There’s no denying that remote collaboration is here to stay — and for good reason. While some teams truly need that face-to-face contact, remote communication tools allow others to hire candidates and strike deals with clients worldwide.
But for anyone who’s tried it, the remote transition is no walk in the park. In reaction to this difficulty, companies have been developing cloud-based collaboration software at breakneck speed. With far more than just video conferencing tools on the table, there is a golden opportunity for forward-thinking leaders to achieve seamless remote collaboration, heightened productivity, and reduced costs.
This article is your starting point to discover what solutions are out there and how they can streamline your company. So read on as we explore five essential tools for efficient remote team collaboration.
You’ve probably used video calls to run meetings with clients and colleagues, but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to remote collaboration. There is a vast list of classic and more creative virtual communication tools to choose from, including:
Project management tools
These communication tools allow you to converse with your colleagues all over the world to improve remote collaboration. But we’ll split them into two categories to take a closer look.
Asynchronous communication works perfectly through emails, instant messenger, and project management tools. These are excellent for issuing instructions, especially to colleagues in a different time zone or with an alternate shift pattern.
Synchronous communication, such as video conferencing and phone calls, is great for urgent matters that need a quick resolution. These formats are also ideal for meetings that require the input of everybody present.
But when it comes to remote communication tools, quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality. Too many emails can lead to Monday morning anxiety, while a constant stream of personal instant messages will often miss other eyes that are supposed to see them.
To get the most out of your arsenal of tools, you’ve got to structure the way you speak through a communication policy.
A communication policy is a set of rules that guides your teams on what tools they should use and in what situations. Classic examples could be:
Emails for company-wide announcements
Instant messenger channels for departmental discussions
Video conferences for daily stand-up meetings
Task cards for work-related updates and questions
While these remote team tools are primarily used for work purposes, they also represent platforms where your teams can connect on a deeper level. Collaboration breaks down when teams are fractured or simply haven’t got to know each other well enough. Therefore, we’d encourage you to use instant messaging channels and video calls to stimulate social cohesion.
Classic remote team-building activities include online quizzes and fun challenges. But you can even set up dedicated chat channels for the dog lovers or budding chefs in your team.
At its essence, the success of remote collaboration hinges on how well you can manage tasks and projects. While project management as a concept is nothing new, remote project management has been a game-changer. Now, teams can view all their tasks, as well as the entire project's progress, in hyper-clear, interactive visualizations such as Kanban boards and Gantt charts.
What’s more, people no longer need to rely on hastily scribbled to-do lists to stay on track. With automated notifications that you can customize to ping as every task is assigned, when a task is approaching its deadline, or at a time of your choosing, the chances of jobs being forgotten are slashed.
You can also implement dependencies — clever algorithms that assign task B once task A is finished. Therefore, not only does a project manager not need to be in the same office, they could be in a different time zone and still be able to schedule notifications and upcoming assignments.
Within each project, remote managers can create super-specific task cards with full instructions and links to relevant resources. The best tools for remote work will also allow you to assign individuals to each card, from simple observers to responsible people. While this may be a lot of hard work in the first place, you can save repetitive tasks as a template and launch them at the click of a button next time.
Task management is among the most essential collaboration tools as it’s not just about handing out instructions. Experienced remote workers know that communication breakdown occurs when there is a lack of clarity, and if there is nobody on hand to clear up the mess, it often goes undetected until it’s too late.
Referring back to our communication policy, these task and project management tools are the ideal place for task-specific updates. By writing on a task card, everybody who needs to know will get a notification and immediately have the context of the comment at their fingertips. This avoids confusing email chains and siloed conversations that can be a serious productivity killer.
It could be said that there’s no replacement for in-person teamwork. But collaborative platforms with shared documents come pretty close. Forget the messy work of downloading and attaching files, creating a confusing new version as you go. Now, you can simply send a link and your colleague can open up the same document that you’re looking at. Better still — tag them in the document and they’ll get a quick and easy notification.
Collaborative documents, spreadsheets, and presentations allow you to work simultaneously with your remote colleagues and see all those edits in real-time. You’ll only ever need to work on one document as a version history function keeps a record of all changes that you can jump back in time to see for reference. You can even run a side-by-side comparison of your current document and an older version with all the differences clearly highlighted.
