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9 Ways to Improve Collaboration, Communication, and Transparency While Remote Working

9 Ways to Improve Collaboration, Communication, and Transparency While Remote Working

It feels like the world just changed again in the blink of an eye. A few months ago, if you asked most corporations their stance on remote working, they would tell you something, such as people work better in an office. Then words like “social distancing” entered the public lexicon. 

Now, many of the largest companies in the world have turned their entire workforces into remote teams. Working from home requirements have shifted business priorities as well. Many are now focusing on strategies to improve their collaboration, communication, and transparency of their teams while working from home.

Remote Working: Fad or Trend

The question businesses face is whether remote working is a growing trend or a fad that will be over the moment the current scenario drops from the headlines.

At the start of 2020, only 5% of the workforce had permanent, full-time WFH arrangements. Still, close to 60% of companies allowed some flexibility to their employees. 

Because of the considerable number of companies investing in this technology today, we may see more remote teams even after the coronavirus fades.

As Matt Mullenweg, chief executive for WordPress and Automattic, stated, this offers “an opportunity for many companies to finally build a culture that allows long-overdue work flexibility.”

Mullenweg is an expert on the subject. Both Automattic and WordPress are both “distributed” companies where employees WFH.

No one wanted to see the world turn to remote working because of a deadly disease. However, the unseen benefit in this horrendous dark cloud is the potential freedom countless workers around the globe could experience.

It is not surprising; employees want WFH options. A survey of 7,000 works on Flexjobs last year discovered how 65% of employees like to work from home. Here are a few reasons:

  • more productive
  • receive fewer interruptions
  • reduce office politics
  • enjoy the WFH commute time

Now remote working does have some negatives. A big one right now is kids staying home from school. This means more interruptions from kids and making sure they are on task throughout the day.

Also, the workplace has become a symbol of where we let go of our problems. We can commiserate with our work buddies about the world. The isolation might prove to be an issue for those who live by themselves. 

People need to stay connected through phone and video chat, so they can feel less isolated without leaving the safety of home. Below we discuss how this plays a vital role in improving the communication and collaboration between employees.

While it is too early to say what will happen, companies must think about long-term remote working solutions. By doing so, they will look towards workable ideas and resources that help their team soon.

9 Strategies to Improve Remote Working

For any company using remote working to continue operating your business, it is vital to have systems in place that ensure all employees stay productive. The three keys to this system are communication, collaboration, and transparency. Below we break out these ideas along with specific strategies to help your remote team.

Communication

1. Schedule

The first step is setting a schedule for employees working from home. More than likely, you can change the current schedule. It is important to set expectations for the schedule, so employees know how many hours they should work and what hours they should be on call.

This way, if a manager or someone on their team needs to contact a team member, they are confident they can reach them.

2. Daily Check-in

One of the easiest ways to ensure every team member is available at the start of their shift is to schedule a morning call. A morning call every day is a chance to let your teams learn what they are working on, as well as what tasks they completed. 

There are several video conferencing services like Microsoft Teams that make it easy for you to combine chat, file sharing, and video calls in one location. 

Teams allow a group of up to 20 members to use video chat. This is perfect for smaller teams in an organization who need to check in with each other. It is part of the reason Microsoft Teams saw a 40% growth in usage since the outbreak, according to The Verge.

Because of the outbreak, Microsoft is now offering a 6-month free trial to Teams. 

3. Deliverables

The final element for ongoing communication is deliverables. From experience, we can tell you there is nothing worse than the uncertainty of working on a project that your manager has not clearly explained what they need. It saps motivation and is a major lag in productivity.

Therefore, it is key that managers supply a clear list of deliverables to employees. Both sides need to have because some managers are learning how to manage remotely. At the same time, some employees might make mistakes or misunderstand your intention when they don’t receive face to face instructions from you. 

It takes time for both sides to learn what the other person wants remotely instead of calling a team member into the office.

Whether you add tasks into an Excel spreadsheet, the Teams planner function, your quarterly plan, leave specific instructions.

Collaboration

Once your team improves their communication, it is time to improve remote collaboration between team members and departments. 

4. The Right Technology

The first key to collaboration is ensuring your employees have the right technology and internet access to collaborate with the rest of the team?

The good news is 85% of all US households now have various forms of broadband service, according to Statista. According to the US Census Bureau’s 2015 survey, 78% of households have either a desktop or laptop.

Most companies supply equipment to their employees (laptops, mobile devices, etc.). Therefore, it is more than likely between personal and corporate equipment most of your staff have what they need to work from home. Ideally, you will only need to help a fraction of your employees set up. 

One of the first things a company should do when going remote is to test employee’s hardware and software at home to see how it works. Also, the IT department should test how secure the access is from home. 

