of the drawbacks, challenges, tools, and methods of setting up and managing a remote team.
- Benefits of Improving Team Collaboration
- Expert Opinions on Improve Team Collaboration
- Remote Team Collaboration Tools
So working remotely clearly had its advantages even before the global pandemic. Let’s have a look at some of the benefits of working and collaborating effectively with a remote team.
Benefits of Improving Your Business’s Remote Team Collaboration
1. Organizational Flexibility
As remote teams improve their collaboration skills, the organization’s ability to adapt to changes is bettered as well. An improved team synergy helps the organization cater to customer’s preferences much more effectively.
2. Healthier Workforce
When an organization improves team collaboration while maintaining a value-based culture, the employees’ stress levels and toxic health conditions drop significantly. This happens when employees feel a greater level of trust between them and the upper management. The established trust and lowered stress empower remote employees to stay focused and committed to their tasks.
3. Innovation and Effective Problem Solving
Remote team collaboration connects employees from different backgrounds and brings more skills and experiences to the table. This diversity in the team generates innovative ideas that are effective for growing businesses. Effective collaboration with a diverse workforce helps teams find new perspectives on dealing with roadblocks.
It’s important to keep in mind that while remote team collaboration increases productivity, if not managed properly, it may make it harder to de-escalate friction between employees with a difference of opinion. That said, according to a blog post by Catalent, the majority of CEOs rank collaboration among the top three critical components of innovation.
So while the friction caused by cross-functional collaboration could slow down the pace of work, it still drives future business growth, innovation, and business agility with the help of a diverse team. It’s equally important that senior managers provide avenues for remote workers to sort out their differences in order to keep the team’s energy positive.
4. Retain Top Talent
Retention rates increase with happier employees who find their work fulfilling. Better work collaboration sets the foundations of a work culture that can lead to this conducive work environment.
In work environments where teams contribute by being part of group brainstorming sessions, employees are more satisfied as they have more to learn from the existing mixed-skilled teams. It benefits their psychological well-being as they feel valued for their skills and understand that they are contributing to the bigger picture of the organization.
5. Clearer and More Effective Communication
You may have worried that working from home could cause communication to falter in the absence of face-to-face discussions. But while in-person communication has its advantages, so does remote communication.
Remote team collaborations aided by online tools and frequent real-time communication reduces unnecessary meetings. This leads to lowered stress levels, as well as more effective communication as employees can focus on reading each email and listen to each voice note and at their own pace.
6. Increased Productivity and Profitability
Teams that are working remotely have a greater sense of responsibility towards their work. According to ZDNet and Board-Room, only 28% of on-premise employees are willing to work overtime. Interestingly, this number jumped to 58% when remote employees were asked the same question.
ReliablePlant released an interesting infographic explaining how virtual teams can increase profits. Greater global profits for an organization depend on effective communication among virtual teams and effective marketing communication.
With the help of improved team collaboration, productive competition, innovation, and increased customer satisfaction, the organization develops a work culture that can make an impact on the overall bottom line.
Expert Opinions on Improving Remote Team Collaboration
We reached out to business owners and managers to find out how they’re working on improving their remote team collaboration.
Here’s what they had to say.
1. Reduce Meetings
Amit Gamif, Founder of Business Waste Guru
From my own personal experience working with my team, my best tip is to minimize virtual meetings. When everyone isn’t present in the same office, some owners feel the need to increase the number of meetings to make up for the reduced contact time. However virtual meetings are the biggest killer of productivity. We only have meetings unless absolutely necessary. I’ve found making use of our internal messaging service has been particularly beneficial.
2. Build Transparency that Nurtures Trust
Jen Penaluna, SEO Manager at BigFoot Digital
Trust and transparency are key factors in shifting to remote work. I need to be working with a team that I trust, but also to see what they’re working on and the quality of their work.
As a team manager, I need to keep in touch with my team for updates or issues.
We’ve been using Facebook Workplace to chat with each other, but have recently found a platform called Team Huddle. This is a collaborative team working tool that schedules daily check-ins, where the team can let me know what they’re working on for the day, any challenges they foresee so I can help, and how they are feeling that day.
This is all really concise and helps me to structure my catch up calls with the team by seeing a clear agenda. Productivity is at an all-time high! Regular check-ins with your remote digital team are needed to ensure not only the productivity but also the wellbeing of your team.
