Building a remote collaborative environment
Nina Rong from Toasty shares her tips on how to build an environment for remote teams to openly share opinions and proactively collaborate.
“I wish they could just talk to each other.”
This thought crosses the minds of all remote team leaders at least once a day. The 2020 State of Remote Work has shown that 20% of remote team workers are struggling with both collaboration and communication. Challenged by physical distance and time zones, remote team leaders need to spend more time building a collaborative environment so the communication barrier can at least be lowered - if not removed.
Why remote teams are less likely to collaborate
Lack of understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses
Remote team members are likely from different backgrounds and expertise. Without the day-to-day interaction, they often fail to see the opportunity to ask for help. A team member may need support on a certain issue but may be unable to identify a knowledgeable person to consult.
Lack of team camaraderie
Personal connections and trust are two elements that define a highly collaborative team. Team members must trust each other to openly communicate any challenges, concerns, and feelings. Trust can only be built by establishing personal connections that are beyond professional relationships. Physically separated from each other, remote team members don’t really have the opportunity to build personal bonds.
Lack of mutual vision
A mutual vision is what differentiates a team and a group of people working together. Without a mutual goal, each remote team member is working to achieve his or her own KPI instead of achieving the company’s vision. It’s easy for them to ignore an obvious loophole that doesn’t impact his or her tasks.
Via interactions with other team members and direct interactions with team leaders, the broader vision can be instilled. However, in a remote setting, team leaders need to think of ways to reinforce the company vision to keep everyone aligned.
3 tips on building a remote collaborative environment
Host team-building sessions that focus on personal conversations
When designing remote team-building activities, it’s important to set time aside for the team to have personal conversations. Virtual movie night or game nights are fun, but team members rarely get a chance to talk about who they are and what matters to them.
While an in-person team-bonding session focuses on creating the most memorable time with various activities, remote team-building should be more people-focused.
Introduce new members on both a professional and personal level
Part of remote employee on-boarding is dedicating time to learn about the new colleague. A proper introduction sets the foundation for future collaboration.
Here are some activities to onboard a new team member:
- Sharing personal stories by playing conversation cards
- Talk about each other’s impressions
- Invite the new member to walk the team through his/her past projects
- Lunch-and-Learn led by the new member.
Host bite-sized watercooler sessions frequently
Frequency of interaction matters. In the office, the team members interact with each other during coffee breaks or over lunch 3-4 times a week. Remote team building should serve as a ‘watercooler’ similar to the in-office micro-interactions. Frequent team building sessions also allow team leaders to reinforce the business vision on a regular basis. The bite-sized watercooler sessions do not need to be dramatic, but they should:
- Provide a chance for the team to chit-chat
- Allow the remote leaders to connect with the team, and
- Show support and empathy to each other.
Remote team leaders need to give more thought to building a collaborative environment for teams spread across different locations. While in-office teams can connect via micro-interactions such as hallway chats, remote teams rely heavily on team-building sessions to connect with each other. Frequent people-focused team-building sessions will lay a strong foundation based on understanding, trust, and mutual vision.
Nina Rong is the content manager at Toasty, a video conferencing platform with ready-made activities to engage and connect your remote team members. She is a remote work advocate and firmly believes in driving trust, loyalty and productivity through effective remote team-building sessions.