As Kris Lahiri, the co-founder and CISO of Egnyte, said, “Natural disasters put corporations behind the eight ball, but organizations that can maintain access to critical business content and collaboration processes are in a good position.”

Start by prioritizing which employees need the most technology help to go remote. Once every employee has the essentials to work remotely, expand as needed to ensure all employees can function at their utmost from home. 

5. Document Sharing

A critical part of remote collaboration is giving multiple people the ability to work on the same project at the same time. 

Microsoft Teams and Office 365 have many of the essential features your company needs to help employees share documents.

For example, Microsoft Teams is more than a video communication tool. The platform also helps companies share documents on One Drive, Microsoft’s file storage cloud tool.

You can share any document through OneDrive via Teams or Outlook. Documents like Word and Excel have co-authoring tools that allow multiple people to work on the same document. The real-time editing software using the track changes in Word helps team members know who edited what sections of the document.

When you can see each team member's contribution, it is easier to communicate with them on how to move forward with the project.

Finally, Microsoft PowerPoint now has the ability for teams to give online presentations where multiple employees can present the information in their expertise.

6. Security and Access

A common concern for companies embarking on WFH programs is who can access what information. It can be scary enough to give employees passwords on a shared drive in a secure setting. Now companies need to give up more control with remote workers. What is to stop workers from accessing documents or passwords they don’t have a right to use?

To securely manage usernames and passwords, you can use tools like the Azure Active Directory (Azure AD). Azure AD is a great cloud-based solution for remote teams who need to protect their user information using multi-factor authentication, so employees can securely access documents remotely.

Your organization can further secure cloud access through a secure intranet system like the SharePoint-based Document Manager. This tool integrates with OneDrive and other Microsoft 365 tools to help you easily create new documents, as well as provide you with an easier way to search for these documents. 

SharePoint’s approval workflow and user permissions make your internal processes more secure and seamless across departments.

Transparency

The final ingredient in a successful remote work experiment is transparency. Leaders must share what is happening in the organization. Especially in times of uncertainty where our brains crave information, corporate communications must be open and honest. 

When employees don’t know if they will have a job tomorrow, they will be less likely to put in their full effort, especially when they have more distractions at home.

Therefore, you must share as much as possible with your team on your operational plans and why you believe this decision will benefit the company.

7. Intelligent Decisions

Being transparent does not mean you spill your guts. Instead, it means you share your thoughts based on an educated decision.

While analysis and numbers are always important, they are critical in a time of strife when rumor and innuendo are everywhere. Therefore, make sure you backup your decisions with facts. 

For example, Microsoft Dynamics 365 includes intelligent cloud solutions companies can use for smarter decision-making. The service helps executives track their company’s performance, so they have a clearer picture of their status and outlook.

8. Who Is That Guy In…

There comes a point in any company where it is impossible to remember everyone in the organization. As every business grows in number and location, it becomes difficult to remember every employee's name.

It is a bit tougher when you work remotely. If employees suddenly seem confused about how and who to collaborate with on a project, you might want to ask them upfront what the problem is.

Be aware of how they might not have memorized every coworkers’ details and looks. The best way to give them an out is by providing them with some tools like the SharePoint Employee Directory to help. 

The directory lists every employees’ name and contact information so that co-workers can double-check on their computer screen in private they are talking to the right person.

9. Help…I Need Somebody..Help

At the end of the day, employees need a transparent system most when they need help. Usually, the biggest challenge most employees face remotely is how do we fix the computer when it won’t work or get a virus. While prevention is great, stuff happens. 

Having a remote support team can be invaluable. Often with Microsoft products, the service includes a remote support team. 

If you are concerned about sensitive information when talking to IT support, consider investing in their Customer Lockbox. It is available on Office 365 Enterprise 5 Plans. 

The lockbox in Microsoft’s words, “controls how a Microsoft support engineer accesses your data during a help session… Customer Lockbox allows you to approve or reject the access request. If you approve it, the engineer can access the data. Each request has an end time, and once the issue is resolved, the request is closed, and access is revoked.”

Whatever the case, you need to ensure your employees know what to do when there is a problem. 

Final Thoughts

As teams start to put a plan to help their employees work from home, they need help in many cases, making sure there is no interruption. The technology they use is important. So are the principles they follow to help their employees stay engaged in their job. 

The best way to carry out this goal is by using a mix of communication, collaboration, and transparency to ensure they see their company going strong. 

If you require a customized solution for your business, to make your work from home better collaborated, contact the top software developers now!

Piyush Goel
Piyush Goel

Piyush is the founder and CEO of Beyond Key, an international software development and IT solutions company. Over the past 15 years, Beyond Key developed comprehensive software solutions to customers all over the world by successfully maneuvering the changing dynamics of offshore software development.

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