Eight Obstacles to Distant Collaboration (and Learn how to Repair Them)
Even when teams work remotely, they need to work together to be successful. It is important to work together as you contribute to the same projects, reassign tasks and rebalance workloads, and resolve conflicts and disputes.
Despite the objective benefits of working remotely, such as increased morale and productivity, there are some barriers to effective collaboration in this environment. Fortunately, there are solutions and workarounds for almost every obstacle.
The biggest challenges in remote collaboration
If you want to maximize your remote team’s collaboration potential, address these significant challenges:
1. Tool selection
Many of the problems associated with remote human resource management can be resolved with the right tools. However, the tools themselves can cause problems. If they’re difficult to learn or if they’re not intuitive, they can cost you more time than they save. When you have a variety of very different tools to choose from for different functions, they can be difficult to manage – not to mention the high cost of paying subscription costs.
The best idea is to use a comprehensive suite of tools designed for collaboration – a digital workplace platform where employees can work together quickly and easily. The simpler the system, the better.
2. Confusion of roles
In a remote environment, it can sometimes be confusing to know your role within a hierarchy and your specific responsibilities. This can ultimately lead to duplicate efforts, with multiple people working on the same tasks at the same time – or worse, dropping priorities. You can prevent this by proactively and clearly assigning roles and responsibilities. The clearer and more open you are, the less room there is for ambiguity. If possible, formally document responsibilities.
3. Communication channel knowledge
When working remotely, employees need to communicate through a variety of different channels. Every channel has strengths and weaknesses. For example, emails are great for formally documenting a conversation and for conveying non-urgent information. However, text messages are better for quick interactions, and calls are better for more advanced dialogue. Training employees on best practices for each communication channel is the only real way to solve this problem.
4. Synchronized additions
Having multiple people working on the same file or project can be confusing for several reasons: users may not know which version is the latest version, and different people may be working at the same time using different assumptions. This can be addressed through the use of tools that enable real-time synchronized updates and better high-level management.
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5. Check in and update
Ongoing communication is critical to the success of most projects. However, working remotely can make it difficult to manage regular check-ins and updates. Casual walks are not an option, and sending a formal email to ask for a quick update can be unnecessarily time-consuming.
A sufficiently detailed project management platform can help you solve this problem, but only if all of your employees are trained to contribute new information on this platform in the same format. Train your staff to be consistent if this is to work.
6. Employee engagement
Employee engagement is critical to the success of a company. When employees are busy with their work, you have higher productivity, improved morale, and lower turnover rates. But how can you keep people busy in a remote environment? There are several options here depending on your priorities and access to resources. For example, you can improve engagement by giving employees more tasks that are best for them, practicing remote team building, and gathering feedback to see how you can improve.
7. Culture and time zone barriers
Not all remote teams struggle with time zones and cultural barriers. However, when you work with people in other countries or on the other side of the country, they can be an obstacle. In most cases, the best solution is to be proactive and open about potential issues. For example, if multiple teams are working in different time zones, you might want to compromise when to meet. If you have teams with different values when it comes to work, have an open conversation about it.
8. Individual time management
Working remotely means that no manager is looking over your shoulders. It is up to each individual to practice effective time management. This can be difficult to do remotely, but you can establish better time management habits with online courses, training, and access to more data (like time tracking tools).
Learn and adapt
Only a few remote teams are perfectly able to work together efficiently at the beginning. Instead, it takes time to develop and refine the approaches necessary to be successful in this environment.
Regularly measure and analyze your team’s performance to take stock of the tools, tactics, and habits that are working for you and against you. Over time, you can sort out the things that don’t work and prioritize whatever works.
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