With the rise of remote work, the importance of effective collaboration is higher than ever. As hard as it can be to encourage communication across departments and functional teams, these days you also often have to foster collaboration among employees spread across different geographical locations and even timezones. This is changing the idea of what a business “team” is – now that working closely together no longer requires working in the same room or meeting space, you need to find ways to create interconnectivity and a cohesive group identity in the digital world.
Here are 8 steps you can take to make it easier for your teams to talk, share, and connect, no matter where they are located:
- Provide a variety of ways to get in touch. Different people prefer different methods of contact – and each method has various strengths for communication. Empower your team with a variety of ways to converse, from email and phone calls to chat messaging, texting, video conferencing and workspace sharing.
- Understand the strengths/differences between different communication tools. As mentioned in #1, different communication tools have different advantages. For example, instant messaging can be great for quick “yes or no” questions, while phone calls or video chats allow for in-depth dialogue, and email works well for sharing detailed info with a group of people.
- Unify tools as much as possible. While it’s important to offer flexible communication options, its not efficient to make your employees keep up with too many applications. Unified communications tools can be a great way to centralize collaboration tools in a single interface, from remote calling and video chat to instant messaging and presence. Some tools can even provide integrations with Outlook or your CMS.
- Put an emphasis on using presence. Presence, or the ability to see your coworker’s current availability status, can be a powerful tool, but only if everyone uses it consistently. Train and encourage your team to keep their status up-to-date, from available to away to do not disturb. Knowing someone’s availability can change how you reach out to them – for example, if you know Jenn is currently on a call, you can send her a quick email instead that she can follow up with once she’s free. Some Unified Communications tools will even automatically change your presence should you be on an active call or in a scheduled meeting.
- Establish a culture of timeliness. Scheduling meetings can be more difficult with dispersed teams, especially if some attendees are in different time zones. Be insistent that your team is prompt in attending digital meetings – whether conference calls or video chats. Scheduled meeting should always start on time and everyone should keep their business calendar up to date to make scheduling easier. Establish some basic company rules of etiquette for phone and video conferencing (e.g. on conference calls, always have the speaker introduce their name or, if you aren’t actively speaking, put your phone on mute to reduce background noise).
- Encourage a non-business communication channel. Remote employees miss out on the water cooler aspect of company culture and can start to feel isolated. Start a social communication channel that is dedicated to non-business topics, where team members can share fun items such as vacation photos, a new puppy or baby, finishing a 5k race, or a a new recipe. Just be careful that this doesn’t turn into procrastination, but encouraging social sharing among your team can strengthen bonds and help establish a group identity with your remote team. A persistent team group chat channel is a great way to accomplish this.
- Be sure to have archiving/storage for messaging apps. One of email’s strength’s is its ability to act as an archive of conversations. If you are establishing an instant messaging solution, be sure that is has persistent messaging – i.e. conversations are saved and stored and searchable. Nothing is more frustrating than being unable to find or access information that was previously shared and having to ask for it again.
Need help figuring out what communications and collaboration technology for your teams? Allied can help you find the right VoIP and Unified Communications solutions for your business needs!