Collaboration in remote teams
Having a team chat and collaboration tool as a product we had nothing to fear when we were forced to go fully remote because of the pandemic. Things went on as usual with the exception of having more video conference meetings and virtual lunch breaks with colleagues.
We were lucky that the product we work on has become a must-have tool for any company literally overnight.
However, we cannot say that remote work doesn’t have its challenges.
Psychology Today states, “55 percent of communication is body language, 38 percent is the tone of voice, and 7 percent is the actual words spoken.” So, how can we beat real in-person communication and adapt to an online working environment? Well, communication is the essence of having a productive and devoted team so the only choice we have is to switch from face-to-face meetings to video conference meetings.
Our team has tried different types of online activities and implemented many things in order to stay connected while working remotely and we want to share some of them with you.
Helpful tips for remote team communication
- Daily check-ins and personal news: check in to ask a colleague how was your weekend? or how did the party go? If you are not in an office it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t connect with your teammates. Just chat on Chanty (or other team communication tool you use) as if you were in the same office.
- Inform your manager if you are taking a longer break: If you need to go and make an errand or go to the doctor’s appointment you should inform your manager. This will let you do your activity with no stress and also your manager will not expect you to send the needed information right away.
- Working in different time zones: many of us work in distributed teams, which means that team members live in different time zones. If you need to schedule a call or online meeting, keep in mind the time difference between the places where the team members work. You can use apps like TimeZone Conveter to easily calculate time in any place on the globe.
- Use collaboration software: Collaboration apps save us from sending endless emails, picking up the phone and leaving voice messages. These tools enable teamwork, that is crucial at the time of remote work. We use Chanty an all-in-one app offering great functionality that keeps us from switching between other tools.
- Engage in casual chit-chat: Yes, we know that you have a lot going on during the day but that doesn’t mean you cannot dedicate at least 15 minutes in the day for a casual chit-chat with your teammates. Talking about personal stuff and not work related things will help you build rapports with the others.
- Create a ‘random’ channel: We have a dedicated Chanty channel for sharing fun news, videos and articles. It helps us to keep in touch, laugh and at the same time to learn something as we frequently exchange books recommendations, podcasts we like and so on.
- Online team buildings: We know, nothing can make up for crazy after work drinks turning into a long night out. But reality check, this is not possible at the moment. Instead we organize online Friday night drinks. How does that look? We decide upfront what kind of night we are having (whiskey night, cocktails night, wine night) and we have a conference call on Chanty where we all drink and laugh together. Sometimes we have prepared questions upfront (from what was your most embarrassing moment? To tell us something about you that no one knows) or we just go with the flow. Here are some examples we use:
- Ice-breaker with a series of questions to get to know each other better;
- Time traveler where everyone tells which era or historic period he’d like to visit if it was possible;
- Photo of Your Life each teammate shares his picture with the rest of the team and tells a story behind it.
Whichever you choose we are sure you will enjoy this time of connecting with your team.
- Play online video games together: We love playing online games with the team and usually do them once a month. Video games are a lot of fun and according to studies they are a great activity for team bonding. Here are some that we tried with our team:
- Overcooked: In Overcooked and its sequel, a team (up to 4 players) cooks and serves a variety of meals in a cartoon restaurant. Each new level brings your restaurant to a new environment such as a volcano or space. Timing and organization are crucial because the kitchen can turn into a mess at any time.
- Rocket League: a fun sports game with cars playing giant soccer. Up to 8 users can play against each other in two teams and become soccer superstars. The goal of the game is to score more goals than the opponent.
- BFF or die: a puzzle game that can be played with up to 4 users. Time-traveling aliens are sent to Earth with a rescue mission. To win this game, you should work together solving puzzles, strategizing, and kicking butt. You have to help each other, cause no single player can do it by himself.
- Collaborate on tasks and projects in real time: Use every chance you have to work as a team. There are plenty of tools you can use for simultaneous work with your colleagues. Actually, this is how we wrote this article. We opened a Google Doc and everyone contributed. While working on it we also discussed in comments, we had a Chanty thread and even a video call about it. Yes, we spent a lot of time but we did it together and we enjoyed doing it.
- Implement a ‘buddy’ system for new hires: We noticed that many of the new hires feel a little lost. No matter how experienced the new hire is, the truth is when you join a new company everything is new. Although we do have an onboarding process, this is mainly for the tasks and responsibilities for the new team member. Having that in mind we implemented a buddy system, where every new employee has a dedicated buddy. This means that the new employee can turn to this person for anything they need but also to have virtual coffee breaks or virtual lunches in the first 3 months.
- Organize internal workshops: We are a small team but every team member has it’s expertise. Therefore, once per month we organize a workshop when one of us is presenting and coaching the others his/hers expertise. We host video sessions and workshops where we exchange knowledge and learn from one another. This is especially important for the team to grow professionally and to stay in touch with all the news and trends.
- Virtual lunches/coffee breaks: Last year our team started a tradition of having quick virtual lunches or tea/coffee time, they are usually 15 to 30 minutes. Whenever we have something to share with the team, we grab a cup of tea or coffee and make a call. Intrapersonal communication is crucial in the time of remote work, as it prevents us from feeling isolated. A nice idea to create a video or a video presentation that appreciates each of your teammate’s hard work. This is a great way to keep connected as a team.
- Always assume positive intent: We are a dispersed team coming from different countries around the world and therefore from different backgrounds and cultures. We bring different work and communication styles to the workplace and sometimes this can cause problems, anxiousness or even miscommunication. In written communication it’s very easy to read more into the message than is really there.That’s why one of the main team principles is to always assume positive intent and always double ask when in doubt. After all we are on the same team, right?!
- Always attend team meetings: We are big fans of team meetings. Every week we have staff calls; team calls to discuss the project success as well as one-on-ones to set personal goals and track progress. We always stick to the agenda to make sure our meetings are quick and informative. At the end, we encourage open discussion and everyone is welcome to share his thoughts and speak his mind.
- Work from home guide: People tend to imagine work from home in many different ways. However, ‘work from home’ is nothing but doing your same job, but not in the office. In order to keep everybody on the same page we have created a work from home guide. In this guide we outline the most important aspects of working from home, code of conduct, but also many tips and useful information and resources.
The pandemic has shown us that effective team communication is the key to a successful company and productive teams. When it comes to remote work, co-workers should be able to communicate just the way they did in the office environment. Using the right communication tools is essential and it shouldn’t be seen as a cost but rather as an investment. What are your tips for effective team collaboration in a remote environment? Feel free to share in the comments below.