6 Tactics to Improve Your Remote Collaboration

Working Remotely

Once you’ve mastered the top remote collaboration best practices, you can use these 6 tips to improve your team’s focus, open-mindedness, and cooperation. 

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Remote project managers and team leaders often struggle with how to make remote collaboration flow more productively. 

After all, team collaboration can be challenging enough on its own. But managing remote workers in multiple time zones and under different cultural work norms takes a wide and varied skill set.

Besides highly effective communication skills, you’ll also need expert-level interpersonal and conflict-resolution abilities and an inclusive strategy for brainstorming and knowledge sharing.

So we’ll be highlighting the top remote collaboration best practices to improve team communication, encourage more trusting and open cooperation, and keep all your projects on track.

But before we get to those, it’s best to:

Master the Basics of Remote Collaboration First

Remote collaboration allows your team to work together no matter where they’re located to help achieve your company’s goals.

Whether you’re working for a remote company or temporarily switched to this style of work due to COVID-19, there are a few remote collaboration techniques you’ll need under your belt before you start phase 2 improvements.

In our guide on How To Collaborate Productively When Your Team Is Remote, we shared eight essential tips remote teams should follow for success, including:
  1. Establishing a centralized hub with virtual project management and remote collaboration tools
  2. Creating asynchronous communication guidelines
  3. Finding an overlapping communication window
  4. Minimizing video meetings (to combat Zoom fatigue)
  5. Encouraging active brainstorming
  6. Rotating team members for different projects
  7. Making time for team bonding
  8. Always tracking and celebrating project milestones

As you can see, there are lots of goodies and helpful intel in that remote collaboration guide, so you’ll want to start there for a complete rundown. 

Today, we’ll build on that foundation with strategies to take your remote collaboration to the next level.

6 Tactics and Tips To Improve Remote Collaboration

Mastering the basics of remote collaboration will get your team up and running efficiently. The following tactics will improve your team’s dynamics and morale, so remote collaboration works like a well-oiled, highly productive machine:

1. Always Start with a Shared Common Goal and Vision

Starting with an ideal outcome is one of the best practices for leading effective virtual team meetings.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re hosting a brainstorming session about a new project or checking on the progress of a current one, setting an intention tells everyone how you want and expect your meeting to go.
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To do this:

Create clear objectives for what you hope to achieve during this time. Outline exactly why you wanted to hold this meeting and quickly run through your agenda. This will focus your team on these specific points and get them thinking cohesively.

Check-in at the end of the meeting to see if you nailed the objectives set earlier. Was this meeting productive for everyone? What needs more clarification? Is everyone confident in their abilities to deliver what’s assigned to them?

Beginning on a united front is essential for setting the tone for collaboration moving forward.

2. Reinforce Supportive, Open-Mindedness

Successful remote collaboration requires employees who value the opinions and ideas of their coworkers. If this isn’t an inherent part of your company culture, you’ll need to lead by example.

Practice active listening, which is when you let others speak without judgment or interrupting and then sum up what you heard them say. Your teammates will feel as if everyone truly understood what they shared, or provide clarification if they didn’t get it quite right.

Encourage a “no stupid ideas or questions” policy. If no one feels comfortable speaking up or contributing, your brainstorming sessions will be unproductively quiet, and you may increase chances of miscommunication later down the road.

Instead, give all ideas and questions equal time on the floor. Discuss all the pros of each option before shooting any down. Ask everyone what’s interesting about each idea or workaround, and give them a chance to ask their own questions before forming an opinion.

Give everyone a voice. If some employees feel more comfortable sharing their ideas via email than over a Zoom call, bring these up during meetings to discuss on their behalf. You don’t want ideas or info to go ignored, or have introverted team members feel disconnected from their extroverted counterparts. 

Foster open-mindedness and curiosity. If employees are resistant to new ideas or unfamiliar ways of doing things, they may stall progress for the rest of your team and company. Give praise to employees who are willing to think and step outside the box, and others will be more likely to follow suit.

These tips all help create a polite, professional atmosphere where your team can engage in a tactful debating of ideas and use constructive criticism to collaborate productively. 

3. Help Build Trust Between Teammates

Remember when your teacher used to assign group projects in school, and one person always wound up doing most of the work? 

When you build trust between teammates, no one will ever feel like they have to carry the lion’s share. Each employee can trust their teammates to do their parts, so they can focus on performing their best.

Project managers are especially susceptible to taking on extra work and spreading themselves too thin. So building trust and delegating tasks are some of the best ways to balance managing yourself while supporting your remote team.
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To build trust on your remote team:

Recognize individual strengths and weaknesses. When assigning teamwork, ask each employee where they see themself contributing most (or least) to a project based on their abilities and skill set. 

