Once you have team-building web tools like Hootsuite, Wrike, TeamWork, or other project management tools, as well as communication tools like the multi chat client tools, you may need tips for creative ways to use them with remote team members. Here are five ways to use virtual tools to enhance effective collaboration when working remote.
Introduce New Team Members
Give newbies the inside scoop beforehand, about expectations and how the team functions. Arrange a virtual “meet and greet,” perhaps at the start of your meeting. During that “meet and greet,” ask team members to contribute tips for making the group run smoothly. Engaging everyone helps break the ice of having or being a newbie. Close the meeting by asking the newbies to contribute one or two tips for working with newbies. It is helpful to “require” that some of the more experienced people show up to the “meet and greet,” providing the newbies that company “warmth.” Most newbies will desire to come get a sneak peak on how things operate, so that shouldn’t be a problem to encourage them to attend. Also, by having the “meet and greet,” if there is an employee who needs to be late to the meeting, they have not missed any of the integral parts of the meeting and can still provide a kind greeting to the newbies at the end.
Considering the global reach of remote teams, understanding the culture of the team and its individual members helps to avoid offending each other. Set up group-friendly guidelines on how the team will function, taking care to consider time zone differences and business practices of different cultures. Allow for exceptions when possible, as long as individual preferences do not infringe on company core values. That is the key, that last sentence. Also, take this into consideration when creating sub-groups or smaller meetings.
Remote teams miss out on the kind of bonding that happens when employees gather around the company coffee pot or soda machine, but a virtual coffee meeting can bridge that gap. Teambonding.com suggests asking team members to take their laptops to a local coffee shop, and log in using your preferred visual tool to connect for brainstorming or updates. This would be useful especially across different time zones. Further, sending each person a gift card communicates that they are appreciated as they collaborate over coffee. The only thing that needs to be considered is whether or not this meeting infringes on the coffee shop or others who visit the coffee shop. As long as the noise level is not higher than a normal meeting at a coffee shop, it should be fine.
Provide a “Game” Environment
Investigate the chosen communication tool. Many times there are special emojis that allow people to express themselves. There may be an option to raise your hand or indicate when you need to step away for a moment. There may be other tools built-in to the software. Plan a session that is just for having fun with the communication tool and investigating all of the options in a fun, interactive way. It is a great way to ease tension and help the group get unstuck. Another thing to keep in mind is that many times those who are used to adapting to software may not think it is a big deal, but those who are not quite as software-savvy may be scared to use a communication tool that they may not have used previously. This extra, fun, interactive meeting gives them a chance to warm up to the communication tool.
In the same way that in-house counterparts perform their high-fiving in hallways, remote team members need ways to hear and say, “Well done,” amongst their peers. When you reach a milestone or end of a project, take the time to recognize outstanding members or the team as a collaborative bunch who got the job done. Make time to celebrate, recognize, reflect, and regroup. Sometimes, sticky notes come in handy when you have seen excellent teamwork and want to highlight the team members during the next meeting. Just because the rewarding work didn’t take place during the meeting doesn’t mean you cannot recognize it at the next meeting.
Just because you may be remote, or mostly comprised of remote workers, don’t let that affect you, as a company or team. Don’t let the part about being remote, stop you from doing “business” in a fun and effective manner. You might just find that more work gets done with some of these creative approaches and methods (tips). Feel free to come back and share what worked for you and your team.