Remember the days when collaboration was as simple as dropping by someone's office or scheduling a face-to-face staff meeting? Effective cooperation is still possible in the remote-working environment, but a distinct array of skills and attitudes are needed for a team to thrive.
Here are a few fundamental aspects of effective remote collaboration:
Prioritise processes and transparency
For a team to function well remotely, its members need clear, well-documented processes. I often advise my clients to create and maintain a project charter – a continually updated document that establishes the team and its tasks, background and responsibilities. The charter sets explicit achievable goals, allocates tasks and functions, and describes standard operating procedures, a communication strategy, and mechanisms for decision-making and settlement of disputes. Available to all and amended as required, the document helps to keep everyone on track and accountable.
Working from home seemed like a luxury at the start of the pandemic; a temporary fix for a few weeks until everything returned to normal. The perspective has shifted dramatically. For many of us, virtual employment has become a long-term possibility. As leaders, we must help our people to shift their mentality to embrace the new opportunities for creative thinking that virtual work provides, rather than longing to be back at the office.
Safeguard your team's emotional and mental well-being
Remote communication obscures some of the nonverbal cues that people depend on, making them more likely to hold back. To counteract this, leaders must work harder to foster a sense of stability, respect and understanding among their employees.
Recognise the many forms of separation that people face
Apart from physical distance, remote teams must contend with functional distance (how likely people are to come into contact with each other). Leaders who want to lay a solid basis for team success can start by reducing this distance. Increased confidence and openness are the most effective ways of overcoming both functional and geographical distance.
TAKEAWAY: Since the pandemic changed most people's work routines, many tools, platforms, programs and innovations are being touted as solutions for teams to engage efficiently. Before you dive in, remember that collaboration begins with people, and meaningful change will come from more extensive and better connections, not simply introducing another new tool.