What is remote collaboration? (Tips on how to improve it)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Effective communication between team members in a company is essential for a company to function. Businesses with a remote or hybrid workforce may struggle to maintain the same levels of communication and collaboration as in-house teams, due to employees being spread around the world. It is beneficial to learn techniques about collaborating remotely to ensure a remote team from your company can work productively and efficiently. In this article, we discuss what it means to work remotely as part of a team, how to get the most out of remote collaboration and discuss its benefits.

What is remote collaboration?

Remote collaboration overcomes physical and geographical barriers and allows teamwork between colleagues to continue unaffected when individuals are unable to interact directly with one another. It promotes communication and productivity and achieves this to a similar standard experienced by employees in a face-to-face setting. Collaborating remotely utilises the latest software tools to allow efficient communication between team members and ensure any projects avoid delays resulting from key members being absent.

Related: 13 essential work from home tips

What are the advantages of remote collaboration?

Remote teamwork has shown to be financially beneficial and offers team members more freedom and greater scope to be more productive. Examples of benefits of collaborating remotely include:

Creating freedom and flexibility

Most employees view working remotely as having more freedom. They're able to start and finish their work when they want and are able to respond to developments or new company information at any time of the day. Disciplined employees working remotely can use the flexibility of their work to approach a task with more enthusiasm and better concentration as they have more freedom with their time.

Related: What is job flexibility? (With meaning, benefits and tips)

Increasing company productivity

Companies constantly require greater output and employees working remotely, unregulated by normal working day time restrictions, are more likely to be productive. Evidence has shown that employees working remotely are more likely to do overtime than their on-site counterparts. Remote work allows anyone to finish what task they're on in their own time, including the weekend. Without the fixed working hours associated with office employees, employees working remotely are less likely to compartmentalise their work.

Related: How is productivity measured? (With tips and example)

Saving the company money

Running an office typically has a large overhead cost. Businesses with physical offices typically pay for their building rent, electrical bills and heating bills. Managing a remote workforce eliminates these costs, helping to save the company money.

Reducing commutes to and from work

Eliminating the requirement for employees to commute to and from work allows them to have more time to recharge mentally and avoid burnout. Remote employees may dedicate the time they save from not commuting to spend with their family or focus on their own personal goals. This may help them start work feeling more refreshed and ready to work efficiently.

Improving recruitment potential

Collaborating remotely gives a company the opportunity to diversify its workforce. A business that requires its employees to work in a physical office has geographical restrictions and limits. This may mean the best employees may not apply for or accept a position at a company due to their distance from the office. Remote workforces can be spread across the globe, ensuring the most suitable candidates can work with a company or on a project.

Related: Examples of flexible working (including their benefits)

How to improve collaboration in remote teams

Examples of ways remote companies may collaborate more successfully include:

1. Communicating with your team

Clear channels of communication are beneficial for any collaboration to perform well. A company's success or failure is a measurement of its team members' ability to understand instructions fully and implement them in line with the company objectives. Ways to improve communication between remote employees include:

  • Ensuring clarity: Make sure messages sent between participants are clear, logical and structured so there's no confusion or ambiguity with company instructions.

  • Synchronising timing: Be aware that many remote employees may be available at different times, especially if you're collaborating across different countries. Try to pick a time to impart information that suits everyone.

  • Allowing space: Giving instructions in a work meeting and then checking the progress instantly is usually counterproductive. Aim to approach remote instructions exactly as within a work setting and allow your remote employees time to absorb the information and get on with the task.

Related: Interpersonal skills: definitions and examples

2. Reviewing procedures regularly

It's beneficial to keep reminding employees working remotely of the correct procedures and communication methods to employ and be ready to change any aspects of the working environment which are not working. If necessary, hold seminars or video meetings to discuss problems or any issues with communication. Team members may approach management with any concerns as these can directly affect a company's ability to function effectively.

Related: Standard operating procedures examples (with a template)

3. Introducing structure and incentives

Despite many benefits to working remotely, it is hard for some employees to avoid distractions at home. Managers may wish to ask their team to create a timetable of how they may allocate their time this week. This helps to ensure all employees have a structure to their work and stay on track with tasks when working remotely. Employers or managers could also introduce incentive schemes that encourage remote employees to work as efficiently as possible when not in the office. For example, a sales team could offer a reward to the remote employee who makes the most calls within one day.

Related: How to stay focused when you work from home

4. Utilising the correct tools

Companies can use a myriad ways to communicate with remote employees. Channels of communication include video calls, chat logs, phone calls and instant messaging systems. Every company is different and can choose the communication tool or channel most suited for them. Companies that remain consistent with their communication methods ensure effective collaboration. Each of the communication methods mentioned above comes with its own response time and level of engagement. For increased productivity, ensure both management and the remote team:

  • Possesses a clear signal/internet connection: The basic requirement for any remote working is the ability of the company to communicate with its employees.

  • Instals the latest updates: Technology is continually being updated. To create the most efficient collaboration team requires you to utilise the technology to its fullest.

  • Reviews communication methods: It's likely that during the course of working on a project remotely that a company discovers better methods to communicate information. Companies benefit from being ready to change their means of disseminating information.

5. Support each other

Poor collaboration and communication may affect company output as any weak links in the team may result in an inferior final product. It is useful for employees to discuss matters amongst each other, not just with management, and be able to brainstorm solutions to whichever problems arise. For example, an employee falling behind can use other team members' support to create a schedule to close in on a deadline. A company that has a clear policy on ways to communicate information effectively utilises communication tools consistently and keeps everyone informed, ensuring collaborating remotely runs more smoothly.

Related: 11 best practices for remote working policies and procedures

Tips for effectively collaborating remotely

Remote cooperation is most effective when team members are working to full capacity and communicating with one another. This ensures the company achieves the greatest productivity and quality. Tips to accomplish optimal collaboration remotely include:

Knowing your targets

Establish the targets required from the team at the beginning of any project. This ensures any employee knows exactly what the end goal is and how to get there. It may also allow companies to ascertain if any team members are falling behind or going off track. If communication is constant between management and team members, employees can have a full understanding of whether they can meet particular deadlines and change their work ethic accordingly.

Encouraging discipline

Staying focused is the biggest challenge for any employees working remotely. Companies can combat this by getting employees to agree on a fixed working schedule and organising their work in a way that creates optimum productivity. Starting work at a specific time, answering all emails from other employees or creating a dedicated workspace are examples of ensuring discipline.

Offering help with supplies

When employees first begin working remotely, they may not own home office supplies, such as a desk, landline phone or desk chair. If possible, provide these supplies to employees or try to find the items your employees require at a wholesale or discounted price. This ensures employees can work efficiently from home with all the equipment they require.

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