Tips and tools for effective remote collaboration

Sara Ana Cemazar
June 14, 2022
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5
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Remote collaboration is the process of working together towards a common goal while being physically apart. It is the staple of digital workplaces and is a must-have in the time of remote and hybrid work.

The world of work now implies a dispersed workforce and team collaboration is an essential ingredient in business success. Yet, many organizations struggle to implement effective remote collaboration.

The feeling is all to familiar to many: namely, 20% of remote workers say that collaboration and communication are the biggest challenge. So, how can teams mend this? How can they overcome this common issue and collaborate more effectively?

How to collaborate effectively if your team is remote?

Communicate in different ways

One of the biggest challenges that remote teams face is effective communication. As mentioned before, one fifth of remote workers struggle with communication and collaboration.

Effective remote communication is prerequisite for effective collaboration that yields the desired end-results. Try to mix the asynchronous messaging with real-time communication. For example, use instant messaging software as well as video conferencing. That way, you’ll enable the teams working in different time zones to collaborate while avoiding meeting fatigue.

If you want to learn more, read why team communication is important in the workplace.

remote collaboration

2. Align, align, align

Goal alignment is one of the most important steps towards successful workplace collaboration. All team members need to be on the same page about what’s being done. You always want to avoid overlap, but it’s ideal to have team members do complementary work so they learn from each other. Working mutually exclusive but collectively exhaustive will ensure positive business outcomes - more bugs fixed for developers, higher customer satisfaction for CS teams, and improved remote candidate experience for HR teams.

Having a clear end-goal in mind is also important because every team member then sees how his or her work contributes to the team effort. This gives meaning to their work and helps to improve the sense of belonging to a team, which is what some people lack in distributed teams.

3. Build a culture of feedback

40% of employees get actively disengaged when they get little to no feedback. For distributed teams, engagement is crucial. Disengagement more easily creeps in due to perceived loneliness, and it can cause significant challenges for the entire team.

On the other hand, feedback gives everybody the feeling of being heard and their work being noticed. Mind you, feedback doesn’t always have to be negative, and it doesn’t need to be formal or extensive.

Building a culture of feedback means normalizing being reflective of others work. This helps team members learn how they can collaborate better and deliver more relevant work to each other.

4. Use the power of “just hanging out”

Remember that social interactions outside work significantly improve communication among team members. Moreover, 52% of employees feel less connected to their remote co-workers. You cannot expect effective remote collaboration to happen among people who don’t know each other and haven’t had time to build trust.

remote collaboration

When working remotely, there are no opportunities for casual talk by the watercooler - so you need to create those opportunities. For example, you can have virtual team building meetings and play different games such as virtual room escape or 2 truths and a lie. You can add a chatbot to your workplace communication tool to propose random one on one calls or ask interesting questions. You can also discuss using tools like Donut or Water Cooler Trivia to help your team connect.

5. Get your team the right remote collaboration tools

Having the right set of tools to do your work remotely is something that is often taken for granted. Instead, this is the basis. You cannot have effective collaboration if you don’t have the tools for it!

However, there is the other extreme, which is app fatigue, or the phenomenon of being overwhelmed by too many apps. The secret is finding the right balance and having the right tools to collaborate with your remote coworkers effectively.

In our next section, this is what we discuss. What are the tools you absolutely need, and what are nice-to-haves?

Best collaboration tools for remote teams

Chat platform

To collaborate successfully, you first need to communicate effectively. Instant messaging solutions are the best way to communicate asynchronously and get timely responses to your questions.

In our research, 77% of remote workers said that the biggest advantage of instant messaging over email are fast responses. Chat allows direct communication, and almost all chat solutions nowadays also support sharing files, video conferencing, and voice notes.

Here are our top picks for chat platforms to help you improve remote collaboration:

  • Rocket.Chat: open source collaboration platform for hybrid and remote teams. Since it’s one of the most secure messaging apps, it’s a popular choice for privacy-minded organizations in highly regulated industries. 
remote collaboration

Video conferencing tools

Even though most team communication apps listed above also support video conferencing, most teams prefer to use specialized tools for video calls.

  • Pexip: this video conferencing tool enables teams to collaborate quickly and effectively. It can also be hosted on-premise, making it a highly secure option for video calls.
remote collaboration
  • Zoom: Zoom is a well-known remote collaboration tool that helps teams connect while working physically apart. It can also be used to host events.
  • BigBlueButton: this open source collaboration tool was developed with remote education in mind, meaning that it has useful features for larger audiences.
  • Google Meet: For people that use Google Workspace, Google Meet is an easy way to jump on a call when you need to collaborate quickly. Polls make a great addition for lager groups.

Document collaboration solutions

  • Google Workspace: if you don’t use it in your work, you probably use it in your private life. Google Workspace provides docs, sheets, and slides to collaborate on with you remote coworkers.
  • Dropbox: people that collaborate on a lot of docs say that they love Dropbox because it syncs fast and makes file sharing easy.
  • Nextcloud: this self-named productivity platform enables teams to remotely collaborate on documents while upholding the highest security standards.

Project management tools

  • Asana: with features such as real-time updates, tagging, and project planning, Asana is great for effective remote collaboration. It’s easy to use and makes it easy to have clear tasks overview.
  • Trello: this kanban tool is great for roadmap planning. It helps remote team members stay aligned on their projects. Rocket.Chat has Trello integration so you can easily see your Trello cards and get notifications inside your chat interface. 
  • ClickUp: this tool makes great support for remote collaboration. With a generous freemium version and plenty of integrations, it’s designed for teams of all sizes.

Overcoming challenges of remote collaboration 

It’s great that we can collaborate remotely today. However, there are challenges that sometimes stand in the way.

Collaboration in person also has its challenges, but it seems like being remote amplifies some of the issues that arise when people work together. They mainly stem from the lack of effective communication on multiple levels.

Isolation

People that work remotely can feel isolated and alone at times. This can pose a challenge for remote collaboration because it often leads to disengagement.

It’s important for managers to communicate with their team members openly, and to often send them anonymous employee surveys to keep tabs on engagement.

Departmental silo

Remote collaboration often happens between people from different teams and departments. However, successful cross-functional collaboration is often prevented by departmental silos. That’s why it’s important to establish the right way to make information accessible.

Accessibility

It’s sometimes challenging to closely collaborate with your teammates in other time zones, but it’s still possible. Once again, the key is to establish the right way to communicate and collaborate. It’s good to have at least one or two hours of overlap in working hours when you can meet on a video conference

Rest of the time, you can rely on asynchronous communication, which has benefits of its own!

Security

Collaboration usually includes sharing of confidential business information and customer data. Compromising on data security could leak to exposure of such data, ultimately leading to increased costs and other damages to business, such as poor securit reputation.

That’s why it’s important to collaborate through secure messaging apps such as Rocket.Chat. With this encrypted team chat app, it’s safe to collaborate with colleagues. However, it’s also useful to keep the entire team updated on newest data protection trends and minimize the risk of data exposure and cyber attacks.

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Sara is an SEO Strategist at Rocket.Chat. She is passionate about topics around digital transformation, workplace experience, open source, and data privacy and security.
Sara Ana Cemazar
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