Once your employees have an explicit understanding of how they can meet expectations and become reliable team members, they’ll feel like the perfect choice to deliver exactly what’s needed. They’ll take ownership of their role and make more meaningful progress for the entire team.

Occasionally assign tasks that are outside their comfort zone. When employees are sometimes forced to rely on the expertise of others, they may stop stubbornly clinging to the notion that their ideas are best. They’ll learn and see that others have valuable knowledge to contribute and may be more open to new ideas moving forward.

4. Increase Your Team’s Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is one of the most sight-after soft skills in the remote workplace, and for good reason. 

Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to identify and be aware of your emotions and the emotions of others, and control or react to them appropriately. According to Daniel Goleman, a psychologist who helped popularize this idea, there are five key elements to emotional intelligence[*]:
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Having high emotional intelligence means employees are more resilient when receiving constructive criticism. Because they aren’t as easily offended or take this feedback personally, they can put forth better ideas and grow professionally. 

High emotional intelligence is also useful for responding to how other teammates are feeling. Rather than arguing unproductively with a passive-aggressive coworker, for example, a person with high emotional intelligence will get to the real root of the issue and open up an honest discussion to push projects in the right direction. 

5. Address Underlying Biases Holding Your Team Back

With so many remote companies hiring employees around the globe, you’re bound to have a team from different backgrounds and cultures. Unfortunately, some of your employees may have unrealized biases against teammates who don’t think or work like them.

For example, some employees may believe employees from underdeveloped countries can only accomplish menial tasks and prevent them from contributing to higher-level brainstorming sessions. They may even ignore their ideas or talk over them in meetings.

To show you and your company are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), you’ll need to address these discriminatory beliefs and behaviors to boost more productive collaborations. Make sure everyone has a respect and sensitivity for diversity. Welcome a variety of perspectives and encourage different ways of tackling work duties.

6. Foster Adaptability and Take Responsibility for Mistakes

No remote team is perfect 100% of the time. Mistakes and missteps are bound to crop up during group collaborations. It’s how you handle these imperfections that matter to your clients and your team morale.
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A remote collaboration process must include ways to deal with potential failures, client backlash, and rookie errors quickly and professionally. To help get the train back on the tracks:

Make adaptability the norm. Sometimes your team will need to adjust your expectations, gameplan, or priorities at a moment’s notice. When these unexpected events in your project planning occur, don’t freak out and leave your team wondering how to pick up the pieces. 

Stay calm, cool, and collected to focus on the next steps. Being adaptable means your team will be able to brainstorm a solution or workaround without the added pressure or stress of starting over.

Own up to your mistakes. It’s totally okay if you’re the one who made the blunder. Take responsibility, explain what happened to the team, and share how you’re going to fix the issue. Your employees will feel more comfortable confiding in you when you give them the same transparency. 

Never blame anyone or call out mistakes publicly, even if you have a hunch or know a specific team member dropped the ball. No one responds well to harsh criticism, especially in front of their peers (or virtually via Slack or email chain). This will only make it more difficult for your employees to admit when they mess up.

Be encouraging and forgiving when mistakes occur. Create a virtual work environment where owning up to missteps doesn’t come with punitive repercussions. Try to look at each setback as an opportunity for growth. Forgive others and never hold a grudge or take out your frustration on the rest of the team.

Get in the habit of holding project post-mortems. At the end of every project or collaboration, try to discuss all the successes/failures you encountered as a team. Going over these will help you avoid making the same mistakes in the future and create a stronger, more united front.

Ask questions such as:
  • What went right that we can repeat next time? What didn’t go as planned?
  • What did we/didn’t we do that caused A to happen instead of B?
  • What’s the best way to move forward to hit our remaining goals/priorities?
  • Did you have the support and tools you needed to complete your goals?
  • What can I do to help us avoid this situation next time?

These notes should provide valuable intel to boost your remote collaboration and address issues before they spiral into bigger problems.

Successful Remote Collaboration Starts with You and Improves as Your Remote Team Grows

Following the top remote collaboration best practices will get your team to think, perform, and complete projects cohesively and productively. But remote project managers and team leaders need to build on those with the tips shared today to encourage greater trust, adaptability, and open-mindedness.

Successful remote collaboration starts at the top with someone who values all the unique perspectives and ideas coming to the table. Employees will appreciate this supportive work culture and then strive to emulate this spirit of collaboration to produce their best.

But if you can’t inspire stubborn or close-minded employees to work as one, it may be time to find remote employees who believe the sum is greater than its parts. Post your remote job ad on We Work Remotely, and you’ll have access to the top remote workers worldwide. One of our 3 million monthly visitors may be the perfect puzzle piece your team needs!

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