Workplaces look a lot different than they used to: open concept floor plans, one dog for every ten employees, a company keg, and fewer people actually in the office.
The 2018 IWG workplace survey found that up to 70% of professionals report that they work remotely once a week. Another 53% say they work away from their desk at least half their working hours. And while the old narrative suggests people are distracted while working from home, a 2-year long study out of Stanford shows that the productivity of remote workers increases dramatically. Remote employees in the study increased productivity by the equivalent of an entire day’s work!
Of course, isolation is still a challenge, especially when it comes to collaboration. Face time is so important for remote employees. A pulse check, a meeting, a collaborative project, optics… being present is an important component of being a team member. But when half of your team is coming and going (or just permanently somewhere else), how can you stay in step on your shared projects? It’s not just possible, it might actually be better. We’ve rounded up our top collaboration tips for remote workers.
Brevity is an in-house luxury
It’s one thing to fire off a two-line Slack when the recipient can drive by your desk for more clarity; It’s quite another when the recipient is in another building, zip code, or time zone. Working remotely is a privilege that requires some delicate handling: ensuring that your message is clear enough to be understood and actioned the moment it’s opened is a small administrative toll to pay. Super brief, poorly-worded, or off-the-cuff emails can waste valuable time. Your recipient shouldn’t have to decode what “send the OUTA assets to BC but pls copy partners Daria” actually means. If writing the email feels like you’re transcribing a recipe, you’re probably doing it right.
Feedback is fuel
In the office, there are plenty of interactions that top up one’s proverbial gas tank.
“Beautiful design, Ellen!”
“I left some notes on your slide deck, let’s review later.”
Feedback is something in-office workers tend to take for granted, but it’s a crucial indicator of one’s value and standing within the office. By virtue of being physically absent, remote workers are less likely to receive offhand feedback on their work — positive or otherwise. Good feedback is an intrinsic motivator; criticism is a valuable tool for improvement. Remote workers miss out on these opportunities to know how their contributions are being received.
To help bridge this gap, establish foundational feedback processes into your project management. Maybe that means creating a template that project stakeholders contribute to; perhaps it lives within the comments section of your chosen project management tool. Wherever it lives, write a framework that demands extensive and considered feedback from the people requesting the asset. As we said above: brevity is an in-house luxury.
Be flexible on tools
Collaboration is hard enough for remote workers. Forcing them on to a new tool only makes it more difficult. This applies to everything from phones and computers (fyi: forcing a Mac user onto a PC is low-grade torture) to work management tools. Rather than trying to wrangle remote staff onto the software that makes sense for you in the office, provide them with the freedom to work where they’re comfortable.
This doesn’t mean working in multiple tools — that doesn’t make it easier on anyone. Instead, sync your different work management tools with Unito. So if you’re a Trello person, and your remote employee lives and breathes Asana, you can work on the same projects without forcing one of you to change or learn something new. As far as collaboration tips for remote workers go, providing them a basic level of inclusion and comfort through the tools they use is an easy way to make a big impact.
Invest in remote team building
Being welcome and connected is crucial to remote workers feeling like they have a stake in the company. To facilitate connection between all your employees, regardless of location try these collaboration tips:
A Slack channel dedicated to water-cooler-talk
Keep the channel closed to direct managers so employees feel free to chit chat, post GIFs, and/or have heated debates over some new TV sensation (just don’t get lost in SlackNation).
Host a here-and-there hackathon
Pair up members of your in-house and remote teams and give them one day to concoct and present a new concept. Aside from meeting each other on the fly, the teammates will need to express their ideas clearly and concisely, or risk losing valuable time. Also great for… regular projects.
Meet face to face
While not every team has the budget to facilitate an IRL meeting, Google Hangouts is free and simple to use. When new team members are added, take the time to have their teammates meet them and talk over a video call. When a meeting is scheduled or a question arises, make it a policy to connect to the remote worker using a video call. Remote workers lack access to body language and facial nuance that bring understanding and fun to working relationships. Having the team recognize them as a person who laughs at jokes and makes weird faces and thinks before they answer a tough question creates a more empathetic working environment — even when that environment stretches across a city, country, or continent.
Remote work opens your business up to a much wider pool of global talent. To harness that talent, you need to be equal parts organized, sensitive, and strategic in how you support collaboration. By addressing your remote workers’ need to be understood, their desire to be recognized and to improve, and by championing their value to every facet of your team, you set the business up to take advantage of the very best person for the job.
Inspired by these collaboration tips for remote workers?
Meet them in the tools they already use and love with Unito.