5 Ways For Improving How Your Employees Collaborate Online

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The global health crisis has drastically changed so many norms in our life, including the way we work. Immediately after the pandemic was declared last year, employees all around the globe were segregated into two categories that didn’t exist before: essential and non-essential. Businesses that were considered non-essential during a pandemic were forced to shut down or change the way they operate. Their employees, needless to say, are bearing the brunt of it. 

Most of these affected businesses abandoned their office spaces in favor of a remote work setting. We saw the sudden normalization of the work-from-home setup. The rest adapted a hybrid workforce, in which some employees stayed in the office, and some worked remotely, usually in rotations. Either way, such non-traditional work environments pose a lot of managerial challenges.  

As a business owner or manager, you’re faced with these questions: How do you accurately measure productivity? How do you ensure understanding between employees? And, most importantly, how will the workforce move as one when they’re not physically together? 

The answer lies in effective communication and utilization of the best collaboration software. Working online takes away face-to-face contact, which is crucial to teambuilding. However, this isn’t an excuse to let your employees go their own ways. Read on for a more thorough discussion of how you can bring your remote team closer. 

 

  • Use Multiple Communication Channels For Different Purposes 

 

First and foremost, you must decide how best to communicate with each other. There are a lot of apps and tools available online, each one with specific functions and special features. A video conference works best for long meetings and detailed discussions. Instant messaging is great for quick updates and check-ins in lieu of emails.  

It’s also important to have a separate thread for non-work-related conversations. This will allow your employees to bond over common interests and hobbies. As long as it’s managed properly, it can help foster a harmonious relationship within the team and somehow lighten the load of corporate work. 

 

  • Create A Work Structure And Stick To It 

 

In an office setting, you follow a fixed routine: clock in, do the work scheduled for that day, clock out. In a remote setting, however, everyone logs in from different locations. It’s even harder for companies that don’t implement fixed working hours and let their employees choose their own schedules. It could be a logistical nightmare to monitor where everyone and everything is at in terms of work progress. 

This is where project management comes in. There should be an outline of specific things you expect from each employee. Discuss workload, workflow, hand-overs, reports, updates, and deadlines. Of course, your employees have to fully understand and agree to it before it can be implemented. 

You can use project collaboration tools to automate the process and keep track of the entire team’s progress. This is especially beneficial if you’re running a team of employees that work in different time zones. 

 

  • Share Goals And Responsibilities 

 

Employees have different roles with different tasks. If one of these roles disappear, the whole company may fall apart. This is why it’s important to make employees understand that collective success relies on the work they do, no matter how big or small. Make team members feel that they have to do well because the company’s goals are also theirs, not just because they need to get paid. 

This can be done by providing platforms that allow all team members to feel directly involved in a shared vision. Use existing communication tools to hold brainstorming sessions or meetings wherein everyone has the power to speak up and make decisions. Utilize project management tools to let team members showcase their skills. Doing these can help develop a feeling of shared ownership and prevent social loafing. 

Social loafing refers to a phenomenon wherein people exert less effort when working in a group. This is a result of the false notion that someone else in the team will pick up the slack or that their work has little impact on the outcome of the work being done. Social loafing is less likely to happen if employees are well aware of their respective responsibilities. 

 

  • Switch To Macro management 

 

If you’re the type to micromanage when you were still at the office, it’s time to switch gears. For one, micromanaging is hard to achieve in a virtual environment, unless you count spamming your team chats with endless questions and demands for updates. Even so, that’s not guaranteed to help or improve the quality of your team’s work. 

Fostering a team-oriented business culture is the best way to encourage and nurture team players. Task-oriented management focuses on how well you can finish the work, but team-oriented management focuses on how you actually feel about the work. In any setting, the latter has higher chances of improving the general mood and morale of employees. 

 

  • Make Space For A Virtual Water Cooler 

 

Having a sense of community is an important factor in productivity and job satisfaction. We often hear about people who last long in their jobs because they have developed family-like relationships with their co-workers. This is called the water cooler effect, wherein employees gather and connect with each other, similar to how they would gather around a water cooler or coffee machine at the office during break time. 

In an online workspace, you can set up virtual water coolers where your employees can socialize and engage in group activities. A good example would be a message board where people can ask for homemaking tips, exchange recipes, give relationship advice, recommend TV shows, share photos of their pets and post-workout routines, among others. You can also host movie livestreams, game nights, or even online parties during the weekend. 

Virtual water coolers are a simple but fun way of strengthening relations. It could also be an avenue to provide emotional comfort for employees who may be struggling with the effects of the pandemic. Just like how taking breaks at the office is important, allotting enough time for relaxation can recharge the team’s energy and boost overall productivity. 

Leaving the office doesn’t mean teamwork has to suffer. As with most things during these trying times, it’s all about adapting and utilizing the appropriate tools. The workspace can change, but teamwork should always remain ‘business as usual.’ 

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Arnov Rahman

Arnov Rahman

Arnov is a Marketing Manager at SqueezeCMM, a B2B content marketing and analytics start up. He is fascinated by the intersection of technology, marketing, and people in the development of awesome products. He's into life-hacking, psychology, and data-science.