With more and more employers implementing some sort of work from home policy – whether in a hybrid model or offering employees the option to be full-time remote – the need for remote collaboration has increased. However, being able to manage remote teams is not the same as managing in-person employees.

In the physical workplace environment, employees are physically present in the same meeting and work spaces, allowing them to freely share work, ideas, and updates in person. However, trying to replicate that same kind of collaboration when all team members are not present in the same work spaces presents a number of obstacles and logistics to consider.

So, what steps can managers take to optimize collaboration in remote teams? Keep reading!

Optimizing collaboration in remote teams

Providing the Right Tools and Software

Almost all remote collaboration is going to be heavily reliant on digital technology and software, which means it’s important that you provide remote teams with access to what they need.

Communications software is needed to allow people to converse in real-time, share ideas and reproduce the kind of interactions you might get from in-person teamwork. One of the best options here is to provide employees with access to the Microsoft Office 365 range of products, which includes both Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Planner. Both of these packages can be useful for collaboration, with the former allowing for video conferencing; the latter serves as a planning tool, allowing tasks to be assigned to specific team members, files to be shared, and progress updates to be issued.

An alternative to Microsoft Teams can be found in the form of Zoom, and this can be good for organizations that are not heavily invested in Microsoft Office 365. While Microsoft Teams has a more comprehensive range of features, the simplicity of Zoom can be appealing, and both packages allow for both one-to-one and team-based video calls.

Aside from video conferencing software, it is important that you provide employees with the other tools they may need to do their job. This could mean ensuring they have access to core applications – with possible options here including Microsoft Office and Google Workspace – but it may also require the provision of specialist software too, depending on the industry your business is operating in and the nature of the work you carry out.

In addition, ViewSonic’s myViewBoard collaboration software serves as a visual communication solution, with support for a range of features, including digital whiteboarding, multi-casting, and cloud integration. This can be particularly useful for remote teams who have access to touch screens and for any collaborative efforts that rely on things like drawing and live annotations. Of course, you will need to make sure all team members have access to a computer that can reliably run the software. It may also be beneficial to ensure all team members have a dedicated work phone, as some communication tools work better via smartphone apps, but employees may not wish for their personal phone numbers to be shared.

Managing Remote Teams Effectively

While providing the right tools and software to your remote teams is important, it is only part of the solution when it comes to optimizing collaboration. In order to optimize remote collaboration, your remote teams need to be effectively managed.

On a basic level, creating a schedule for team members to stick to, allocating tasks to individuals or groups, and tracking progress are all essential. Those who are managing remote teams also need to think carefully about how to build those teams. This means selecting the right people to get the job done and making sure they are equipped to do what is needed.

Remote workers must know how to use the communications software they have been given, so they can carry out group video calls and one-on-one calls, depending on what is required. Features like breakout rooms may need to be used too, and if there are workers in different time zones, this needs to be factored into scheduling decisions.

Additionally, aside from managing projects and making sure the work is performed by the right people at the right time, a key part of optimizing remote collaboration involves creating the kind of culture for good teamwork to occur. This means taking the time to create a truly supportive environment, where ideas can be shared freely, without fear of judgment or ridicule. In both remote and in-person collaborative environments, real innovation relies on “outside the box” thinking, and people need to have the confidence to make suggestions or think out loud.

Those responsible for managing remote teams need to try to cater to different work styles and need to embrace individuality, as well as teamwork. Furthermore, it is absolutely critical that team leaders encourage universal participation, as collaborative efforts lose their benefits when people do not contribute to the group effort. This may require you to identify those who are not participating, find out why, and manage them through the situation.

Overcoming Remote Work Challenges

In order to truly be able to optimize remote collaboration, it’s important to be aware of some of the challenges and difficulties that come with remote or hybrid work, so that you can take the necessary steps to overcome these challenges before they cause issue. For example, there are a number of logistical issues that may need to be overcome for remote collection to work properly.

The biggest of these is ensuring that all team members are able to contact one another reliably, which can potentially become a problem if internet connections fail, or become too slow, preventing reliable video conferencing. If video conferencing is not possible, the alternative is to also use mobile phones and mobile apps, such as WhatsApp, where communication can be text or voice-based instead. This may not always be as good as video conferencing for replicating the kind of collaborative meetings people are used to, but it is a useful option to have available.

Aside from the more technical aspects of ensuring remote collaboration is possible, it is also important to make sure the team is available at the same time. This is not a major challenge if every team member is in the same country, but it can require some careful management if there are multiple time zones involved.

You also want to be aware of the fact that some team members will take to remote work better than others. As a result, you may need to deal with issues surrounding social isolation, especially if team members live alone and are required to work remotely on a permanent basis or for extended periods of time. It is important that those managing remote teams make themselves available for discussions so people who are feeling isolated are able to approach them. There may be possible solutions here, such as allowing people to work in a shared workplace on occasion or organizing social events for the team outside of work hours.

Summing It All Up

Modern technology has helped to make remote collaboration easy to achieve, but if performance is going to be optimized, there are steps employers and team managers will need to take. Providing the right software and tools, managing projects properly, encouraging universal participation, and providing solutions for those experiencing social isolation are among the biggest priorities here.

(From the editor: This article was originally published on ViewSonic Library.)