Organizations must create a system that helps teams on the go to collaborate more effectively. Doing this will actually fuel innovative thinking and benefit organizations. It will likely boost the performance of the entire workforce. However, we all experience the challenges regarding working from home now and again, especially when collaborating apart and here are five of the most common ones:
- Managing projects: Managing projects is complicated, especially when teams are spread out physically. The project manager has to make sure that deadline schedules are met and the assets/products are delivered on time, but how can this be done? Effective communication is a must for those in charge of projects. Some may argue that instant messaging software is not necessary as it does not increase productivity or reporting. However, when it comes to monitoring tasks inside a project, instant messaging can work wonders for delegating information and communicating across branches.
- Collaboration: It may be hard for geographically dispersed teams to collaborate. Having remote workers makes managers wonder how to bring everybody together and make them work efficiently. Working with people located in different places requires extra effort and money. Talking face-to-face allows team members to quickly talk in person, evaluate each other’s performance and solve problems immediately. But with the use of video conferencing and project management tools, teams can overcome these hurdles. The problem is that the tools don’t come cheap. On top of that, some people may also require more training to know how to use the tools.
- Monitoring tasks and productivity: Sometimes, tracking the progress of individual tasks can be discouraging. Yes, we have project management tools. But there are some limitations. The tools only tell you when team members have started and finished their tasks. They don’t provide real-time feedback or information about the progress of the team members. It is hard to tell the level of productivity of each team member unless you interact with them.
- Language barrier and cultural/religious differences: When working in a remote team, you meet people from diverse cultural and religious groups. The way you interpret a social situation is different from another person. And as a result of the different interpretations, conflict or misunderstanding may arise. Besides, keep in mind that the work culture in countries also varies. According to businessinsider.com, while Americans generally have to be self-motivated, Japanese employees embrace a group mentality and look to their superiors for approval before making big decisions. Moving forward, we have discovered that diverse teams tend to outperform homogeneous ones. When you bring together people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, you’ll end up getting better work out of your employees.
- Building and maintaining trust: Trust is vital for a functional and effective workplace. Organizations expect their employees to learn new things, be aware of deadlines, and work towards a common goal. While the employees, on the other hand, bank on the organization to deliver an efficient, secure work environment and fulfil their end of the bargain such as paying salaries/wages. They rely on each other for things to run smoothly. Since remote teams don’t meet in person often, this is not easy. If not properly handled, it might adversely affect employee performance and productivity.
Six Ways Teams Can Collaborate Better Apart
Regardless of the ups and downs of current economic times, people around the world are finding ways to work from home. These problems are solvable with thoughtful and realistic strategies. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many businesses operate. To avoid the challenges that come with working remotely, work teams are searching for effective collaboration tools that allow them to build productive real-time systems. Basically, better systems are out there that can help you as well as your team work better together, whether apart or not. You may be wondering why these effective systems remain unknown to you. If you are then here are six effective systems to help you;
- Equip your team with the right tools: The nature of a company, as well as the industry, determines the type of tools they will use and how they use them. These go beyond just having a desk and a chair. Investing in your team by giving them the essential online tools fosters collaboration. It also helps them perform their duties efficiently. These tools offer project transparency and accountability. They also facilitate project management, communication and collaboration. If you think your team should work better together, try these tools to help them collaborate:
- Project/ task management tools: these tools help teams to manage their projects and tasks, streamline workflows, set milestones, assign responsibilities, track progress and store important documents. Examples include Trello, Microsoft Azure, Asana, Favro.
- Automated scheduling tools: These tools take away the stress of scheduling meetings. Tools like Calendly allow clients or teammates to fix appointments and keep track of events.
- Time tracking tools: These help you to track the amount of time that you spend on a project. It also allows you to meet deadlines. It bolsters productivity and efficiency. It gives leaders insight into how teammates manage their time and allows them to monitor the progress of a project. Examples of time tracking tools are Upwork, Klok, Toptracker.
- Document management tools: these houses all necessary resources, documents and assets in one easily accessible place. These tools also enable sharing of files anywhere and at any time. Examples are Google Drive, One Drive, etc.
- Communications tools: Real-time messaging is an essential system that should be included in a company’s communication tools. It is important to provide open lines of communication so the teams can stay in touch and collaborate better. It’s also key that your employees are connected to technologies that allow them to easily manage their tasks with ease. You can use instant messaging platforms and video conferencing tools such as Rocket.Chat, Zoom, Slack, Google Meet, MS Teams, and Skype.
- Sync up with the team: Using agile scrum meetings such as sprint planning sessions and stand up meetings promote collaboration. Let’s break it down:
- What’s a sprint planning meeting? This is an event held by the Scrum team and is usually 2-4 weeks long. The product owner, Scrum Master and the entire Scrum team attend these sessions to discuss and prioritize items in the product backlog. It is a collaborative process that allows team members to decide when work happens. It allows team members to discuss and share their ideas regarding a project or task
- Why is it important to have Standup meetings?: It is necessary to regularly check in with team members to know their progress and find out if they have any issues that are affecting their work. They help team members and managers do five key things: First, they instil each person’s stake in the success of the project. Second, they retain an equal structure – something that many distributed teams need more of. Third, they create ownership by giving each person an equal stake in the success of the task and its achievement. Fourth, standups retain a disciplined approach to projects. Finally, stand-up meetings help team members and managers address problems. During these meetings, the team answer these questions:
- What did I work on yesterday?
- What am I working on today?
- What issues are blocking me?
Bear in mind that it is necessary to be considerate when setting up meetings. This should happen at a time that is convenient for everyone as well.
- Set communication expectations: It’s crucial to have an open and flexible contact policy, so your employees can efficiently do their job duties while conducting other activities outside of work. It’s also necessary to set ground rules that the team should follow especially when using collaboration tools. This could be done by:
- Establishing mandatory online hours for communication: It allows employees to know exactly how, where, and when they can contact each other. Additionally, send out a document outlining these expectations. It informs the team of your expectations.
- Communicating the processes effectively: Clarify any questions the team may have and give clear instructions. You can build a clear flowchart and process maps to help the team see the larger company picture. It will help them to understand how they each contribute to achieving the main objectives of the company.
- Provide a dedicated communication channel: This allows the team to stay in touch and build bonds. In ParallelScore, we use Rocket.Chat to relay messages.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities: Assign roles and responsibilities to each team member and teach them how they should attain them step by step with a workflow diagram. Also, set clear goals in the organization. At ParallelScore, we use an organizational chart to help team members know their roles and responsibilities. Team leaders can also host annual performance reviews for each team member to pinpoint areas where they are lacking and advise them on ways to improve. It helps the team members to embrace their roles. It also encourages a strong culture of collaborative success. Leaders should also let team members know if they have metrics and project deliverables or tasks that are due. It will make sure the team performs their jobs ideally.
- Management by SMART objectives: This is very important. The SMART objective is a mnemonic concept that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. If this big concept is applied successfully to day to day operations, organizations can see positive results right away. This concept is often used by companies to give clear goals and objectives to their employees. Any work goals or directives should be written down in advance to help people focus on their priorities and complete them efficiently.
- Have fun: Celebration of accomplishments and birthdays shouldn’t be ditched just because you work from home. Have fun and incorporate milestones into your online meetings with team building activities like an “ice breaker” that forces participants to mingle. These activities create an at-home environment and foster collaboration among team members. Also, they build trust, strengthen relationships and foster collaboration among the team members. You must set up spaces for celebrations and gatherings. Setting up a virtual community helps promote a great culture, especially if you leverage applications such as Google Calendar. Your calendar should contain dates for meetings, town halls, and other special events to make people feel included.
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