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Maximising the Power of Collaboration for Dispersed Teams

Maximising the Power of Collaboration for Dispersed Teams

Collaboration is always an uphill battle for dispersed teams. Divergent schedules, the absence of in-person communication, and conflicting timezones can get in the way of effective collaboration. But today, nearly every team is a dispersed team, with so many companies adopting WFH at scale. Managers must figure out the best-fit formula for remote team collaboration if they are to sustain productivity during these times.  

How does collaboration change when we go remote?

Collaboration processes look very different for remote teams and in-office workforces. In a physical office, we use in-person communication, watercooler chats, informal notes, and messages to get every team member on the same page. A shared lunch can be critical to how your team collaborates – but this is impossible to achieve in a WFH world.  

That’s why employees prefer short conversations via digital channels, scheduled social meetings, and a lot of instant messaging when they are compelled to go digital. A recent Microsoft report found:  

  • Short meetings are up by 22%, and long meetings are down by 11%  
  • Scheduled social (non-work-related) conferences are up by 10%  
  • Instant messages are up by a massive 72% owing to its 1-on-1 nature  

While employee needs remain the same (engagement, reassurance, and clarity), they are choosing different channels for addressing them. It is vital that managers and team leaders adapt to this new form of collaboration to accelerate problem-solving and encourage employees to innovate, even in these complex circumstances.  

How can managers enable better collaboration among remote team members?

There are five ways for team leaders and managers to keep up strong lines of communication among the workforce. They can:  

  1. Normalise digital collaboration – Don’t treat digital as a stop-gap solution. Replace on-premise collaboration elements like whiteboards, sticky notes, to-do lists, etc. with a digital alternative.  
  2. Set aside collaboration hours – Factor in difficulties around maintaining work-life balance at this time. Designate 2-3 hours every day when every team member (even independent contributors) must be available to collaborate without notice.  
  3. Share a glimpse of the personal – Don’t let emails, scheduled conferences, and formal communication channels get in the way of one-on-one connectivity. Try outside the box ideas like TGIF (virtual) happy hours to combat the risk of becoming impersonal.  
  4. Encourage video usage – Promote (not enforce) the use of video during conferencing calls, so that remote employees regularly see each other. Use features like raise hands and background customisation to improve the video collaboration experience.   
  5. Share regular updates – Don’t be afraid to be repetitive. Summarise the week’s important events and meeting highlights into regular updates to be shared via personal channels like SMS. 

The biggest challenge to remote team collaboration is purpose

The tools and processes come much later – it is a shared purpose that urges team members to collaborate, no matter the situation. The best leaders will ensure that every team member has visibility into the why behind the collaboration. Clear goal setting, ownership, and an understanding of their work’s impact will help dispersed teams stay motivated, despite the odds, and continue to collaborate.  




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