Effective Remote Team Collaboration: Tools and Strategies

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The Covid pandemic has forced most teams to switch to remote collaboration, but this unwanted change proved very successful in many cases. No wonder that today, many companies intend to keep it going, even if part-time. Often, remote work offers the flexibility that acts as an employee productivity booster, even though it is associated with several potential dangers. 

Still, with a little creativity and planning, it is possible to navigate the dangerous waters of remote team collaboration. Below, we will take a look at the main challenges of working with remote teams, discuss strategies that will make remote teams more efficient, and list a few tools that will prove helpful in the process.

Breaking the walls in communication

Communication barriers are the main challenge of remote work, and sadly, this drawback cannot always be solved with technology — it requires some human effort and planning, too. Tools like Zoom and Slack have sky-rocketed in popularity, so there is not much point in discussing those. Less famous but equally effective examples you might want to check out include:

  • Cisco WebEx: an all-in-one platform with chat, video conferences, and file-sharing functionality for teams.
  • Trello: positioning itself as a ‘productivity powerhouse,’ Trello features a game-like design with boards, lists, and flashy cards to visualize all tasks in one place. It’s an excellent addition to your communication kit, but it may not be enough as a stand-alone communication channel. 
  • Flock: another communication platform with file sharing and chats for team access that can prove helpful in organizing the team’s workflow.

Any of these tools and a whole range of other services with similar functionality can help you break the technical walls in team communication. But not everything is about technology, right? A lot depends on how team leads and managers organize the process. If this is your responsibility, make sure to:

  • Communicate project goals clearly: this is the main building block of any effective team communication, and if it’s lacking, no fancy communication platforms will ever be able to help. The best advice here is to remember that certain things that seem self-explanatory to one person may require a bit of explanation for another. So, technical experts and managers should ensure they speak the same language.
  • Set up conference time wisely: a daily conference wastes time and effort if there is not much to discuss. While many people recommend regular team check-ins, making those check-ins relevant is way more important. Instead of setting up an obligatory 10 am team meeting, consider a more flexible schedule that applies to your staff and project specifics.
  • Listen actively: often, remote employees need even more support than in-house teams. Questions and challenges arise, and managers need to make use of their active listening skills if they want every employee to work at one’s top capacity. 
  • Be available: often, managing a team is a round-the-clock job. You should, of course, encourage people to contact you within office hours (which most reasonable people will probably do anyway). Still, it would be best if you made yourself available in case of an emergency — with remote teams even more than with in-house ones.

Acquiring the best talent for teams 

This is primarily an HR manager’s responsibility, of course, but building effective remote teams is about making sure every professional contributes one’s share to choosing the most qualified assets. Besides, small teams do not always have dedicated HR departments or even in-house recruiters. But all teams tend to expand eventually, and these tools should help you find the best talent for your projects:

  • SignalHire: a tool for locating verified contacts of professionals that supports search by name, industry, job title, company, and many other parameters. Plus, it has a browser extension that extracts contact data from LinkedIn and GitHub, so you can easily reach out to any professional who catches your eye online.
  • Greenhouse: this applicant tracking system is great for managing communication with candidates who have already shown interest in joining your team. It also has some pretty helpful automation features to help with the onboarding.
  • Lever: another solid example of an affordable ATS that can help schedule interviews and manage suitable candidates.

A crucial strategic tip for hiring the best talent for your team is to keep networking. Actively engage online, nurture connections on LinkedIn and other relevant social platforms, and maintain access to the best talent in your industry. It takes a company an average of 44 days to hire a new employee, but you can shorten this timespan by regularly communicating with people who could be a right fit for your existing team. 

Ensuring effective cyber security 

Cyber security remains one of the most vulnerable aspects of any digital-related work. According to 2023 estimates, the average cost of a data breach is $9.44 million, and the number of daily cyber attacks has already reached 2,200. Of course, not every remote team can afford a full-house security specialist, but a few strategies can help ensure your crew and your business data are safe.

  • Using VPN for sensitive information: it’s an excellent policy to always access business data, including any information stored in task trackers and ATSs, with VPN encryption. Some of the most trusted VPN tools include ExpressVPN, NordVPN, CyberGhost, and Surfshark, but you can use any other reputable software you like — they are all very similar in functionality. 
  • Introducing regular software updates: considering the growing number of cyber-attacks and normal development of new malware, it is essential to stick to software providers who regularly work on these issues. This, first of all, concerns the collaboration platforms and any cloud storage systems you use. Google is the obvious leader here, of course, but other services, like OneDrive, can also ensure data protection.
  • Encrypting sensitive data: while most tools for remote collaboration encrypt information, including chats and video conferences, an additional layer of encryption may prove handy — especially when dealing with most sensitive company data like user passwords or anything related to finance. Some of the best tools for encryption data are:
    • VeraCrypt: open-source software that can encrypt any data on your hard discs;
    • GPG: for encrypting email communication;
    • OpenSSL: general-purpose software that can encrypt pretty much anything that needs encrypting;
    • KeePass: great for encrypting passwords and storing them in a safe database.
  • Investing in employee training and awareness: this does not necessarily have to be a financial investment, but you can raise awareness about the importance of cyber security during your team meetings. Besides, there are plenty of valuable (and sometimes even free) online resources that can educate your team about relevant cybersecurity topics. Udemy, Coursera, and LinkedIn Learning offer plenty of courses, including those about cyber security. BrightTALK also regularly hosts webinars that cover this topic. 

Those are some of the top strategies and tools you will need for effective remote team collaboration. Of course, this is not a complete list; depending on your business and project specifics, more software can come in handy — time trackers, task trackers, cloud storage, or any educational resources your team might need. Still, the examples above are the main building blocks you will need to set up an effective remote office — apart from a task tracker (which you probably have already), these tools are the primary helpers you will need.

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