Collaborating with a remote team is challenging, but the right tools and strategies can streamline the communication process.
The two main challenges facing remote teams are major time zone differences and lack of in-person collaboration. Online collaboration is effective, but time zone differences make it hard to connect in real-time.
For instance, when a team member in India needs to connect with a team member in the United States, there’s a time difference of nearly 12 hours (give or take, depending on specific time zones). For these two team members to connect, one will need to get up extra early and the other will need to stay up late.
The other big challenge with large differences in time zones is that productivity will always lag behind by 12 to 24 hours. This lag time makes it difficult to meet strict client deadlines and can put projects behind schedule.
If your organization has a remote team, whether your employees are spread out across the states or the world, the following tools will help you maintain efficient online collaboration and communication to ensure you deliver on time.
1. A company intranet
A company intranet is like a private internet for your entire team that can only be accessed by your team members. It can be implemented locally in the office with your own set of servers and networking equipment, or it can be hosted in the cloud.
With an intranet hosted in the cloud, your team can access it from anywhere and you avoid maintenance and upgrade fees. If your team is 100% remote and you don’t have an office, your intranet will need to be hosted in the cloud.
According to Happeo, cloud collaboration makes remote teams successful through tools like video conferencing applications, intranets, and document repositories. A company intranet can provide easy access to all of a team’s collaboration tools.
The privacy and security of an intranet is unparalleled even by the most highly secured software application you can install on your company website. For instance, installing proprietary collaboration software on a subdomain on your company’s website isn’t as secure as you think. Even when your team members use secure login credentials, your web server could get hacked on the back-end, compromising your sensitive data.
On the other hand, a hosted intranet is separate from your company website. With a reputable service provider, the servers used to host your company intranet are locked down with the tightest security. When you intranet isn’t hosted on your website’s domain name, hackers won’t know where to look for it.
2. A navigable, online self-help portal
An online self-help portal will make your employees self-sufficient and empower your team to find answers on their own. Usually, a self-help portal is hosted on a company intranet.
What information does a self-help portal contain?
A self-help portal can contain an infinite amount of knowledge regarding company policies and procedures, and even links to files. Essentially, any kind of information your employees might need, including answers to questions customers might ask, should be housed in a self-help portal.
Employees can use a self-help portal to immediately look up answers to questions posed by clients, customers, and other team members. This accessibility reduces the amount of time it would take to contact a manager or supervisor to find the answer.
A self-help portal can be created by using FAQ software or by hiring a development company to create a proprietary application just for your team. Either way, it works just like a website with a main menu, links for navigation, and a search function.
The key to using an online self-help portal is to make it user-friendly and continually update and add to the information as processes change and your company evolves.
3. A well-designed training program
Every remote team is supported by a well-designed training program. How you onboard your remote employees matters, and how they’re trained will set the tone for how they’ll perform.
Well-trained team members communicate and collaborate more efficiently than team members who work according to their own standards. It’s important to create a training program that can be implemented consistently by any and all of your trainers.
With remote teams, it’s especially important to train your team over an extended period of time rather than give them a manual to read and call it a day. Training manuals serve a purpose, but they shouldn’t take the place of actual training.
How you train your remote team depends on your industry. For instance, if you’re a marketing firm, your training program should include providing constructive feedback after each client interaction, after work is submitted, and throughout the entire process for at least one full project. This will give your team the feedback they need to align with company standards every step of the way.
4. A unified task management platform
Nothing disrupts remote teams like having tasks managed in multiple applications. This can be a tricky situation to get a grip on because all of your remote employees will probably have preferences for the software they like to use for managing tasks. To maintain good collaboration, you’ll need to require all team members to use the same application.
You might have a task management application that you prefer, but stay open to using other platforms recommended by your team. They might know about a platform that is superior to what you’ve always used.
5. Communications training
Ongoing communications training is one of the best ways to keep a remote team on track and should be an irreplaceable part of your company’s communication strategy. Everyone talks about great communication, but few can demonstrate what that looks like. For instance, communication is more than sharing information with another team member. Communication skills involve knowing how and when to deliver a message along with being able to have a productive dialogue with others, especially when there’s a disagreement.
Traditionally, organizations have sent employees to weekend communications training programs, but today it’s easy to take those same courses online. Find an organization that specializes in teaching communication for team collaboration and start requiring your remote employees to complete the courses of your choice.
6. Top-of-the-line computers
It’s difficult to work in the tech industry on older computers running deprecated browser versions because the machine can’t handle an operating system upgrade. Sure, you can find laptops on eBay for a couple hundred bucks, but you’re not doing your company any favors that way.
If your remote employees depend on current technology to get the job done, buy them the right equipment. You don’t need to spend $5,000 per person on new MacBook Pros, but you do need to consider a person’s work before buying them a machine.
7. World clock applications
The simplicity of a world clock application can’t be underestimated. Your remote team needs to know what time it is around the world where other team members and clients are located. This will help keep them on track to deliver tasks on time. For example, if someone from India sets a deadline for Tuesday, a team member in the U.S. can submit the task on Tuesday and yet it’s already Wednesday in India.
World clocks with a little forethought will help team members across different time zones set and meet deadlines smoothly.
Remote collaboration can be exceptionally efficient
Despite team members living in different parts of the world, remote collaboration can be exceptionally efficient – even more efficient than an in-house team.
The problem in-house teams face most is wasted time. It’s a drag having to get ready for work, commute to the office, and then sit at a desk all day. Remote teams are surprisingly more efficient because the freedom helps team members tailor their work to a schedule that works best for their lifestyle. Without the commute, they have more time and energy to devote to getting the job done.