The added bonus of using Team Huddle for team management is that each team member can add an emoji to their check-in, so I know who’s happy or who’s stressed, and help out accordingly.
3. Ensure Clear Communication
Maksym Babych, Chief Executive Officer of SPD Load
Here are 4 tips to improve remote team productivity and collaboration:
- Equip your teams with the right tools.
It is important to provide a set of tools that would fit the company’s goals and improve team productivity. For example, Zoom for calls, Slack for communication, and G Suite for project discussion.
- Clearly define team schedules.
You should try to find different schedules that work for your team members and then stick with those. Start by asking the following questions:
- What are the different time zones that my employees are in?
- At what point do the time zones overlap in terms of working hours?
- Is it appropriate to reach out to employees during odd hours?
- What should be an appropriate/reasonable response time?
- Be crystal-clear when communicating.
When only communicating through emails, texts, comments, and native messaging tools, there’s an absence of body language and tone — leaving the messages open to interpretation. For starters, when drafting important emails/messages, leave no room for misunderstanding and never assume that the recipient knows the context of everything that you’re talking about. Additionally, it’s important to be clear on the urgency.
- Use different channels to communicate.
For example, instead of having a group chat with 100+ messages (most of which get lost within the clutter), have a video conference instead. Use the appropriate channels for communication and tell your teams to do the same. For instance, if a certain manager needs something done on an urgent basis, email wouldn’t be an appropriate channel. Instead, it would be much wiser to communicate through an instant messaging app.
4. Follow the 3 Cs
Alex Harris, Founder of Adadot
My tips for improving remote collaboration in a digital agency environment come down to the three Cs:
When working remotely it’s important that everyone is clear on their role, timelines, deliverables, and measures of success. Because it’s harder to pop over a desk and discuss, it’s easier for mistakes to happen. So clear documentation is key. My tip is to create step by step processes that are easy to follow and frequent checks to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Example: We created a quick triage process to rank incoming tasks by importance and complexity, which reduced our error rate by 60%.
Agencies rely a lot on serendipitous meetings and brainstorms. It’s also harder to build client relationships remotely. For that reason, communication must happen more frequently and more efficiently. The tip is to maintain close contact with the client and team as much as possible without overloading them. Replace status emails with short daily standups. Be clear on what the purpose of these are and get everyone to show up prepared. At the end of each session, make sure that everything is documented and accessible by everyone involved.
Example: We have completely banned internal emails, and as a result, productivity increased because communication was much faster with live messaging
This is the one that brings the first two together. At Adadot we have created our own collaboration platform which is part of our product. But in general, each remote team, especially in a digital agency, needs to be able to organize their work. There are some great free tools like Jira, Trello, Slack, and Toggl out there.
Key functions agencies need in tools
- Gantt chart/ task scheduling
- Task allocation
- Results dashboard
5. Break the Ice
Amrita Singh Jaswal, Digital Marketing Analyst at Signity Solutions
Make them feel comfortable during discussions. To do so, play an Icebreaker round and you will see the difference. Actually, this is something we do in our group meetings. Like we start our session with a general discussion.
Start every meeting with an icebreaker question, even if you’ve been working together for some time. Slowly you’ll learn more about your team and what you have in common.
6. Prioritize Communication and Minimize Meetings
Guillem Hernandez, Account Manager at CRISP Studio
We’ve been a company that hires, supports, and nurtures talent from across the globe, even before COVID-19. The top tips that help us with our distributed remote working culture include weekly meetings and unhindered communication.
At CRISP Studio, we have our team meetings on Mondays. Because of the differences in time zones, we have agreed on a time-slot after taking input from all our team members. Our weekly meetings really help us stay on track, convey the team’s objectives + management’s expectations to the team, and get to know if any team member is facing any hurdle in finishing up the assigned tasks or if we should expect a delay.
Moreover, we’ve trained our team to understand the importance of clear communication and well-document tasks to avoid any performance issues. Communication should never be postponed for later. If there is a question – it needs to be asked and addressed ASAP. Delaying the questions or asking them near the deadline is disastrous. To avoid this, the team members are advised to send in their queries on chat, and the corresponding team member can respond to it when they read it.
