How do you bring your team together when remote work is keeping them apart?
The COVID-19 crisis has forced many businesses to ask themselves this question, and answers aren’t easy to come by. Teams that may have started working remotely just a few months ago are now facing the reality that they will continue working remotely for some time, perhaps permanently.
Thankfully, there are many tools perfectly suited to keeping everyone on your team connected and on track. Some of them have long been favorites of remote workers, while others have evolved to be used in new and exciting ways. Whether they improve access to information or streamline digital communication, tools like these are a crucial component of any team working out of the office. If you’re looking to maximize cohesion among your remote team, be sure to check out the following:
A corporate wiki like Guru is a great place to centralize and preserve knowledge about your company. Because of their collaborative nature, corporate wikis can be updated and edited directly by the employees who know the most about those subjects. This can give your team a sense of ownership over their role, boosting trust and morale along the way.
Moreover, a team separated by distance may not have access to the same knowledge management resources they did when everyone was in the office. Having a central hub of information can eliminate time-wasting searches, long email threads and confusion — boosting productivity in the process.
If your team is not already using Slack, now is a good time to start. Slack is a channel-based messaging platform, meaning that you can use it in a variety of ways for your business. Create a thread for your entire team to share ideas. Put together project-based spaces to encourage better group communication. You can even chat privately with team members, making it easier to provide individual feedback.
A standout feature of Slack is the ability to set active hours. Work with your team to set realistic working hours, then encourage them to mark those on their Slack profiles. Doing this ensures that everyone is working at roughly the same time, creating the much-needed sense of “office hours” in the digital office.
When it comes to work time, everyone needs to be on the same page. Using a shared calendar will keep your team on schedule with deadlines, mandatory meetings, and tasks. Though it may sound intricate, a shared calendar doesn’t have to be complex — it can be streamlined to suit your business’s needs. A basic Google Calendar can be shared by team members, or you can use something more elaborate like Calendar.
Whatever you choose, make sure everyone who needs access has it; it’s important to ensure that no employee feels left out of the loop on important company timetables. Be wary of giving too many people the power to edit the calendar — you don’t want it to become too complicated for most employees to effectively use. Ideally, you’re looking for something that has the exact amount of bells and whistles your team needs.
Commit to a Zoom Professional account for your team. Face-to-face interaction is more effective than interaction via a chat or phone call, and if you can’t meet in person, video meetings are the way to go. With something like Zoom Professional in place, you will be able to hold meetings with as much human contact as possible for remote workers.
While a basic account certainly provides you the ability to meet and see each other, a Professional account has added benefits. Meetings can be longer than 40 minutes if needed, and meetings can be recorded for later reference to catch up those who couldn’t attend the original meeting.
Ensure that everyone is focused on the right tasks at the right time with project management software. There are plenty of options available, so carefully eye the market to see what works best for you and your team. Ultimately, you want something that most closely mimics your in-office project management process while still maximizing remote capabilities.
A shared workspace will help your team from feeling alone in their work, which in turn will keep them motivated. Providing clear deadlines, expectations and access to project updates creates a better remote work environment for your team — the closest thing to an office that remote teams can come by.
Simple but effective, Google Drive has long been a staple of teams needing to share content digitally. A major loss in remote work can be the ability to work collaboratively in real time.
Utilizing Google Drive can restore your team’s ability to work on the same document, spreadsheet, or slide show simultaneously. Multiple people can have the file open at once, and each person’s edits and comments are assigned an individual color so you know who is providing what feedback.
Additionally, Google Drive integrates easily into several of the other tools you can use to keep your team together while you work remotely. It also serves as Cloud backup for your important files, guaranteeing that everything is accessible no matter where your team is working.
Just because your team is working remotely doesn’t mean that play can’t go remote, too. Tools that keep your work efficient and collaborative are important, but so are the ones that help you boost morale and recognize achievement. Utilizing something like WooBoard allows you to encourage team members, even when you can’t give them a shout-out in person.
Positive reinforcement improves employee productivity. When your team knows you think they are doing a good job, they’re going to work better. Being able to share in each other’s achievements makes working together a more positive experience for all.
New tools are popping up every day that are designed to help your team. What it means to work together is changing, and utilizing some or all of these tools will help you remain a cohesive, effective team — no matter where you are.
Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.