In early 2020, we were told to stay home due to a virus no one seemed to know much about. At first, we packed up our laptops and braced for a few weeks away from the office. Although the pandemic continues to stretch on longer than we could ever have imagined, the skills and tools we tapped into to make remote work successful overnight have taught us some important lessons.
Collaboration in the pandemic required every employee to learn new things and stretch their comfort zones, even getting used to the occasional cat walking strutting across a teammate’s screen. So what exactly have we learned about collaboration in the pandemic, and how can these new skills help us even after it’s over?
To tap into the experiences and tips for remote workers, we spoke with entrepreneurs to learn about their collaboration tips during the pandemic. In particular, we asked them:
- How do you collaborate with team members and stakeholders virtually?
- What collaboration tips have you learned during the pandemic that you will use even after you go back into the office?
Let’s see what we can learn from their responses.
Communication is Key
First and foremost, remote teams need to be able to communicate deadlines, opinions, and enjoy general banter if they are expected to work together seamlessly. Zoom had already started to permeate global teams, helping them see each other’s faces and collaborate in real-time. In fact, the pandemic got just about every internet-connected person in the world onto Zoom for professional and personal reasons.
Teams started using these communication tools to mimic in-person communication. Remember being able to walk over to someone’s desk and ask them a question when it was clear that they weren’t in the middle of something important? Now that so many of us are sitting at desks in our living rooms, it’s not so easy to have this visibility or to have spontaneous conversations that can so often spark creative ideas.
Beyond Zoom, teams have turned to Microsoft Teams and Slack for asynchronous messaging. Creating channels for project updates, recipe ideas, pet pictures, and more is a great way to facilitate camaraderie and relationship building. Even if we’re not together physically, these small efforts can help the team feel closer and help teammates get to know each other better.
With so many digital platforms available, it’s hard to know where essential files are located. Google Drive, Box, email, Dropbox, Slack channel, Zoom chat — it simply is dizzying to keep up with it all. And employees are surely losing productivity by searching all of the different platforms for the information they need.
Teo Vanyo, CEO of Stealth Agents, adds, “Putting all of your documents, communications, and tasks in one place is a huge first step toward productive virtual collaboration. Many employees switch apps five times every hour. That means days are spent moving between apps, many of which are supposed to boost productivity but wind up doing the exact opposite, making it all too easy to lose track of projects, deadlines, and the most recent version of documents. Your employees, clients, or partners may save and share documents, handle projects, and communicate and cooperate without having to switch between apps if they use one single platform.”
Invest in a Tech Stack that Brings the Best of the Office Home
One tool that has really stood out during the pandemic is Miro. Brainstorming sessions in which the entire team could be in a room with more than enough sticky notes at hand, used to be the norm. But when working at home, teams were left to collaborate on Google Docs, missing out on the tactical magic they had grown used to in the office. Miro brought that energy back to life by taking the sticky note brainstorming session and presentation into the digital world. Since that need became more accepted than ever in the pandemic, it comes as no surprise that designers and their stakeholders have turned to tools, such as Miro or Sketchboard, for their whiteboard brainstorming needs.
Trust Your Team
At the onset of the pandemic, many companies were worried about productivity without seeing their employees. Covid required a switch to much more autonomy and trust. When teams communicate goals, progress, and blockers early and often, there is no chance of project deadlines getting pushed.
A more trusting environment can be created with daily standups to discuss what has been done and what needs attention. Enabling a culture of transparency and trust is the only way to ensure a remote team can meet its deliverables.
Lattice Hudson, Founder of Lattice & Co, underscores the need for trust on her team, “I noticed the biggest challenge with collaboration was a lack of trust. Understandably, trust concerns occur in remote teams, primarily because you can’t see what your teammates are up to. Furthermore, some remote teammates have never met face-to-face, which impacts how much loyalty they have between them. This is why I now encourage open communication, promote honesty, and prevent multitasking within the team. I also schedule regular team meetings to get to know one another and form social bonds. Since socializing with my employees has helped them collaborate best, I plan on continuing this strategy even once the pandemic is over, with regular informal meetings.”
Get and Keep a Laser Focus with Effective Meetings
A distracted team is an unproductive team. Understanding what each team member is working on and what the entire group is working toward is essential for self-management and morale. While a daily standup might be a perfect way for some teams to communicate this information, it may be overkill for others. Don’t meet for the sake of meeting if there is nothing substantial to discuss either. Meetings must have firm agendas to make the best use of the team’s time.
Be Aware of the Digital Divide
Some team members might need more training than others to be able to use collaboration tools most effectively. This was especially true in the early days of the pandemic when these tools were new to just about everyone. Some employees picked them up quickly, while others needed more assistance. To be equitable and enable everyone at your company to excel in this remote world, consider more in-depth documentation, training videos, and tech “office hours” to make sure no bright mind on your team feels excluded from this digital reality we find ourselves in.
Figure out Feedback Loops
With potentially fewer touchpoints than a physical office, managers need to learn how to correct early to avoid wasted time and delayed launches. In addition, team members may need more feedback than usual or need it delivered in a new format. Experiment with ways to show appreciation for great work and clearly state projects to avoid mishaps.
Alan Duncan, CEO of Solar Panels Network, breaks down his strategy for feedback and collaboration in the pandemic, “One collaboration tip I learned working remotely that I will use when going back to the office is being open and direct. When assigning tasks, you need to clearly relay your expectations to employees, so they understand precisely how they need to proceed.”
“Beating” around the bush does nobody any good, so you must be as direct as you can be. If someone is doing their work wrong, clearly tell them and try to help them understand their mistakes. Doing this worked well for me in the remote workplace, and I hope it works as well as we move back into the office.”
Working remotely requires a much heavier degree of intentionality. Team members need to be equipped with the digital tools to succeed in this heavily online world. They also need to be communicated early and often to ensure that everyone is still on the same page. So much collaboration in the pandemic comes down to these two elements.
What tips do you have for the most effective collaboration in the pandemic? Let us know by tweeting us @Protoio.
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