Remote collaboration can be stressful. Whether you work in a virtual team or as a freelancer, you have to collaborate with people that are miles away, and sometimes even complete strangers. We have a lot of experience working in remote teams ourselves and we know how tricky it might be. So we decided to help you with these hand-picked remote collaboration hacks that will make your team insanely productive.
1. Go Beyond Written Communication
Communication is a multidimensional structure. It consists, not only of a verbal part, but also of nonverbal cues such as body language, the tone of voice, distance and physical appearance. In fact, it’s the nonverbal part that has the most power in getting your message through. The tone of your voice, your gestures and facial expressions are those that speak the loudest.
When you’re restricting yourself to written communication, you’re striping your message from its full meaning. Even a badly placed punctuation can defer the true meaning of your message. Have you ever spend a half an hour writing an email, only to learn that your colleague has interpreted it entirely wrong? It happened to all of us. And it happens more often to remote teams.
Well, there’s a simple solution to this problem: whenever you can, ditch the written communication! There are plenty of visual and audio communication tools to help you effectively deliver your remote message. Video communication tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom or join.me can bring your remote collaboration to the higher level.
There are also great visual collaboration tools that can help you visualize your message in real time. Collaborative online whiteboards like AWW App are ideal to get your remote team on the same page. So, instead of talking about your ideas – you can actually show them!
2. Make Sure Everyone is Comfortable with the Collaboration Technology
You have found a great remote collaboration tool. It’s just what you were looking for and you can’t wait to share it with your colleagues! But, before getting too excited, you need to introduce the software to your team. It would be counterproductive to invite your team offhand before they know how to use the tool.
You can elaborate the instructions via email, but it is even better to invite your colleagues to try the tool themselves. Most of the collaborative tools have a free trial period or a demo. So, before making a commitment, let your team members play around with it a bit. If a majority of the team likes the tool, you can proceed with using it regularly. However, if they didn’t share your enthusiasm, you will need to make a compromise and find a tool that suits everybody.
3. Get to Know Your Collaborators
Similarly to how you need to do a software preparation, you need to make your get-to-know-your-collaborators homework. You shouldn’t miss this step, especially if you have never met your collaborators.
If you’re a part of an international corporation, chances are you will need to talk to someone from another country or even different culture. In those situations, the name on the screen alone doesn’t tell us much. Learning the person’s gender and the correct name pronunciation is the minimum you should do before starting a live conversation.
Oftentimes you will need to know more than a hint of basic information about your collaborators – like a company position, prior work experience etc. If the person is your co-worker you can easily check its profile on a company’s webpage.
Should you need to collaborate with a freelancer for the first time, checking its LinkedIn profile would probably be the best go-to site to learn everything you might need to know. If you need information about specific groups of people, there are tons of specialized sites that offer such data. For instance, most of the freelance designers and artists have their profile on Behance. Here’s the complete list of the alternative professional network platforms you can use instead of LinkedIn.
4. Choose the Suitable Collaboration Time
Working in an international company, you are probably going to have a remote collaboration session with a person from another country. Since different countries have different time zones, scheduling a remote meeting could be tricky. But, don’t worry – you wouldn’t have to do it all by yourself.
There are tools that can help you schedule a meeting at the best time according to your and your collaborator’s time zone. World Clock Meeting Planner or Timezone Meeting Planner are some of them. With a tool like Calendly you don’t even have to know your collaborator’s time zone, just let your partner pick the time that suits him the best.
If you’re gonna have regular remote meetings, it would be the best to establish a routine. It’s important to stick with the appointed time and day of a remote meeting, no matter how busy you are with day-to-day tasks. Discipline is a key factor for this system to work, otherwise, everyone will start to make excuses and soon you would have no one to collaborate with.
5. Make Sure Everyone is Engaged
To hit the productivity sweet spot, it’s a good practice to give each team member a role. For example, the minute keeper will have to write down the decisions made in the session and the further steps for the next one. The facilitator should direct the flow and the energy of the session. He/she needs to make sure everyone is participating by encouraging team members to give their share of ideas.
The roles should rotate for each new remote collaboration meeting. That way no one will feel bored with getting the same task all over again.