The following is an excerpt from The Teleworker’s Handbookthe new book from Entrepreneur Press, available now on Amazon, Entrepreneur And Barnes & Nobles.
When working remotely, maintaining lines of communication, sharing content, and collaborating are critical to success.
There are two main types of remote collaboration. The first involves individual colleagues who take on their responsibilities on a project on their own. Ultimately, the project comes together because everyone works independently to manage their pieces, while the project manager works to coordinate and put it back together.
The second way remote workers collaborate is in real time, using online tools. This means that team members or colleagues connect at the same time, from their respective remote locations, and use the same tool(s) simultaneously. Multiple people can work on the same Microsoft Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation simultaneously using real-time collaboration tools built into Microsoft 365.
Collaboration usually requires an effective way to communicate (via voice call, video call, virtual meeting, instant messaging, text messaging, or email). You will also need a way to share data through the cloud (using a file sharing service or tool). To collaborate in real time, you and everyone you work with will also need access to the same application. There are unique collaboration tools, like Slack, that allow teams to handle many of these tasks and provide seamless integration with hundreds of other apps.
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There are also many software suites that include multiple applications designed to work together seamlessly and integrate collaboration tools. Microsoft 365 And Google workspace are examples. Countless project management, CRM, and other types of apps now also accommodate team members and collaborators working remotely.
As connected as technology allows us to be, there are certain human strategies you’ll need to employ to make collaboration from different homes, cities, and countries seamless.
10 strategies to help you collaborate better online
1. Kick off a conversation, meeting, or collaboration session with a few casual banter. Not only will this help everyone shift focus from their previous job to the current task, but it will also foster more personal relationships within the team.
2. With around 65% of the general population being “visual learners”, it makes sense to use visuals when brainstorming, interacting or communicating online with colleagues and teammates. Take advantage of colorful pictures, charts and graphs and use an interactive whiteboard to help you get the important points across, instead of just using text and numbers.
3. Although there are many tools that allow people to interact via instant messaging and file sharing, sometimes it is a good idea to also participate in a short video call or virtual meeting (5 to 15 minutes ) to communicate important information, clarify miscommunication, correct an error, or ensure that all team members understand the topic or issue.
4. When working on a specific project with one person or a group of people, try to keep all communications and content in one place, not scattered across multiple applications or files.
5. Make sure all the latest information about a project is available to everyone on your team. If they have to search for timely information or rely on old versions of files, it wastes time and puts the whole team at a disadvantage.
6. Pay attention to the clock. When setting a time to collaborate with others, schedule a specific time (15, 30, or 60 minutes) and then stick to that schedule. Avoid long collaboration sessions and don’t go overtime, as people will likely have other important meetings or tasks on their schedules. You can always schedule a second session later, if needed. If you’re going for more than an hour, be sure to give everyone a five to ten minute break during the session to avoid fatigue.
7. Appoint a team leader. No matter how small, every project or task that involves the collaboration of two or more people should have a team leader to keep everything (and everyone) organized and on track.
8. Make sure all team members are held accountable. It’s very easy for team members to sit back and let others do the work. This is called “social loafing” and it’s a problem when it comes to less productive teammates or colleagues. By assigning everyone very specific tasks and deadlines, and communicating clear expectations, it is easier to hold everyone accountable for doing their job.
9. Follow an organized and structured approach, with defined expectations and realistic deadlines. When collaborating on a larger project, get the team together early and develop an organized approach to accomplishing your tasks. Set realistic expectations and timelines, and be sure to outline any procedures that need to be followed precisely. Discuss everything in a virtual meeting, then follow up in writing, so there are no misunderstandings and people have a resource they can refer to when they have questions.
10. Create detailed profiles in all communication and collaboration tools. As a remote worker, chances are you need to communicate with dozens or even hundreds of different people using a variety of online tools. When collaborating with a group, make sure everyone creates a detailed profile for themselves in each collaboration tool. This profile should include their full name, job title, head shot, and a brief description (one or two sentences) of their job responsibilities. These profiles make it easy to remember names, understand hierarchy within a team or organization, and quickly determine who to contact with specific questions or issues.
The Teleworker’s Handbook is available now at Amazon, Entrepreneur And Barnes & Nobles.