How can my team collaborate while working Anywhere?
Team collaboration is essential for any organization to function effectively, but it can often be difficult to work out the best ways to achieve this when your team is working Anywhere.
If you’ve previously been used to working together in an office every day, collaborating in a distributed team can raise new challenges. People are often worried about how they’ll be able to bounce ideas off their colleagues, work on group projects, and have the small, everyday conversations with their teammates that can often lead to great ideas.
These are all perfectly reasonable concerns to have, particularly if you’ve never worked this way before, but there are a number of steps you can take to ensure that your team can collaborate effectively while taking advantage of the opportunities of working Anywhere.
Choose the right collaboration tools
The easiest way to improve your team’s ability to collaborate when you’re working Anywhere is by using the right tools.
Team collaboration software will allow your team to communicate with each other online in one-to-one messages or group chat streams.
If you’re using a team chat tool for the first time, try to use it to speak to each other as much as possible, especially if your team members have mainly been used to communicating via email in the past. This way, everyone can collaborate in one place and won’t have to keep track of conversations across different mediums.
Choosing the right video tool is also important. It’s easiest to choose a tool where you can simply share a URL and go, to avoid people having to download too many applications and to make it easier for you to collaborate with anyone external to your organization. Many chat tools will already have a built-in video feature, so keep this in mind when selecting a product.
A task management tool can also facilitate team collaboration on various projects. These can show what everyone in your team is working on, the stage a project is at, and upcoming tasks that need to be completed.
Many of these tools also have integrations with other applications you might be using, and there tends to be some variation in the features of some of the more popular products, so you might want to try out a couple of different products to find the one that’s right for you.
Set communication expectations
It’s important to set the right expectations when it comes to communication within your team.
First, you should establish when everyone will have to be available online. Will your team stick to standard office hours, or is there some flexibility in how individuals structure their day?
Consider things like overlap time with colleagues in different time zones, and different people’s availability to attend meetings. Setting these guidelines will ensure that people are aware of what times they can actually get in touch with colleagues to collaborate.
Next, you should ensure that everyone knows how they should be communicating. If you’re using more than one tool for team collaboration, provide examples – especially for new colleagues – to show the different ways to use each tool, and when one is used over the other.
You might also want to think about establishing minimum requirements around engagement. This could include things like setting target numbers for video calls to be held each day, or status updates to be shared.
If everyone in your team knows when to be online, which tools they should be using to communicate, and how often they’re expected to reach out to others, it’s much easier for them to collaborate effectively.
Establish asynchronous communication guidelines
If your team includes members whowork across different time zones, or you regularly need to collaborate with others in your organization who are based in different locations, it’s important to establish a way of working that allows everyone to be included.
When you’re holding meetings, even if some of your team are co-located, have everyone join the meeting independently via a video call. This stops any divisions between those who are in the same location and those who are distributed, and ensures that everyone is treated equally.
Joining calls separately also allows for better clarity, as everyone can properly hear each other and won’t have to deal with distant microphones or confusion over who is speaking at a particular time.
If there are times when it’s difficult for team members in a particular location to join meetings, try to rotate the times of your meetings to ensure that the same people aren’t always being inconvenienced. It might be easier to schedule meetings at times that suit the majority of the team, but this isn’t fair to those in different time zones, and promotes the idea of a “core group” whose needs are prioritized over others.
By occasionally switching up the times of your meetings, teammates in different locations will be better included, and are likely to be more effective contributors if they’re able to join during their regular work hours.
It’s also important to use the right tools for asynchronous collaboration. Keep this in mind when you’re first selecting your team collaboration software and setting your communication expectations. You’ll want to ensure that whatever communication, project management, and file-storage tools you choose can be used to your advantage, by allowing you to track and pass on your work throughout the day.
Maintaining an inclusive approach towards everyone in your team by ensuring they can participate, regardless of where they are located, is essential for creating a collaborative environment.
Your teammates are likely to feel far more comfortable reaching out and collaborating with each other if a positive and sociable atmosphere has been established.
A great way to achieve this in a distributed team is through informal video calls. You could set aside time for informal team catch-ups to develop some of the social bonds that can get lost when you’re not together in the office every day.
You might also want to set up some chat streams in your chosen team communication tool specifically for non work-based topics. You could create a single stream for all informal chat, or you could create separate streams for discussions about things like sports, funny news stories, or any other topics you think your team might want to talk about. It’s obviously a good idea to keep an eye on these to ensure people aren’t wasting an unreasonable amount of time, but it’s also important not to underestimate the positive impact they can have.
Provide opportunities for team members to give feedback on how to improve collaboration
If you’ve taken all of the above points into consideration, then you should have a great starting point for creating a positive environment for your team members to collaborate.
However, it’s still important to check in with your team to find out what can be improved to make things run even more smoothly. What works for some individuals may not work for others, so it’s a good idea to re-examine your processes from time to time to ensure that you’re getting the best out of everyone and making it easy for them to collaborate.
You could do this by holding semi-regular meetings solely for feedback purposes, where people can discuss what they feel is and isn’t working and provide suggestions for improvement. If you do decide to do this, it’s vital that everyone has a fair opportunity to offer their opinions, as it’s easy for a few people to dominate these types of feedback sessions – especially if the meeting is held remotely, where people can feel less comfortable interrupting others. Keep an eye on how often each person is speaking, and check in with anyone who’s been quiet to find out what they think.
It’s also worth having chats or calls with your teammates one-to-one to find out their thoughts on your collaboration processes. You might find that some people have worthwhile feedback that they don’t feel comfortable sharing in a group setting (something that is quite possible if it relates to communication breakdowns within the team).
Take note of all of the issues people are raising in any feedback sessions you conduct, and look for common themes to identify the areas where you could improve your approach.
Choose the right collaboration tools – select products for team chat, video calls, and task management
Set communication expectations – establish guidelines around availability, which tools to use, and minimum engagement requirements
Include those in different locations and time zones by establishing asynchronous communication guidelines – hold video meetings, rotate meeting times, and use your team collaboration software to pass on work throughout the day
Make time for informal team chat – create a positive team culture by engaging in non-work chat
Provide opportunities for team members to give feedback – check in with your team in a group and one-to-one to find out what they feel is and isn’t working