July 4, 2022
"Collaboration" is one of those magic buzzwords that companies love. Understandably, when people work together well, they are faster and more productive, meaning greater output for the company.
But good teamwork also benefits employees. They communicate more easily with one another, avoiding frustration as they get their tasks done more quickly (and finish their workdays sooner — yippie)!
Clearly, effective team collaboration benefits all involved.
But what happens when teams work remotely? Successful collaboration when you're in different locations, or even different time zones, countries, or continents, can be tricky, potentially hurting employee engagement.
Enter digital collaboration. Digital collaboration helps remote and hybrid teams work together.
This article explains the importance of virtual team collaboration and reveals how to make it part of your company culture. We also give you some easy hacks and tools to implement digital collaboration in your own team.
"Collaboration" refers to working together towards a common goal, like a project deliverable. In "digital collaboration," people work together remotely, using modern technology to plan, carry out, track, and communicate about their work.
A modern collaborative team may have people working in countries around the world. Digital collaboration uses digital technologies to help teammates work together towards a central team goal, despite different locations and time zones.
For example, say your team has a deliverable — a marketing pamphlet. You have a copywriter in New York City, an editor in San Francisco, a graphic designer in the Philippines, and a project manager or team leader in Germany.
Four people, four roles, four time zones. How's this supposed to work?! Here's an idea:
This example shows what team collaboration can look like in the virtual space and reveals how technology makes it possible. Read on to learn how such collaboration helps successful teams eliminate silos, set clear goals, and improve problem solving and decision-making.
Creating a collaborative digital team takes some effort, as the above example shows. You must onboard teams, implement technology, and ensure they confidently use the tools you introduce.
Is it worth the effort? Absolutely. Let’s review some of the benefits of team collaboration in the digital space.
When people work together better, they can get their jobs done more quickly, improving productivity. Individuals can get more work done in a shorter time frame, which also benefits the company at large by increasing overall output.
Take the example above. Say the graphic designer has a question about the content as they are laying it out. They can quickly ping the editor or copywriter on Slack to ask a question and get clarity. There's no need to wait for emails to be sent back and forth, allowing faster work.
Miscommunication can be disastrous in the workplace, causing issues like missed deliverables or deadline delays. Digital collaboration makes it easier for remote employees to stay in contact and up-to-date on a project's progress, reducing the risk of such issues.
Again, consider the aforementioned example. The project management tool can be used to assign a specific deliverable and deadline to each individual team member. There is no question about what is due when and who is responsible for it. This transparency helps the whole team.
Good collaboration and communication make individuals' jobs easier. They don't have to sit around wondering what they're supposed to be doing or chase down other team members or managers to ask questions. This clarity can improve morale and boost engagement.
In the above example, the project manager can take a hands-off approach thanks to Asana. They don't have to micromanage and breathe down employees' necks. Instead, they have all the project updates they need via their team collaboration software
Ready to harness the power of digital collaboration? Smart move. Here are some of the steps to make it happen. We also flag some team collaboration tools you can use to implement each step.
Don't expect collaboration to happen overnight just because you've introduced a new tool or app to your team. Take a strategic approach. First, do a technology audit to determine what technologies might benefit your team. Then, you can:
Again, digital collaboration is more than implementing the right tools. It's also about adapting your workplace culture to new collaboration strategies. You want to create an inclusive working environment that takes into account the diversity of your entire team.
For example, you should consider team members' time zones when planning virtual meetings. Time.is can help you nail down time zones according to the person's location, so you aren't scheduling a meeting at 3:00 a.m. in someone else's time zone!
Also, consider work hours. Remote teams are not necessarily full time. You may have part-time employees or freelancers, for example. Be aware of each person's working hour limitations, and plan accordingly.
Finally, support an inclusive but organized remote work environment with the right policies. For example, encourage employees to sign out of collaboration tools (like Slack) or mark themselves as "Away" outside of their chosen working hours. Then, respect those boundaries.
When it comes to picking collaboration tools, don't go overboard. If you implement too many, people will get confused and distracted. It's tech overload. When you first introduce your collaboration tools to your team, take these steps:
One of the biggest challenges of team collaboration in the digital workplace is sharing information. When strategizing your collaboration approach (see step one) for this hurdle, consider knowledge sharing options. Here are some tools that can help make it easier:
Coordinating meetings in virtual teams can be difficult, especially when people are in different locations. A tool like Calendly makes it easier. Simply input your availability into the tool and then send people a URL where they can book an available slot that works for them.
Once you've got a meeting on the books, there are some additional steps to take to make it run smoothly. Make sure to prepare in advance, setting a clear meeting agenda with designated goals, point persons, and actions for each one. Evernote is a great tool for recording meeting minutes and then sharing them digitally.
During the meeting, make it a productive session by practicing active listening. If you're on a Zoom video call, for example, this could involve nodding your head. The speaker can then see that you're paying attention. Follow up with concrete questions or comments.
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