Most collaborative files also have an integrated chat function, so you can discuss changes, provide feedback, or ask questions directly within the document.
In team collaboration software, documents are only half the battle; where you store those documents is equally as important. A cloud-based drive is one of the most essential collaboration tools out there — one central hub that holds all the data and documents of your entire organization.
Beyond storing your active documents, these online collaboration platforms are also where you can keep your training materials to quickly onboard new recruits or offer refresher sessions to current employees.
All collaborative platforms like a drive should be logical and easy to navigate. But why open up the possibility for confusion? Video group sessions explaining the layout allow you to demonstrate how file storage works and offer participants the opportunity to ask questions. To avoid repeating the session, do a screen recording and keep it clearly labeled in your training folder for people to refer back to.
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Nobody wants to be the dreaded micromanager who springs six surprise calls on each employee per day. But at the same time, accountability is something that needs to be taken seriously — especially in remote collaboration.
Time-tracking software isn’t just for keeping a watchful eye on your team though. Automated trackers can give you a clear idea of how long specific tasks take, helping you to plan smart schedules in the future. Schedules will appear both on individual and team calendars for full transparency and an increased sense of accountability among your team.
But there’s a second benefit to these virtual team solutions too. Clarity of each individual’s schedule helps to avoid employees feeling overworked and suffering in silence. In a virtual format, it is harder to intervene when someone is demotivated, and very easy to develop bad habits in a home office. With a measured approach, attendance and time-tracking tools can give employees the flexibility of remote work while also implementing time management, prioritizing tasks, and making sure deadlines are hit.
Below are some examples of how to use time-based tools for remote work:
Just like a card you would swipe to get into a physical office, these tools allow you and your team to clock in digitally, ensuring transparency in your working hours.
Using the same digital clock, your team can show when they’re on their coffee or lunch break. This helps colleagues know when they can contact others and improves transparency.
When integrated with task management tools, trackers show you how time is spent compared to your plans. This allows you to analyze your team’s performance and work to improve in the future.
Outside the office, you can’t physically see who is present and who has a day off. An absence chart shows each employee’s unavailability for whatever reason, reducing wasted time and frustration at a lack of response.
One of the key advantages of remote collaboration is that you can lead a team across all geographies, opening up local language markets all over the world. This is a boon for business, but without the online collaboration platforms, you won’t be able to engage, nurture, and convert leads.
A cloud-based CRM system is at the heart of customer-focused digital collaboration. It features all the contact tools to give your agents the resources they need to excel. At the same time, you, as a manager, can monitor lead status and performance metrics, intervening wherever necessary.
Here we’ll cover the benefits of a cloud-based CRM for remote collaboration:
Every bit of customer information you gather, as well as every interaction you have, gets logged in your CRM. Forget personal address books, digital collaboration requires total transparency.
Another key challenge to global virtual team solutions is having company-wide uniformity, regardless of the market. With sales pipeline management, you can create and improve workflows that give you the best chance of securing sales.
Save your team an enormous chunk of time that would normally be spent on email back-and-forths. You can launch automated marketing campaigns for each of your customer segments and keep your entire team on the same page.
CRMs double as customer service hubs, where you can respond to queries, complaints, and feedback, and make changes to keep those clients happy.
With all your data in one place, it’s easy to monitor performance KPIs from your own laptop or phone. Automated reports give you an honest picture of who is performing best and who needs a helping hand.
Now we’ve covered five essential bits of team collaboration software for remote success, it’s time to consider how to equip yourself.
Sure, you could go on the hunt for a video conferencing tool, then seek out an instant messenger, before hunting down a project management base.
Alternatively, you could put your trust in Bitrix24. With communication, project and task management, CRM, file management, and time tracking all in one place, it’s a central hub for all your business needs.So, if you’re looking to make the transition to remote collaboration, sign up for Bitrix24 today.
The best tools for facilitating remote collaboration include:
To achieve effective communication while working remotely, teams need to introduce smart communication policies. These policies should cover what tools to use in different situations to improve transparency and efficiency while reducing distractions and communication overloads.
Remote teams can maintain a strong company culture by running virtual social activities, offering regular feedback, and celebrating achievements. A positive team culture is a major contributor to smooth remote collaboration.