Remote work has become the new normal in today's world. As countless companies of all sizes shifted to remote work due to the coronavirus pandemic last year, it became the norm for most companies. And remote work is here to stay. After all, it offers a ton of perks for both employees and employers - no lengthy commutes, more autonomy, the ability to work in your PJs and cost-saving, and higher productivity for employers.
In short, remote work is terrific. But it's not without its challenges, especially when you're part of a team working in a fast-paced, highly collaborative environment, as virtual collaboration is much harder than in-person collaboration. And with the demand for effective online collaboration in this modern world, there is a growing need for a paradigm shift in how we communicate and consume information.
With the problem of geographical dispersion, virtual collaboration has been inspiring many tech innovations. Still, virtual collaboration is no easy task. In fact, it can be the most challenging aspect of remote working. But just because virtual collaboration is tough doesn't mean it should hold you back. So, how can teams thrive and remain high-performing while collaborating virtually?
Here are the 11 Powerful Virtual Collaboration Tips
Well, below, you'll find 11 powerful virtual collaboration tips that can help you collaborate effectively in this modern world.
1. Don't Just Ask People to Collaborate; Tell Them How
It is no secret that virtual collaboration is a necessity for the modern working world. It plays a critical role in sustaining our daily operations. Though, there are some tasks that one person can take on and complete in isolation. But most of the time, we need to work together on projects or specific features that require more collaboration.
When we're working on a project together in the office, coordinating activities and sharing information doesn't look like a task; it comes naturally to all of us. But that's not the case while collaborating virtually.
Still, most leaders assume that it will happen automatically while doing virtual collaboration too. But virtual collaboration is not a skill people are born with - they need to be trained. You can tell your employees to collaborate virtually, but if they don't know how they won't be able to do it effectively. So, don't just tell your employees to collaborate; tell them the how part too.
2. Have a Single Source of Truth
When we communicate virtually, connecting with people becomes easier - with easy access to quick meetings. As a result, the number of our daily conversations has increased considerably. But at the same time, it’s much easier for information to become siloed and lost too. It becomes hard to keep track of all the necessary details, assignments, and follow-ups with so many disparate discussions. And with multiple conversation platforms, these recordings get siloed, as unused recordings, waiting to be rewatched sometime.
By using one centralized location, your team members can find all this conversation data in an organized way. And they can quickly and easily unlock the information hidden inside these conversations and collaborate easily.
Remember, just because your team members are geographically dispersed doesn’t mean your conversation data has to be dispersed too.
3. Don't Just Do Meetings; Create Space for Conversations
It is super challenging to gauge how each team member is feeling in a virtual setup. And it is a well-known fact that remote employees are more likely to feel alienated or disconnected. So, it becomes the duty of every leader to make sure they are spending enough time listening to their employees' concerns on an individual level.
Though most leaders and managers usually keep an eye on their team morale and challenges, it becomes especially critical in a virtual setup. You do not want your employees to end up feeling isolated or burnt out. And, if they do, that can easily show up in their work and collaboration efforts.
4. Use a Tool That Lets You Gain Situational Awareness
We all know virtual collaboration is tough; there's no easy way to bring it at par with face-to-face collaboration. But in today's world, where we all are geographically dispersed, it is the only way to get the work done. And we are all using video conferencing and one-to-one video calling these days to collaborate virtually.
Though these video conferencing tools make it a little easy for us to collaborate, these tools alone can't be the solution. Why? Because these tools don't consider people's emotions and sentiments. So, there is no concrete way to know what the employees, interviewees, or clients feel after a remote work meeting.
But what if there is a technology that lets you read your attendee's emotional state remotely? Well, that's what precisely Emotion AI-enabled platforms can do. With Emotion recognition technologies like facial coding, you can detect and analyze your attendees' facial expressions and even non-verbal cues. And by using this technology, you can interpret attention, engagement, sadness, happiness, and more while collaborating virtually. In short, by using this information, you can make your virtual collaboration more effective.
5. Don't Spend Your Whole Day in Collaboration
We know in the remote first world, we need to collaborate effectively to solve our work problems. But that does not mean we need to be available all the time. Collaboration takes up our time and energy; leaders need to remember that time is an investment that sucks people's ability to do other things. So, they need to be intentional about it and set some rules around virtual collaboration, like - how often to collaborate and how much time to spend on it. By doing this, they can save their own and everyone else's time.
Remember, the purpose behind the virtual collaboration is to make it easy for you to get the work done even from far apart. But collaborating should not become a distraction from getting the job done. And, for that, you need to collaborate with intention and focus.
