The novel coronavirus has created unprecedented challenges that were not so obvious a couple of years ago. One of these challenges is building a conducive remote work environment that can potentially unite your mobile workforce, boost engagement and promote collaboration.
According to an Upwork report, around 36 million employees in the US will be working remotely by 2025. This makes a robust remote workplace framework essential for businesses to reorient their workforce in this fairly new workplace environment. The good news is you can leverage technology to empower remote teams to work together.
How can technology help remote teams collaborate better?
Using technology to motivate and engage remote employees and streamline communications can be the key to achieving the needed balance between micro-managing and providing clear expectations to a remote workforce.
From deploying new digital tools for collaboration to organizing virtual happy hours for bonding, there are numerous ways to utilize technology to bridge the gap between you and your remote workforce.
Here are six effective ways technology can help teams to collaborate in a remote work environment.
- Boost collaboration through remote collaboration tools
In the post-COVID era, there has been a significant change in the future of work. The biggest problems you may face aren’t any more restricted to issues related to hiring, marketing or revenue. A bigger challenge right now may be how to run remote meetings without hiccups.
Video conferencing has been around for quite some time now and is one of the first crucial steps in using tech to engage remote workers. For instance, you must have used Zoom’s cloud-based video conferencing facility for team meetings. Employees in different locations or working remotely could see their colleagues during meetings and share screens and other resources on video.
Today’s remote presence or telepresence systems use superior technology that allows meeting participants to stream high-quality audio and video. These systems give you the experience of being teleported somewhere else to be in your audience’s presence. This makes it convenient for participants to notice subtle nuances in speech, expression and body language, ensuring a closer connection that physical meetings offer.
The only catch here is that all participants must have robust technical equipment such as a webcam, desktop, laptop, and speakers.
Other online tools allow you to collaborate and create captivating project proposals online. For example, you can use pitch.com collaboration tool and brainstorm with your remote team through its live video calling feature to come up with successful project proposals among other things.
Additionally, virtual reality (VR) headsets and tools can help bring everyone even closer together. With VR, participants can interact with objects in a mutual, virtual environment. There are numerous VR collaboration platforms to choose from in 2022.
VR meeting software such as Yulio and MeetinVR offer an immersive virtual environment with colleagues working remotely. Not only do they offer seamless interaction but also offer virtual presentation capabilities. Most VR meeting platforms also give you the ability to edit and visualize ideas, collaborate and socialize on any team project.
- Communicate efficiently using video calls and instant messaging
One of the bigger challenges of having remote workers is communicating effectively and timely. You will agree that email is not the best means of getting a fast response. In comes instant messaging or video calling apps like Skype and Facetime.
Most people today carry this technology in their pocket. Use this technology to have quick face-to-face sessions to work out project details or get clarity on an assignment.
When a call is not needed, you can use professional messaging tools like Yammer and Slack to connect with remote employees for knowledge sharing, community building and team engagement. This means you can send and receive files in real-time leaving no excuse for delay among your colleagues.
Most messaging apps allow you to send messages to individual team members or a group. You can even create separate channels for specific projects to avoid confusion and boost efficiency.
You can also have a separate channel for non-work-related conversations, a place for your remote team to bond and develop a sense of belonging.
- Keep track of your employees using project management tools
Handling multiple projects and teams in different locations and time zones can be quite intimidating. While video calling and instant messaging apps help streamline planning, project management tools ensure the completion of projects on time. Your team will be most productive when you provide clear expectations. Project management tools help make your team members, irrespective of where they are, accountable for their responsibilities and project timelines.
There are numerous cloud-based project management solutions that you can use to easily monitor progress and overheads. Trello is one of the best project management tools that can empower your team to collaborate on any type of project, handle workflow, or track progress remotely. Other tools such as Asana can break down big tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and bring your team’s work in one shared space.
Project management tools feature to look out for:
- Project planning and scheduling
- Team collaboration and communication
- Time logging and tracking
- Reporting and analytics
- Access important data remotely with cloud-based file-sharing tools
From editing documents in real-time to creating workflows, cloud technology has made it convenient for remote teams to connect with colleagues through their desktop computers or hand-held device.
Cloud-based sharing tools enable employees to easily share documents, spreadsheets, and other resources. Google Drive is one of the most popular options and offers many practical features. For example, you can use its integrated chat app to discuss projects with your team members and make changes all in the same window. All changes are saved automatically ensuring everyone has the latest version of the file.
On the other hand, cloud-based file storage systems like Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox also allow you to edit files and make changes in real-time within the program as long as you are using an internet-connected device.
These file-sharing tools may not be as advanced as VR platforms, but they are inexpensive, easily available, and can help remote employees get the job done no matter where they are.
You don’t need to invest big on cloud-based collaboration tools for your business. Here are five free tools that can help you remote team work together.
- Improve remote team engagement
With remote work becoming the norm for many people, it is highly likely that many remote employees feel isolated and left out. This is also true for in-office employees—they can become disengaged if not managed properly.
Fortunately, there are numerous applications that you can use to boost team engagement. Many think that employee engagement apps are limited to survey apps, but that is not the case. Following are the four types of engagement app:
- Recognition apps
Allow your remote teams to see that you value them and their contribution to the success of the team and the business as a whole. For example, you can use these apps to celebrate team achievements. This can help virtual employees feel a sense of security in their value to their organization and stay motivated.
- Feedback apps
These apps are designed to keep communication open between managers and their team members. Feedback apps help you get useful insights into how your employees are doing.
- Communication apps
In addition to communication tools such as Skype, Slack, RingCentral, Zoom, there are other tools to keep your employees engaged. For instance, web-based tools like Gather simulates the office environment and can help improve the remote working experience.
- Data collection apps
These tools provide measurable data of where your employee engagement stands. You can use tools like Qualtrics to track changes in employee satisfaction or Culture Amp to gain a deeper insight into employee sentiment and motivation.
6. Use intranet as a social framework
For many people, the term intranet still conjures up an outdated image of a central document library that looks dull and stuffy. However, newer generation social intranets are far more lively and engaging than the file repositories of the past.
For this reason, social intranet runs at the heart of many businesses to promote collaborative company culture. Using this technology, you can create a social environment that can unite remote team members. It can also serve as a hub for employees to interact with each other and to share information.
Enable your employees to create content and post it on internal forums or discussion groups. This will help bring remote employees closer virtually and boost their engagement and collaboration. Here are some must-have social intranet features:
- Mobile optimization for universal access to all remote employees
- Secure and user-friendly
- Tools such as blogs and communities to drive social engagement
- Ability to comment, share and like news updates and content
- Seamless integration with other digital tools like human resources (HR) systems or SharePoint files.
- Capability to maintain a sense of community and belonging
Remote team collaboration is crucial for your business’s success. However, it can be quite challenging to develop and maintain a remote collaborative environment for your employees. Fortunately, technology can empower you and your remote team with the tools required to interact, bond, and collaborate from anywhere.
Depending on your collaboration needs, your technology budget, and your employees’ comfort level with new technology, adopting some or all of these tools can boost engagement and collaboration in your remote workforce, bridge the gap between in-office and remote team members, and help recruit the best talents from across the globe into your organization.