From a technical standpoint, we use Missive and Zoom for our internal meetings and communication.
7. Connect on a Personal Level
Charlie Worrall, Digital Marketing Executive at Imaginaire
Having open lines of communication is the key to improving team collaboration. In the digital industry, everyone is always on the go and it can often be harder to get hold of people or get a complete answer to your questions. Being able to message, call, or video call a colleague means that we’re able to effectively collaborate on all of our projects.
One of the most important parts of our collaborations is our video call with the team, these are on alternate days of the week; Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. These are flexible meetings that can be moved if necessary; they contain both personal and professional matters, which means that we’re able to remain a close team that wants to help each other succeed.
So open lines of communication, and balancing the professional and personal in such a way that makes us effective and pull together as a team is such an important element of our work. This is especially true during this remote stage of the business.
8. Be Adaptive
Maya Cress, PR & Communications at Opportunity Network
We’ve prioritized flexibility. Each team is encouraged to set up a workflow that works best for them. Our marketing team, for example, starts and ends each day with a video call. This lets them share their planned tasks achievements & coordinate support from other team members.
Our Account Management team has “Hot Topic” video conferences, where any team member can raise a challenge they’re facing and the rest of the team suggests quick solutions or workarounds.
The Operations team has even created daily meetings specifically to talk about anything but business.
To keep a strong bond of collaboration on a company-wide level, we have also scheduled virtual activities throughout the week. “Catch-up coffee hour” on Monday mornings, a workout session on Thursday afternoon, or after-work drinks on Friday afternoons. Occasionally, our tech team even organizes a live gaming session. Over the past month, these kinds of activities have kept us connected to one another, in turn keeping our communication strong and our productivity high.
9. Communicate Frequently
Alexey Kutsenko, Head of Marketing at DDI Development
To maintain a High-Performing Virtual Team while working remotely, we use a lot of approaches. The most important of them are listed below.
Team members fill in Excel with hours worked every day, if they get paid an hourly rate. Before the weekend, I get reporting on tasks completed, and ask colleagues clarifying questions.
Daily communication with colleagues via videoconferencing or by phone is a must to maintain their involvement in the overall process.
It is inappropriate to lose contact for more than one day. In particular, attention and the most gentle attitude needs to be given to the newcomers to help them adapt.
Create a general chat room for employees to make it easier for them to get to know each other closer. This lets them exchange professional tips, news, jokes, and even pictures of their fluffy pets that interrupt team individuals as they work at home.
Use a Kanban-based task board. Thanks to the to-do list, each team member can plan their working day more flexibly, taking into account household chores and family time.
And one more thing. The less we will distract each other from the workflow, the higher will be the productivity of each specialist. It is crucial to reduce the number of required meetings; they should be organized only when called upon.
10. Give Honest Feedback
Tihana Drumev, Senior Content Marketing Executive at Best Response Media
The one thing that can improve remote team collaboration is mutual trust. Being honest with your team leader and team members increases efficiency and collaboration as well. E.g., everyone has a bad day occasionally – the days you can’t concentrate, and your head is in a different place.
Why wouldn’t you share that? If you were in an office, you would probably say something about it.
Talking honestly about work issues and blocks, as well as sharing small victories, is crucial to increasing collaboration in a remote team. We have daily team video calls to discuss our work life and to chat about our personal lives a bit, as well as different topic Slack channels where everyone can post a message.
11. Utilize Digital Tools
Ashton Newell, Lead Digital PR Strategist at Directive
To be successful with my team remotely, I over-communicate and utilize digital tools, like Asana, to keep my team’s expectations visually available. Using this tool helps my team understand what is expected of them at all times and when the most important items are due. It also encourages collaboration as multiple people work on a project.
If I don’t hear from my team, I check-in. When I’m not in the office with them, I can’t just glance over at them and make sure they understand. I must go out of my way and see how they’re doing.
Asynchronous communication is essential throughout the day and also required; however, I make sure to set up at least one “face-to-face” digital call weekly on the calendar. There is power in reading body language and having a “real” conversation with your colleagues. If I have further questions, I’ll set up more video calls.
