5 Remote Collaboration Hacks for Less Stress and More Productivity

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.

remote collaboration tools
Remote collaboration tools. Courtesy of: atendesigngroup.com

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!

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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.

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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.

remote collaboration team members
Getting to know your remote team members. Courtesy of: growingleader.com

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.

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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.

time zones in remote collaboration
Scheduling remote meetings within different time zones. Courtesy of: rbth.com

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.

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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.

 

10 Ways How Visual Collaboration Can Make You a Productivity Ninja

Many companies use visual collaboration tools when they deal with big projects. They involve people speaking different languages and living in different time zones. Despite that, they all have to work together. One of the most cost-effective and productive visual collaboration tools are online whiteboards. They erase time, geographical and language barriers. Check this 10 ways how visual collaboration whiteboard can skyrocket your productivity!

1. Allows real-time collaboration with people around the world

Let’s say you were working in a big software company with offices around the world. You have scheduled a business meeting with your Australian subsidiary, while your office is in the UK. So, you’re 10 hours behind them. As if that’s not uncomfortable enough, you don’t know how to explain their UX team what you’d like to change on the mock-ups they’ve sent last week.

But, what if you had a visual collaboration whiteboard? You could share it with a click of a button to your Australian team and make your comments in real time. You could show them what you’d like to change. And most of all, you would come to a mutual understanding faster and without frustration.

remote visual collaboration
Remote visual collaboration. Courtesy of: mindbowser.com

2. Breaks language barriers 

Images make sense to everybody despite cultural, geographical, ethnic or language differences. Imagine you’re having Japanese clients who don’t understand English quite as well as you’d like. You have sent them your project documentation written in business English. Unfortunately, their team leader had a very hard time understanding some of the requirements.

If you had a visual collaboration whiteboard, you’d map the concept using the international symbols and diagrams. The Japanese team would understand the symbology that you have visually presented to them and you’d avoid further misunderstanding.

visual collaboration tools break language barriers
Visual collaboration erases language differences. Courtesy of: rtrfm.com.au

3. Brings together people with different professional backgrounds

Let’s say you’re working on a web design project with team members from different departments. A lot of different professionals work on the project: marketing specialists, UX designers, front-end developers, graphic designers. Team leader asks you for an opinion as a marketing specialist. After observing it, you say you’ d like to change a banner copy. But, UX designer didn’t know that you were referring to a header, so he changed entirely different part of the page.

If you were collaborating on a visual collaboration whiteboard, these misunderstanding wouldn’t happen. You would simply mark the part of the wireframe you’d like to change, avoiding misinterpretations.

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4. Creates synergy 

Combining the audio and visual communication while collaborating you’re getting the most of your remote collaboration. Many visual collaboration tools, including online whiteboards, have built-in voice call systems. Using those tools on remote meetings and brainstorming sessions will make you feel as if you’re face to face with the people you’re communicating with.

5. Simplifies presentation of complex concepts

Studies show that visual communication is the most effective type of communication. People only tend to remember 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read. However, they actually tend to remember 80% of what they see.

You have all probably heard the phrase: A picture is worth a thousand words. Showing your ideas to someone is always better than just telling them. That’s why infographics are so popular these days. Therefore, the visual collaboration will transfer your thoughts more efficiently and thus you’ll be more productive.

visual collaboration helps you grasp complex concepts
80% of what we remember comes to us visually. Courtesy of netimperative.com

6. Helps you understand a big picture

Imagine you were starting a new project and you got tons of project documentation. Text files are endless and reading them lasts forever. But, there is another way. With a visual collaboration whiteboard, a project leader can map out a visual concept and share it with a project team. The team can easily scan a concept and get a big picture of the project.

Visual collaboration tools help you see the big picture
It’s important to see a big picture. Courtesy of: huffingtonpost.com

7. Makes work in progress easier

Your team is working on a new design of your company page. You have mapped out the initial concept and sent it out to UX designer. But, every few days or so, someone from the team thinks of another change or idea to implement in the initial design. Sending new requirements and changes via email would be chaotic. Inevitably, the designer would misplace some requirements and wouldn’t implement them. Having your design concepts stored and available for editing whenever you think of a new idea, is a much more productive solution.

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8. Helps you handle urgent situations 

You work in a construction company and spend much time on sites. You are on your way to a new client, carrying a blueprint when your colleague calls you that he found a major calculation error on it. There’s no way you can correct that mistake anymore, except writing on top of it.

Not only that doing that will make the blueprint messy, but it will also make you look unprofessional. Visual collaboration tool would come in handy. You wouldn’t have to carry on a printed blueprint at all. You would have your tablet with a blueprint saved on it, and you could easily correct the mistake.

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9. Keeps you in the loop when on the go 

Whether you’re on a business trip or you work from home, you might want to keep track of your latest project updates. Visual collaboration whiteboard handles those situations perfectly. All your boards are saved online and updated in real time. You can access them via your personal computer or mobile device.

Visual collaboration tools help you when you work from home. Courtesy of: lab.securegroup.com

10. Inspires your creativity 

When more people work together on a single project, their imagination creates a synergy which sparks creativity. Individual ideas combine, creating new ideas, better and more creative. Visual collaboration between people initiates new inspiring ideas and positive emotions. Some colors even stimulate creativity. So, visual collaboration tools like online whiteboards can definitely boost your creativity.

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