Irina Kirnos of RingCentral discusses how homeworking is key to business operations in the coming year.
The demand for remote working is growing. The Office of National Statistics believes that 50% of UK employees will be working remotely by next year.
What’s more, up to 90% of staff say they’d like to work remotely at least part-time. While telecommuting might have seemed like a pipe dream 10 years ago, it’s quickly becoming a natural part of the work environment.
As online team collaboration tools and cloud-based communication solutions grow, work is now something you “do”, not somewhere you go. However, like with any business transformation, companies need to know how to be prepared for the remote revolution.
Managers and teams alike must work together to deliver the same levels of productivity and efficiency we’d expect in-office.
Why Consider a Remote Team?
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of team collaboration today. Businesses need to be agile and innovative. That means encouraging diverse people to work together in focused teams.
It’s easy to assume that the best strategy would be to keep everyone in the same room or building. However, the statistics prove otherwise.
- Greater efficiency and productivity – 30% of staff say they get more done in less time when working remotely. Fewer office distractions may mean a more effective team.
- Reduced stress – According to PGI, 82% of telecommuters report lower stress levels when working remotely. Flexibility can make people happier.
- Fewer overhead costs – An office full of people is expensive to run. When you don’t have to pay for real-estate, furniture and utilities, your overheads drop.
- Reduced turnover – Remote working means that staff can stay in the same role, even if their personal circumstances change. For instance, it doesn’t matter if someone needs to move to another city.
How to Help Your Staff to Work Collaboratively in a Team When They’re Telecommuting
CanadaLife research finds that most remote workers feel more productive than their peers. However, much of true productivity stems from clarity. Your team members need to know what’s expected from them. Since remote workers aren’t reminded of your company values every day, it’s important to keep them in the loop.
Provide clear instructions to each team member letting them know what needs to be done. This might mean assigning specific tasks through a workflow management tool or setting up one-on-one calls before a project. Even team meetings where goals and KPIs for each project are laid out in advance are helpful.
The more information you can provide, the easier it will be to keep groups aligned – even when they’re remote. Project management tools also promote clear accountability, by showing the whole team how individual people are making progress.
It’s also worth making sure that your people know where to go when they face a problem. Do they know who to contact when there’s an issue with their software? How can they get in touch with a team leader if they’re unsure about a project?
Keep Things Predictable
One of the most attractive aspects of remote working for employees is the idea that they’ll have more control over their time. While you don’t need to keep your people to a 9-to-5 schedule here, some structure is essential. For instance, your teams need to know when they need to be available each week for a meeting.
Setting up calendar schedules for video conferences is a great way to manage team collaboration. Ideally, try to stick to the same meeting time each week. This way, your employees will know how to build the rest of their schedule around the conference. Regular meetings are also great for creating cameraderie between dispersed team members. It’s also worth asking people to regularly report in on the progress they’re making.
Track What Is and Isn’t Working
Team collaboration can be a different experience for every business. Some companies will need to stay connected constantly through instant messaging. Others will rely on the occasional video conference. By integrating your collaboration tools with analytics and workforce optimisation systems, you can see what’s working.
With software to assist you, it will be easier to see how many people are adopting your collaboration apps, and where staff need extra help. You can also track the speed with which projects are being completed. If people aren’t meeting their deadlines, then you can quickly set up a meeting to find out what might be going wrong.
Much of learning how to work collaboratively in a team involves trial and error. You’ll need to experiment with a variety of strategies and track the results before you discover your perfect pattern.
Make Working Together Easy
Workforce management and analytics tools are just two pieces of the team collaboration puzzle. You also need to make sure that people can share and work on projects together in real time. Collaborative applications deliver simple and secure file sharing options. Just upload or drag and drop files straight into the platform, and watch people work together.
With team collaboration tools, remote teams can do these things:
- Upload and manage tasks.
- Work together in real time.
- Edit and comment on documents.
- Communicate through chat, video, and audio.
- Track performance and progress.
Make sure that the collaborative tools you use can integrate with the cloud storage systems your employees use. Teams should be able to work on files all the way from Google Drive to Dropbox and Evernote. The more freedom your employees have, the less likely they are to end up left out of the loop.
Empower and Support Every Employee
Today’s remote workforces are incredibly diverse. Now that you can hire people from all over the world and give them access to the same tools, there’s no end to the different kinds of people you’ll connect with. While diversity is a good thing, it also means understanding that different people will need different support.
Some of your team members might need help setting up their new tools. Do you have an IT manager on hand who can help out with the initial onboarding process? Other staff might struggle with team collaboration at first. Regular feedback from business leaders will help to encourage these people in the right direction.
As your remote team grows, you might decide to build additional software into your collaboration strategy. Many modern tools integrate with a range of other productivity apps. The more time you spend with your remote team, the more you’ll discover which apps are essential to them. Expect your collaborative toolbox to grow with your business.
Remember to Deliver Work–Life Balance
Finally, while remote working has a lot of benefits, it has its negatives too. For instance, a study by the CIPD in 2018 found that 32% of staff couldn’t switch off in their personal time when working remotely. While your teams may be more productive, that extra productivity could quickly lead to burnout without the right management. With that in mind, it’s essential to help your people achieve better work–life balance.
Let your teams know that just because they’re online doesn’t mean they have to be “available”. Many collaboration and communication tools have presence tools that staff can use to show their status. Teaching everyone how to use presence features correctly can help to eliminate confusion in the workforce.
Additionally, remember to make time in the work schedule for your people to communicate about non-work things. Create a private room in your messaging app where people can get to know their colleagues better. Without the water-cooler talk that’s common in an office environment, it’s hard to build relationships with teams. Regular team communication helps to develop the bonds that will make employees more loyal to your company.
Team Collaboration in the Age of Remote Working
It’s no wonder that today’s businesses are struggling to develop effective teams. Not only do employees need to learn how to work collaboratively in a team, but they need to do so when they’re not even in the same office building.
The good news is that remote teams can be just as effective (if not more so) than their in-house counterparts. Just remember that you can’t afford to underestimate the importance of team collaboration.