Remote Team Collaboration Tools
Various remote communication and collaboration tools help organizations and agencies work with internal and remote teams. I’ve mentioned a few of these web-based tools that have become increasingly popular among professionals who communicate and collaborate daily with internal and external teams.
By the way, if you’re interested in knowing about some of the best tools that are being used today, have a look at these articles.
- 40+ Agency Tools You Need To Have in Your Tech Stack
- 20 Best Web Design Tools for Design Agencies to Help Win Clients
1. G Suite
This is a popular office suite that combines collaborative productivity apps, administrative control, and cloud storage features to help improve team synergy.
- Send and receive emails through Gmail
- Share Calendars with your team members
- Work together on Docs, Sheets, and Slides
- Save copies of files on the Drive and share with ease
- Connect and Meet with your team members from your laptop, tablet, or mobile device
2. Microsoft Teams
This is a reliable tool that organizations or agencies can use to collaborate and communicate with internal and external teams. Microsoft Teams helps keep communication in internal and external meetings organized, easy follow up on and improves the effectiveness of collaborative work.
- Create a shared space for the team
- Integrates with all Microsoft’s Suite products
- Compatible with iOS and Android platforms
- Notifications and alerts on changes in documents reduce the need for sending out emails
- Encrypted communication with external and internal teams
3. Cloudways Team Feature
This feature is for professionals who develop, design and manage websites for multiple clients. The Cloudways Team Feature helps distribute the workload among team members. Through this Cloudways platform feature, adding team members is simple as adding email addresses of the team members and granting permission right from the platform.
- You can easily add, update, and delete team members using the Cloudways Team option.
- You can give permission to the team member(s) to access Billing, connect with the Support team, and give custom access to the Cloudways Platform.
Billing Access: Gives team members access to options where they can view, add/update payment details, download/pay invoices, and manage funds.
Support Access: Gives member access to the support area to help resolve a platform issue
Console Access: Gives members customized access to the Cloudways Platform
Slack is a popular remote communication and messaging platform built for interdepartmental and cross-functional teams. Instead of going through multiple threads of emails and sorting out email clutter, Slack makes it easy to connect, share relevant files, and sort out teams according to specific channels.
- Simple and easy Interface
- Makes sorting out groups easier
- Compatible with Android and iOS platforms
Agencies and organizations that operate at a large scale may find it frustrating to find a communication platform that can include all internal and remote teams in a single meeting room. Zoom overcomes this hindrance as meetings can have upto 1000 participants. The basic tier allows 40 minutes for a meeting; however, there’s no limit to the number of meetings.
- Integrate Zoom meetings with your Calendar
- Creating a Waiting Room to allow specific participants to access to the meeting
- Interactive backgrounds to hide messy rooms
This project management tool helps manage teams efficiently. Hubstaff helps identify gaps by monitoring and analyzing team activities such as clocking in attendance, assigning team members to specific tasks, and assessing the overall contribution of team members towards a specific task/project.
- Get alerts and notifications about your projects
- Monitor idle team members to ensure team efficiency
- Track invoicing of team members that work on a contract, such as freelancers and external teams.
When it comes to setting up individual boards and team boards, look no further than Trello. This tool is especially helpful when monitoring the overall team’s performance. It’s intuitive to understand, easy to set up, and customize.
- Easy to organize and label tasks and projects
- Customizable cards
- Easy to include internal and external teams in project cards
In a Nutshell
I’ve covered and highlighted basic ideas for improving the effectiveness of communication and remote team collaboration. For instance, it’s important to keep communication and clear so team members get precise, realistic, and constructive feedback. This helps them improve their workflow and contribute more effectively to the team goal.
When collaborating with a remote team, an agency or organization gets the benefit of working with a diverse pool of talented people. With the help of collaborative work, projects get more attention, and roadblocks are easily bypassed. The end result is a healthier work environment and better output from internal and external teams.
Besides sharing tips from business experts, I’ve also covered a number of remote team collaboration tools that help improve workflows. These tools help streamline daily tasks so team members can look at their progress holistically and at an individual level. For example, you can use Sparkbay while working remotely. It’s an excellent tool to communicate with your employees and quickly understand their needs and feelings through different surveys.
Arsalan, a Digital Marketer by profession, works as a Startups and Digital Agencies Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves all things entrepreneurial and wakes up every day with the desire to enable the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs through his work!