How to Improve the Virtual Collaboration of Your Organization
Working from home without being co-located is a new post-pandemic norm. Whether you work in an office or work from home, communication and cooperation with your team are crucial. It provides help in your organization’s success. Virtual collaboration is the method to communicate and exchange ideas with your employees via technological tools to get work done smoothly and systematically.
After witnessing the digital transformation due to Covid-19, it seems that the future- and in fact present- is the era of remote working. Therefore, the necessity for virtual collaboration needs to be significantly enhanced. The Conference Board surveyed their employees, revealing that 40% of respondents expected to continue working remotely from home a year later Covid-19 abates. According to another survey by Envoy, almost half (47%) of the workers expect their companies to offer a hybrid work model. A combination of flexibly working from home and in-office working – after the pandemic or otherwise, they would probably leave their jobs.
Companies that are successfully thriving in this new virtual world recognize that replacing face-to-face collaboration is not easy. Relying on traditional tools for virtual collaboration cannot be the only solution; there is a need for a multifaceted approach – a combination of interpersonal skills and technological solutions.
Drawbacks of Email and the Other Traditional Tools for Virtual Collaboration
Many people routinely check their email notifications and refresh them. Some people take this growing pile of emails as a reminder of their unfinished tasks. However, others take it as a sign that work is heaping up quicker than they can execute it.
Before Covid-19, most organizations were dependent on email. It was a principal means of communication with their scattered team over various locations. That reliance aggravated when employees started to work from home. They used email with other real-time communication tools in order to replace work-in-office, one-to-one meetings, and morning discussions. Notification ‘rings’ and unread emails swiftly increased from dozen to hundreds.
What is the issue with using email as the Primary Source of Communication?
So, what is the issue with using email as the primary source of communication? The answer to this question lies in the fact that you will find multiple problems faced using email as a principal means of communication. Firstly, virtual collaboration via email is challenging and not much effective due to its directionality. Moreover, email makes it difficult to cooperate in making decisions as this tool of communication is asynchronous. Lining up on action items and brainstorming is also a challenging task due to the asynchronicity of email.
Email is the first thing that comes to our minds when we think about virtual collaboration tools, as it has been an important element of the communication strategies of many organizations for so long. But, virtual collaboration is more than the technological tools that we use to get our tasks executed. If you want to make your hybrid and remote teams more effective in this new virtual world of work, you have to change your perception about the meaning of virtual collaboration. Organizations need to tackle virtual collaboration from relationship and task perspectives, and this is a key polarity that leaders must balance.
Recommendations to Use Technology for Virtual Collaboration
An ordinary person cannot perform his job in isolation. Organizations working on complex problems need to involve interdependencies among employees, teams, and different functional units.
Here are a few tips that can help you in leveraging the technology to boost virtual collaboration:
Turn on the Camera; whenever it is Possible
All people who have been working remotely since the start of the pandemic can relate to “Zoom fatigue.” But still, video meetings are more valuable than audio meetings only. You can take advantage of nonverbal cues from the speaker by being able to see the speaker’s face, and it also prevents the participants from multitasking. Try setting expectations with your employees about which meeting could benefit more from an on-camera conversation, and which needs to interact through audio-only. This will help in making the screen time with your team most effective.
Use Instant Communications
Disagreeing with some idea in a colleague’s email can take days and even weeks to sort out the differences. Your instant message during a virtual meeting through chat functionality can resolve it rapidly in an effective manner and in real-time without any need to open the cameras.
Utilize Project Management Software
Google Docs and similar tools have facilitated the organizations for years to collaborate virtually among the team members across geographical borders. Today, there are a number of software programs available. These will help you in keeping your virtual collaboration on course by allowing you to group tasks by project.
Create a Group Agreement
Try to keep all your teammates on the same page by producing an agreement among them. The most efficient virtual collaboration will take place only when every team member is willing to align on the choice of channels to use for particular tasks or projects. You will not have any idea what works for your organization until you try different things. So, test various things, get a response from your team, ratify your collaboration procedures, and sign an agreement so that everyone on your team comes on the same page.
How to Rebuild In-Person Coordination Using Virtual Collaboration
First of all, think about what facets of in-person cooperation you want to rebuild in a virtual habitat. Visualize a conference room where a group of individuals is brainstorming. They are discussing a particular problem and exchange their ideas quickly and effectively. It is in a peaceful and thoughtful environment, one thought leading to another.
Ideas started to flow more explicitly due to the collaboration taking place in the room.
If you want to rebuild that coordination in a virtual collaboration scenario, you must deliberate about using your teammate’s energy. For instance, taking a group of twelve people and breaking the group into three- or four-person breakout rooms could be very helpful. With comparatively smaller groups, you can begin to copy the same type of energy for brainstorming.
Another useful strategy in order to engage your team members is to make full use of the chat feature given in virtual meeting software. Some of your team members are possibly introverts. They really feel more comfortable and more confident in contributing their ideas via chat. They might hesitate interacting face-to-face, introducing a significant advantage of virtual collaboration.
Establish Relationships and Strengthen Communications to Stimulate Better Virtual Collaboration
When we take into consideration the whole process of teamwork- formation of team standards, grappling with roles and duties, and producing innovation- it is obvious that we require technological remedies to assist us in collaborating in a virtual environment.
But in order to give a response, engage in training, and settle disagreements; virtual collaboration also has to allow team members to establish connections, build trust & psychological security, and keep healthy relationships,
As organizations focus on efficiency, the interpersonal aspect of virtual collaboration is deliberately ignored. Maybe it happens as it is less complicated to leverage technology than to transform the way we communicate. Woefully, getting work done is difficult when professional relationships are not good.
Strong Communication Skills
There is good news for leaders that the most crucial tool of virtual collaboration is something that could be developed easily by anyone.
No matter whether you are doing work in-person, collaborating virtually, or incorporating both practices in a hybrid workforce model. Powerful communication skills play the role of an operating system for your organization.
By providing your team members with research-based conduct that makes better the way they communicate on a daily basis, you can eradicate unwanted resistance, make better in-the-moment training and feedback, and motivate innovation and development.
Our research found an acronym LACE that shows the four important behaviors for better communication and training. LACE stands for: Listening to understand, Asking powerful questions, Challenging and supporting, and Establishing the next step & accountability.
To summarize, you can improve the virtual collaboration of your organization by combining modern technological tools with powerful communication skills. Also, make sure that your team stays positive, creative, engaged, and lined up with your company’s business goals and mission.
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