What is your work-from-home situation? Do you feel productive every day? Can you participate effectively during your team meetings? Are you able to have productive, effective remote communication?

These questions are getting more common as work landscapes continue to shift to virtual team spaces—which requires virtual team collaboration. Team meetings have been redefined, requiring specific behaviors and skills that most of us did not pay much attention to before. What we thought was simple and straightforward is becoming complex and burdensome over time. As it turns out, remote collaboration is more challenging that it seems.

Why does working in a virtual team space and and practicing remote communication cause misunderstanding and challenge collaboration?   

Everything has its pros and cons and while working remotely allows more chances to give focus on personal relationships, indulge in a new hobby, or clean up your closet, work relationships on the other hand are starting to falter. Even with the use of remote collaboration software and technology like video calls to bridge the physical gap, something is still missing. 

One of the largest challenges that arises from using remote collaboration tools is the absence of nonverbal cues. Eye contact, body language, and physical cues add to the way you communicate with your colleagues, family, or friends. Their absence creates a barrier in transmitting your message with the right intent. As we continue to rely on collaboration tools for remote teams to communicate virtually, we sometimes miss out on the little things like gestures that add to the meaning of what we want to convey.  

Then there are factors far beyond our control that challenge remote collaboration, like internet access and tech issues. These remote teamwork obstacles bring delays in your virtual conversations that add to communication challenges.   

So let’s talk about how we can combat some virtual communication fatigue, be more productive and encourage clear, effective remote collaboration virtually! 

Set up virtual team collaboration standards 

Remote team collaboration standards allow all the members of the team to work from agreed-upon expectations, keeping the team on the same page. When these are well laid out, team members will be able to establish the behavior that is expected in all team virtual huddles or collaborations. This also helps to decrease the chances of misunderstanding because the members will be able to speak in the same team language. Refrain from your expectations that your teammates will understand your cues. Instead, take the time to really communicate well, regardless of the method. Better to be clear than sorry. 

Don’t resort to a messaging blitz 

As you work with your team on a task, be mindful of the way that the task was initially shared. Don’t send out messages here and there or through multiple channels to avoid confusion. If a plan was set through a team chat, make sure to send your updates and follow-up on that topic through the same team chat. This allows consistency, transparency, and allows for the team to see the progress of the task. Be intentional and consistent in how you use the remote collaboration tools that are available to you.

 Take Time To Celebrate! 

After all, you are a team. Don’t make it a habit to only connect when there are challenges or to discuss the project. Remote teamwork functions best when we make time for casual conversations and talk about their wins (of any size). It is evident that the strength of the team also contributes to their output and productivity.  

Remote collaboration comes in many forms and one of them can be to encourage team camaraderie. So why not have some virtual huddles to discuss personal hobbies, share parenting tips, travel must-do, etc.? You’ll be surprised at the number of ideas that bounce back between the team members. Over time, you’ll realize that the team is already supporting each other, giving friendly reminders, and taking on tasks to help with deadlines. 

Remote collaboration tools and systems can simplify the process 

Maximize remote collaboration tools and systems that are already provided to you and discover the different ways in which they can help the team be productive. Remote collaboration tools for chats, video conferencing, and project management, allow the team to see project scope and determine what tasks still need to be completed.  

Set clear timelines and objectives 

To have more direction with the current project that the team is collaborating on, set a clear objective to visualize the output. Then set the timeline wherein each team member will be accountable for a specific segment of the project. This draws the bigger picture for everyone and gives each team member the ownership of the content, following a certain theme or concept. Remote communication relies on no detail being too small to be conveyed and assigned if need be.

As we all continue working in the digital world, remote collaboration challenges will remain.  The key is to identify how to combat these challenges effectively. Be creative in your use of remote collaboration tools, spice up the way the team meetings are delivered, work to strengthen remote communication, and continue to build team relationships. This is how your team will win at remote collaboration.