8 Steps to Help Remote Workers Collaborate Better
Working remotely is an increasing trend, with many enterprises tapping into the cost-saving benefits of remote working while employees enjoy the freedom that remote working brings. That said, remote working is still evolving, and in most companies there is room for improvement.
According to an HR News survey, 53% of UK employees do not think that their employers are doing enough to accommodate the needs of remote workers. The solution lies partly in the managerial approach, and in part in the deployment of technology. In this article, we will cover eight tech-led approaches that can boost the collaborative experience for remote workers.
Embrace the cloud
Is your organisation doing everything it can to connect remote workers with local colleagues using cloud tools? E-mail and file-sharing are merely the first step, it may be worth re-assessing whether your deployment of cloud tools achieves as much as possible from a remote working perspective.
Team collaboration hubs, tools, and IM are not just for startups. Every business that has a significant number of remote workers can benefit from the more fluid communication and sense of community created by cloud tools.
Treat your remote workers like local workers
It is hard to bridge the gap between office-based workers and permanent remote workers, but technology can lend a helping hand. Create a single, central workplace accessible to everyone which is used in the same way regardless of the location of the worker.
In fact, remote workers should share the same calendar and scheduling platform as local workers so that they feel part of the team. Make major company announcements online on team platforms and encourage remote workers to contribute to typical office events such as birthday celebrations via collaboration platforms.
Enable cloud telephony and video
Text-based platforms can further your remote working objectives, but audio and video can bring remote workers far closer to their teammates. You may already have telephony and video included in your cloud productivity suite, so utilise it. Additionally, remote workers typically don’t require any additional hardware.
Furthermore, encourage office-based workers to communicate with remote workers via multimedia channels wherever possible, particularly during weekly catch-ups. Conferencing software that can efficiently manage large numbers of attendants may involve additional cost, but the boost in team cohesion is priceless.
Help remote workers to network
Again, it is all about inclusion. Utilised optimally, online collaboration tools can strongly promote networking, particularly in large enterprises. This can be as simple as enforcing a full and clear online profile for every worker, including a clear role outline so that employees can easily find common ground.
Another easy suggestion is an online break-out room where staff can conduct chats not related to work, effectively letting remote workers bond on a personal level in the absence of the so-called water cooler. Again, it is simply an opportunity for workers in remote locations to connect with their peers.
Manage tasks and time – gently
Workers that operate in close proximity often find a mix of online and offline methods to manage tasks. Also, in theory at least, presence at a desk indicates that work is being performed. Matters get more complicated when remote teams are involved, but work management tools can ensure that remote workers operate just as efficiently and effectively as their local colleagues.
Cloud-based work management platforms and project management tools must draw in both office-based and remote staff, ensuring all team members are on top of tasks and that work is shared equitably. Office-based staff may baulk at the shift initially, but the improved transparency and collaboration will soon pay off.
Create offline events, and put these online
Nothing beats meeting co-workers in person. Organising offline events is therefore key, even if these are only arranged once a quarter. However, it is inevitable that some remote workers will be unable to attend.
Use technology to involve remote workers nonetheless: live cast at least some of your offline meetups and utilise your team collaboration platform to collect contributions from remote workers that are used during the live event – even if the workers are not physically present. It may require some creative thinking, but every step towards increased team cohesion will be of benefit in the long run.
It is common for companies to use a multitude of online services, each with a different set of credentials. It is tempting to exclude offsite staff from accessing these services on valid security concerns, or worse to restrict access to a single office-based PC in order to simplify management of credentials.
Instead, consider one of the many single sign-on (SSO) solutions or an enterprise-grade password manager. That way you can ensure that remote workers have access to the services that will help them collaborate while eliminating concerns about controlling credentials used in offsite locations.
Finally, there’s a good chance that many of the tools we mentioned are already in your technology arsenal, but that they’re not contributing much to the way in which remote workers collaborate. Often it is leadership that is lacking.
On the one hand tech leaders need to make sure technology is easy to access and available – that password manager, for example. In turn, senior management must create and enforce policies that boost online collaboration, while simultaneously motivating team-level managers to embrace collaboration between office-based and remote workers.