As the trend towards remote work keeps growing, it’s vital that employees and project teams situated far apart be able to work together cohesively. With dramatic advances in digital technology, collaboration is more effective than ever. The tools available to remote employees offer an unprecedented spectrum of collaborative opportunities.
As noted by CNBC, at least three different forms of “distance,” including physical and operational distance, exist. The collaborative tools described here also address “affinity distance,” related to every human being’s need for “a sense of trust and compassion and connection.”
From real-time brainstorming sessions to innovative strategies for file- and document-sharing, every business can make the most of their offsite workforce. Here’s a brief description of how these valuable resources lead to new levels of productivity.
Video calls and conferencing
People who thrive on “in-person” encounters with co-workers sometimes feel short-changed by their remote working status. A sense of isolation can creep into their work habits and lead to alienation from the team.
Video calls and conferencing dramatically enhance the “personal touch” factor, while deepening a sense of teamwork and relationship-building. Video calls help improve team brainstorming efforts through real-time, back-and-forth conversations. Also, video calls are a useful tool for employee performance reviews (with distant workers) and other situations where face-to-face encounters have the most impact.
The use of video conferencing can reduce or even eliminate travel expenses and the challenges of scheduling multiple in-person meetings.
Chat / Instant Messaging
Real-time conversations have replaced the days of exchanging ideas around the water cooler via chat and IM technology. These tools enable remote workers to share ideas and strategies in a more efficient, focused manner.
For example, if a remote worker in one part of the country has a sudden “game-changer” idea about a project, they can simply connect through IM and bounce the idea off co-workers located hundreds or thousands of miles away. This resource is far quicker and more efficient than emails in terms of rapid communications.
- The screen-sharing option enables team members to make quicker, real-time decisions and keep a project moving forward
- Archiving a chat history provides an in-depth look at how decisions take place and where new thinking guides toward completion
Real-time document collaboration and file-sharing
Though paperwork is still part of business operations, documents appear less frequently in printed form these days. Instead, team members based in different remote locations can work closely together with online file documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and so on.
Edits and feedback occur near real-time, significantly reducing the potential for miscommunications or other glitches that happen when documents go back and forth through email. Real-time collaboration is especially helpful when key documents need to be generated for time-sensitive projects.
As in a physical workplace setting, it’s often necessary for team members to send, share and access files. File sharing now is mostly done via cloud storage. Once data is stored online, it can be easily shared, and others can access, view, and edit files on Windows, Mac or their mobile devices.
Task sharing and management
Virtual teams working across significant distances and multiple time zones need a way to stay updated on shared projects. Task sharing and management facilitate sharing project tasks and keep all team members informed on progress towards task completion.
With task management software, remote workers can:
- Accept tasks and enable others to see who has committed to the work
- Alert the next person in a team effort to know when a job was completed and keep the workflow moving
- Store and organize resource files (spreadsheets, documents, etc.) and ensure they are working with the most up-to-date information
With access to a task management app, remote employees (and those they work with onsite) can stay on top of their project to-do list.
All of the above-mentioned collaborative resources work best when combined with cloud storage. Cloud storage services make it easy for anyone within the organization located anywhere in the world to access a file or folder.
With cloud storage, remote workers can collaborate by:
- Synchronizing files
- Accessing and sharing documents, images and folders from multiple devices
- Editing files in real-time
- Recovering backed-up data in the event of file loss
- Viewing past edits with version history
Cloud storage is generally affordable for even the smallest businesses. The ROI is considerable, in terms of secure file-sharing, availability on most operating systems and devices, and the capacity to protect against loss or corruption.
The remote workforce represents the future of work. As the need for a physical presence in the workplace dwindles, employers will see greater productivity when they supply their remote teams with the best collaborative technology available.