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Remote Team Collaboration: Tools + Strategies for Effective Virtual Work

In just a few years, remote work has transformed from a relatively uncommon workplace situation to the present and future of employment for many millions of Americans.

But while remote work as a practice has enjoyed explosive growth, it hasn’t quite matured — at least, not everywhere.

Over the past year, business media has been rife with stories about corporations bringing their workers back to the office. There are several reasons for this, but among them is the (sometimes mis-) perception that remote work isn’t as efficient.

To that, we say it might not be the workers — it might be the company’s remote work practices.

If your company is considering tossing virtual work aside, or if you’re just interested in optimizing your remote teams, read on. We’ll discuss some strategies for more effective remote work, and briefly highlight some of our favorite collaborative tools.

Strategies to Enable Your Remote Workers

So, what can hybrid or fully remote workplaces do to improve productivity and make the experience better for everyone involved?

1. Centralize Resources

One thing that some employers realized as they transformed their models to remote work was how scattered their assets and resources were. Essentially files lived as Word docs or Excel spreadsheets on individual computers, and they were only shared when one worker emailed them to another.

No more. Shared drives and collaborative office software are bare essentials for making sure that no matter where your workforce works from, they can not only access the files they need — but they can flesh out ideas in real time, with one another, rather than emailing drafts back and forth.

2. Manage for Outcomes

One of the biggest mistakes managers make overall, but especially when it comes to remote work, is viewing their jobs as babysitters rather than work managers.

That is, your job as a manager isn’t to make sure that every employee is in their seat doing busy work. It’s to enable your employees to deliver outcomes that are beneficial to the company. Obviously, you’ll need employees to be around for meetings and to collaborate with their co-workers. But if some workers like to start their day early and others prefer to work through the evening, your job isn’t to drag everyone back to a 9-to-5 schedule — it’s to make sure they’re meeting goals and providing value.

3. Build a Culture

One of the biggest excuses given for calling employees back to the office is the inability to main the corporate culture remotely.

That’s nonsense.

Good managers can absolutely build a culture within their virtual team. Providing abundant (but not overbearing communication), promoting collaboration and actually sticking with team building activities. Companies famously tried Zoom events early on during the pandemic, but some gave up on them quickly after a perceived flop or two. Don’t lose heart — instead, get feedback from employees about what they’d like to do and put on events that resonate with your workforce.

4. Pay Attention to Remote Workers

We’ll admit: This is one of the things that’s so much harder to do remotely versus in person.

When you’re in the office, you get many more signals of how employees are doing — whether morale is high or low, whether they seem to be dealing with an emotional issue, etc.

Organic interactions are hard to come by when you’re working remotely, which is why managers need to be conscious of checking in with employees and having meaningful conversations. Do they have everything they need? Do they feel like part of the team? How are they doing that day?

Yes, when you work remotely, you have to actively think more about engaging people in conversation. But doing so can keep virtual teams satisfied and running smoothly.

5. Pay Special Attention to New Remote Workers

While millions of Americans were introduced to remote work during the pandemic, not everyone was. At some point, you might have someone on your staff who’s still used to being in the office, and those people need extra attention, training and resources. For those of you who don’t remember your first few months: Remote work can be disorienting and make people feel disconnected from the team. Employees who are inexperienced with a remote situation need more help acclimating and feeling like they belong.

Remote Work Tools to Consider

Of course, one of the biggest keys to remote success is having the right tools. Among some of our favorites for collaboration:

  • Google Workspace: Google Workspace is a cloud-based collaboration and productivity suite, similar to Microsoft Office, that includes word processing, spreadsheets, slideshows, chat, video conferencing and more. Not only can small businesses get great functionality for free, many micro businesses can run almost exclusively on this software. That said, the larger your business (and the more tools you want), the more you’ll have to pay.
  • Office 365: Microsoft’s Office 365 is also an effective solution that offers many of the same tools as Google Workspace, but given that there are no free plans, it’s relatively more cost-prohibitive, especially for the smaller businesses.
  • Zoom: While Google and Microsoft both have their own videoconferencing software, it’s worth considering Zoom for that specific need. It’s rich in features, it supports up to 500 participants (on its Enterprise plan), and it’s compatible with lots of third-party software.
  • Slack: Similarly, while Google and Microsoft offer their own chat tools, Slack is a cut above. The functionality is excellent for individual conversations and group chats alike, it’s powerful, and it too can integrate with numerous other programs.
  • Asana: Asana is a well-built, feature-rich project management tool. If you have numerous employees contributing to the same projects, Asana’s tasks helps everyone know who’s doing what, and when, to help projects get to the finish line not just expediently, but accurately.

While this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the collaborative tools you can use, it will give you a great idea of where to start.

Want More Help Optimizing Your Virtual Team? Just Ask.

If you have remote workers, you need them to be on their A-game. That takes motivated employees, sure, but it also takes accommodating management. And it takes knowledge of how to optimally run a virtual team.

Need help? McManamon & Co. is an accounting, tax, fraud, forensic and consulting firm that offers custom services to companies across a broad spectrum of industries. We offer a wide array of consulting services to small and midsized businesses, including taking your office paperless and suggesting best practices for your remote-work situation.

Learn more about what we can do for your small business. Call us at 440.892.8900 or contact us online today.

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