By: Tuba Ayyubi
May 8 2020

Collaboration In Remote Working

Alt text: A vector image showing a circle consisting of video call, voice call and text message icons and several icons resembling a person connected to this circle by dotted lines.


‘Can you hear me?’, ‘I cannot see you’, ‘You are not audible’ ‘I think there’s an internet issue’ - These are just a few of the phrases we hear or use in our everyday schedule while working remotely. 

Remote working now has become a full-time career for a lot of us. The amazingly growing technologies have made it easier to do the same job from the comfort of our homes! 

When it comes to working remotely, we know that things are not the same as working from the office. In this situation, while on one hand, we save our commuting time, on the other, it becomes difficult to maintain a good work-life balance at home.

Softwares that support communication are important and so is collaboration. Here’s everything you need to know about working remotely and how to manage collaborations during the same.

The impact of collaboration

According to a Lenovo’s Enabling Remote Workforce Collaboration report, only 36% of US corporate employees are confident in their company’s ability to work remotely. While 46% of employees reported that productivity, while working from home, is as good as working from the office. 15% of workers said that productivity increased when working remotely.

Whether a web development project is going through a critical phase of coding and QA process or a pandemic like Covid-19 has forced the employees to stay home, businesses can ask employees to work from home for various reasons. In such cases, businesses should support their employees by providing enough tools and technologies required to communicate and collaborate remotely and should also make sure that there are no interruptions harming their business during this time. 

Alt text: A graphical illustration with black background, three pie charts at the top and a bar graph below to show statistics on remote work
Source: Lenovo

The collective intelligence and diverse perspectives and strategies of the team create a good collaborating environment. The core of collaboration is interaction. The more people interact, the better the overall results. Understanding the perception of the employees about how they feel about collaboration in remote working is very important.

When Cisco, in a survey, asked its participants about their remote work experience, they replied in different ways. While some said that it is a rewarding and engaging way and is also community-oriented, others said that it's frustrating sometimes when a consensus is not reached. 

Four Text templates at each of the four corners on a white background with textual content both inside the templates and at the centre related to collaboration during remote work
Source: Cisco

The survey also shows that while ranking the top 10 collaboration advantages, the elements of results and human connection intermingled.

Bar graph with blue horizontal bars to show statistics on collaboration in remote work
Source: Cisco

When we hear the word collaboration, we assume it to be something that happens within the workspace. But collaborations are not just limited to the office! Which brings us to the two types of collaborations: Internal collaboration and External collaborations.

External collaborations are those that occur between a company and its clients via social media platforms, blogs, or other online communities. These collaborations can also be leveraged within the workspace.

Internal collaborations are those that enhance communications and improve productivity by sharing and collaborating through chats, video conferencing, and other tools that mobilize employees. 

Internal collaborations are way further than external collaborations.According to a report by the Spiceworks, 62% of the IT pros have shown the ability to enable employees to collaborate internally. Only 47%, which is fewer than half said that their ability to collaborate externally is good.

 Bar graph with two horizontal bars consisting of red, orange, blue and violet region to show statistics on collaboration in remote work
Source: Polycom

While working remotely, we might feel alone and disconnected. It only takes intention and effort to let this not be a problem. And hence, it becomes important to develop strategies to increase collaboration between teams. 

The collaboration environment should be open, welcoming, and participatory for the collaborators. The team should be aware of collaborating challenges and grasp the opportunity to learn more. There should be proper accommodation of tools for different time zones. 

Now, let’s look at some ways that will help you and your team in successful and meaningful collaborations. 

Choose The Right Technologies For Communication And Collaboration

Mastering work from home is all about using the right tools and forums to be productive and to stay connected. 'In-person' is the most effective way to get quick feedback on collaborations. Since that’s not possible while working remotely, video conferencing is the next best choice

Illustration showing a stairway on a white background with two people sitting on top to explain collaboration in remote work
Source: Cisco

Choosing the right forum and technology is one of the major contributing factors in achieving the right objective of the collaboration. There are several tools and technologies available out there which makes it difficult to know which one is the best for your projects. Choosing the wrong one can have a direct impact on the speed and effectiveness of the interactions between the teammates.
 
