The demand for remote working has never been greater. While telecommuting might have seemed like a pipe dream 10 years ago, since then it has been becoming a natural part of the work environment. In the UK, the number of remote workers increased by 25% in the decade from 2008 to 2018. That rate was mirrored in mainland Europe. As online team collaboration tools and cloud-based communication solutions grow, work is now something you “do,” not somewhere you go.
What does it mean to work remotely?
Remote working is a working style that allows employees to complete tasks wherever they are. Some people might work from home, while others log into a professional account from a café or coffee shop. Thanks to team collaboration and cloud communication tools, remote work now allows anyone to work outside of the traditional office environment.
However, like with any business transformation, companies need to know how to make the transition to remote working. 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.
What are the benefits of working remotely?
Spend Time with Family
Ability to Travel
Work from Home
Avoiding Office Politics
- Greater efficiency and productivity – Staff get more done in less time when working remotely. Fewer office distractions can lead to a more effective team.
- Reduced stress – 82% of telecommuters reported 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 be productive while working remotely
Set clear expectations and encourage accountability
Research has shown that remote workers are 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 like Trello 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?
Research has shown that remote workers are more productive than their peers. However, much of true productivity stems from clarity. Click To Tweet
Keep things predictable while working remotely
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 and 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 comradery between dispersed team members.
It’s also worth asking people to regularly report in on the progress they’re making. Visual project management tools like Trello and Asana help with this. In these tools, team members can drag tasks from “to do,” to “in progress” lists.
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 while working remotely. 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 like RingCentral Glip deliver simple and secure file sharing options. Just upload or drag and drop files straight into the platform, and watch people working remotely together. The connection with the RingCentral communication platform also means staff can talk about the work they do.
With team collaboration tools, working remotely can enable the team to:
- 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. Remote 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.
How to succeed in working remotely
Empower and support every remote 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 like Glip integrate with a range of other productivity apps. For instance, integration with Zendesk helps to support workflow, while Trello supports task management. You can even use tools like Crashlytics to help employees that suffer from any issues with their software. 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 2017 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 remote 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. With the right tools, you can keep your people on the right track. Just remember that you can’t afford to underestimate the importance of team collaboration.
Working from home? RingCentral can make it easy for you
Find out how