How Do We Best Collaborate in A Remote Environment?

With the ongoing pandemic, companies have been forced to adapt to new ways of working and remote working has become the norm. So, what happens when we remove the physical cues that aid communication and collaboration? The absence of body language and tone can lead to misunderstandings that can then create a costly sense of anxiety and hostility in the virtual workplace. What’s more, remote communication lacks the normal pace of typical conversations and this delay can lead to second-guessing, over-thinking and feelings of frustration. This can in turn affect morale, productivity, engagement and collaboration.

For businesses to thrive and perform at their optimal level they need to find better ways of operating. A key component of this is learning how to collaborate in a remote environment, so how can we work to achieve this?

  1. Establish Collaboration Spaces

When everyone works together in an office, collaboration is a relatively simple experience. However, when this is removed, this can lead to people feeling isolated and retracting from their colleagues. The solution for this is to create virtual collaboration spaces where employees can gather, ask questions, share documents, share milestones, upload resources and most importantly, collaborate more efficiently.

  1. Use Collaboration Tools

Technology has revolutionised the way we work both in person and virtually. The creation of collaboration software and other technologies has given us a new way of working together. One example is Trello, a project management tool software with virtual boards, lists and cards. In terms of remote collaboration, employees are still connected and can see what their colleagues are up to.  Not only are these tools useful for creating a sense of community but they also help productivity, as having a central location means employees can find resources easily.  

  1. Establish New Communication Norms

The next piece of the puzzle is to reset ways of working. What once worked in the office might not translate into the remote working realm. In the office, if you had a quick question, you could dash over to someone’s desk and get an instant answer.  Now you might send an email and get a response hours later which can be frustrating and slow down your work. 

One company that is doing things differently is pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. They have created acronyms to establish clarity in their digital communications, for example ‘No Need to Respond’ [RM3] becomes NNTR. This helps to bring a sense of predictability back into conversations despite being conducted virtually.

Other companies are emphasizing reducing emails wherever possible, and instead communicating via Slack. The benefit of using professional instant messaging services is that it allows people to communicate in more natural tones than email allows. It also encourages speedier responses, akin to those you would get if you were back in the office.

The Bottom Line

For companies to reach their optimal collaborative potential there must be a healthy working environment. A supportive company culture is the backbone for a united company and one of the biggest challenges that companies are facing today is how they make remote working feel more human. How businesses achieve this will not just rely on new technology, but it will also a joint understanding between employees and employers on the new rules of communicating and collaborating remotely.