6. Make It Easy to Find the Main Points
We all know effective communication is paramount for the success of virtual teams. And, with most of the workforce now working remotely, virtual meetings are, quite literally, what gets the business running these days. As they're letting companies connect and collaborate with their customers, candidates, and team members. But with so many of these meetings happening daily, it becomes tough to recall the main points.
Though most of us try to remember as much as we can, the main points can still slip our minds from time to time. Look for a tool that lets you highlight the main points in these meetings so you can quickly revisit them without going through the complete recordings. And no one misses the important information even if they miss the meeting.
7. Pay Attention to the Interpersonal Side of Virtual Collaboration
When collaborating virtually, don’t just focus on the work; focus on what your team needs to grow. Focus on their professional development, mental well-being along with the strategy, goals, and culture of your organization. Another goal where you need to keep the focus is to make sure the team continues to gel in this ever-changing environment.
Also, instead of focusing on covering the most ground with a jam-packed agenda, focus on what people will get out of these conversations. Keep some time as blank space without any formal agenda. This will give people a chance to connect with each other and contribute on a personal level.
8. Set Some Ground Rules for Virtual Collaboration
Collaboration is hard and virtual collaboration is even more challenging. But by setting a few ground rules, you can make it easier to collaborate virtually and get the work done. For example, you can set clear expectations for virtual meetings, like everyone will use headphones during these meetings to avoid ambient noise. Or people will turn off their notifications while attending these meetings so they can stay focused. Or people have to follow the agenda so that discussions don't get off track or into the weeds.
Also, set some rules about how you'll normalize the experience for everyone if a few team members are together in one meeting room and others are working remotely.
9. Master the Art of Virtual Collaboration
If you want to collaborate effectively, you need to master the art of virtual collaboration, and it's quite simple. What works for virtual collaboration are pretty much the same things that work for collaboration in general, too, like active listening, clear communication, clear expectation setting, mutual respect, transparency, and accountability.
When it comes to virtual collaboration, there's no secret formula or magic pill. You need to master all the elements mentioned above to make it effective, as every element matters. And it would help if you took these things even a few steps further. For example, active listening is one of the most critical skills to collaborate effectively. But while collaborating virtually, it becomes even more important.
Since you can't gauge people's expressions and body language listening with intent becomes one of the most crucial virtual collaboration skills to master. Similarly, don't just communicate clearly; take it a step further and overcommunicate by ensuring your communication is as clear and concise as possible.
We all know mastering these skills is crucial; they are like going to the gym every day — everyone knows it's healthy, but not everyone does it consistently. But you should master these skills to make your virtual collaboration super effective.
10. Don't Assume Virtual Collaboration is Tough
Don't assume that you need every team member in the office to collaborate. Assumptions don't always work. Before COVID-19 started, most companies thought that remote working wasn't possible. But, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, we realized it's possible for businesses to both survive and thrive in the remote environment.
Many organizations have allowed people to work remotely, and they have been doing it effectively for years. Did you know before the COVID-19 pandemic, 5% of Americans used to work from home? Take inspiration from them.
The key message is virtual collaboration is not tough unless you believe it is and are not using these tips.
11. Use the Right Tools to Collaborate
Last but not least, use the right tools as the wrong tools can stand in the way of effective collaboration. Technology plays a crucial role in enabling communication and remote work. After all, it's the tech tools that determine the success of any virtual team. So, to succeed in this remote-first world, businesses need the right virtual collaboration tools which can help streamline the whole process and make it easier for employees to work together. But when it comes to virtual collaboration, most companies don't think beyond video conferencing platforms.
Don't make this mistake; use virtual tools that let you collaborate effectively, the ones that allow you to focus on conversations where you don't have to take notes while conducting meetings. And where the whole discussion gets auto transcribed in real-time. The one that offers you search capabilities to find anything from these conversations. So, you can keep the focus on the discussion and interaction.
We all know remote work is not going anywhere, and to do it, we need to collaborate virtually. In fact, most of us are doing remote collaboration daily, as that's how the modern world works these days. But many teams are still finding it hard to collaborate virtually, and as a result, their productivity and work are suffering.
Remember, virtual collaboration is easier than you might think; you just need the right tools and these tips. So, invest in the right virtual collaboration tools and study the eleven tips I've shared in this article. Memorize them and use them. Because bottom line, if you don't follow them, you're going to struggle.
Do you follow these tips while collaborating virtually? Or do you have any other tips that have worked well for you? Please let us know by tweeting them to @by_decode.
From storing all your conversation data in one place to finding the main points from these meetings, Decode makes it super easy for you to collaborate virtually.