There should be guidelines and practices in order to select the best forum for communication. The technology that not only helps in connecting but also developing bonds should be provided during remote work. 
 
For virtual meetings, Zoom and Skype are the best and most chosen video calling applications. They provide video conferencing and group chats. Consider this chart for various formats and tools for remote working:

 A table with rows and columns, where the top row is blue in colour, showing the formats and tools of different technologies used for remote work


Don’t get confused between brief communications and clear communications


In order to be efficient with the time, we sometimes use fewer words for communication. But that might lead to a misunderstanding if your messages are not understood by the receiver. It would be very wrong to assume that the other person you are communicating with is able to understand your slang or short-hands. So, you should try to be as clear with our words as possible. This will help save time for you and your team members as well. 
 
Lack of communication can easily occur while working remotely. Sometimes, a team member might have a bad internet connection which might make him miss the meeting, or is unclear about the next steps because of a missed meeting. In such situations, it becomes important to communicate with the other team members to make sure the collaboration runs smoothly. 
 
Microsoft’s report shows that there was a 72% increase in instant messaging during the work from home period. Their managers felt that they could effectively manage their team via IM’s while working from home.

Blue blocks on a white background showing statistics on collaboration in remote work
Source: Microsoft

Also, a 22% increase was noticed in short meetings in comparison to the 11% decrease in long meetings while working from home.

 A see saw on a white background showing the percentage of long and short meetings on both sides.
Source: Microsoft

Keep Up With Your Schedule


Now that we are all working remotely, the joy of just shifting to your friends' desk for a small chit chat session is something that we definitely long for. Showing up on time for collaboration would make it more productive and also shows that you value your team. 

Keeping up with schedules is something that becomes a little difficult. You have to be fully prepared for the scheduled meeting, keep your cell phone away and silent, and try not to get distracted by a call or text! 

Build Company Culture

Culture is an integral part of a company’s success. A healthy company culture influences every part of your business. It is basically the personality of your company!

Creating a virtual space where all the team members can have a conversation is really important for strengthening relationships. The best way to drive a team's performance is by choosing video calls over voice calls for meetings. There should be planned meetings where the team is able to play games, interact, and have some fun apart from just the usual work conversation. 

Plan games, virtual lunch, or coffee sessions to keep the office spirit alive. How you do it is more important than whether you do it or not. 

What we at OpenSense Labs do to keep the culture alive

We, at OpenSense Labs, strongly believe that we don’t have to be at one place to produce our best work together and we stay true to this conviction even in the lockdown period enforced almost all over the world due to Covid-19 outbreak. We make sure that meaningful relationships are always maintained.

We have a ‘Guess The Baby’ game every weekend where we are shown a baby picture of one of the employees and are asked to guess who that is. The winner is rewarded with a prize. 

We also make sure that we have a bonding session with the new employees who join us. For instance, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all the new employees who joined us didn’t meet anyone from the office yet. So, we scheduled a video call, which was joined by all the employees. Here, it is made sure that they feel at home (Well, we’re all actually at home) and bond with the other members of the team! 

There are more fun activities where all the team members have fun together, like, drawing on a sheet by hearing the instructions one by one. But, the catch here is, the sheet is supposed to be on your head and you are not allowed to peep! 

screenshot of a video call with 25 people in the frame


Make Your Work From Home Life Easier: Tips From The Team

Six circles on a white background with tips on collaboration during remote work written inside them.


Conclusion

Remote communication might distort the normal pace of your conversations. The delay between your replies may often hide emotional reactions to comments. Communication is the key! So make sure you bond and make those collaborations fun and not just something you are asked to do!