5 Ways to Develop and Improve Your Collaboration Skills

Collaboration skills in a remote workplace

Remote working has been a growing trend for quite some time. Professionals have always been in search of a better work-life balance. That search led to an 8% increase in remote work in the US in 2016-17 alone. This was before the pandemic. After the pandemic, remote work isn’t just a trend anymore. It has become a necessity for most employees and employers around the world. The importance of learning and honing collaboration skills in a remote workplace rose in tandem.

The world of remote working is different from that of a traditional workplace. You no longer have in-person coffee breaks with colleagues. You have no commute time. There’s no sharp line between your personal life and your professional one. Collaboration in a virtual setting is a challenge but not so much if you know the right ways to develop your collaboration skills.

What Are Collaboration Skills and Why Are They Important in a Remote Workplace?

Collaboration skills are those skills that help you work well in a team. As a professional, you have individual tasks and team tasks. Collaboration skills help you become a better team player. These include understanding various ideas and perspectives within a team and managing task priorities in projects that require teamwork. Meeting the team’s expectations is also important. 

Having a cooperative attitude can help you become a successful collaborator. While working remotely, collaboration skills take on an important role because a virtual setting means there’s no in-person contact. There are no in-person breaks where you run into your colleagues and get to know them better. Putting in extra effort in a remote setting to talk to your colleagues using video conferencing platforms helps build trust and coordial professional relationships. 

Remote employers look for employees that not only have the desired skill set for a particular role but can also work effectively as part of their team. Those who have the ability to balance their personal accomplishments with group goals are preferred candidates for a remote position.

It is more important than ever to understand the ways in which you can improve your collaboration skills and your team spirit.

3 Important Skills For Collaboration

1. Trust

Trust is the foundation of every kind of relationship. Doubts can lead to misunderstandings and can affect a team’s efficiency. To build trust, remote teams can engage in team bonding activities via video conferencing. Just having a casual team meeting where everyone talks about their interests can help teammates open up to each other.

2. Tolerance 

Remote teams are diverse. There will be people from different parts of the country or the world I’m your team. They will come from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. Being respectful and tolerant of everyone’s faith and preferences will help make a remote work environment more comfortable to work in.

3. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is an attribute that helps you to manage your emotions and others’ emotions. Once you’re able to understand yourself and others, it becomes easier to express your concerns and interact openly with others. Having this quality can make you more approachable and the work environment more transparent. Developing EQ can help reduce workplace conflicts and subsequently increase trust and tolerance towards other teammates. EQ also plays an important role in giving and receiving critical feedback.

Here Are 5 Ways to Develop and Improve Your Collaboration Skills

While you might think that having a team oriented attitude is all the collaboration skills you need , there’s a lot more that goes into being an effective team member in any organization. It’s not just about having team spirit but also about doing things a certain way to max your efficiency as a team member. Let’s find out what all can be done to improve your collaboration skills.

1. Training and Processes

If you’re a remote manager, developing a training module where new candidates learn how various processes work in your team and the organization can help a new employee to understand the work environment better. With remote work comes a lot of employees from around the country or even the world. They will be in different time zones. A good understanding of internal company processes will help your remote team members to function effectively. Knowing the company’s work style will also ensure that the time differences or other factors don’t cause any disruptions to the business.

If you’re a new remote employee, it is best to go through the company portfolio and ask for guidance on the internal processes. Your team and manager will be able to take you through not only your roles and responsibilities but also your functionality as a team member in the organization. From vision and values to workflows and team project delivery related processes, it is best to ask for everything before you start your remote work journey.

2. Solve Virtual Meeting Disruptions

When you choose to work remotely, you enter the world of video conferencing and Zoom meetings. This is unlike the face-to-face meetings you have experienced in a traditional office. It’s a lot easier there. You have a chance to speak and interact comfortably while also being able to listen when other team members speak.

With virtual meetings in a remote setting come the problems of internet connectivity, different time zones, zoom fatigue and more. If you’re an introvert, you might not speak up in a virtual meeting and it could also be difficult for your manager to notice clearly that you’re shy. Having said that, virtual meetings are important for interactions and brainstorming so how do you combat the challenges that come with it? Whether you’re a remote employee or a manager, there are some things you can do to minimize disruptions.

  • Recommend meeting times that suit everyone else too.
  • Recommend rotational timings so that everyone gets to attend the meeting comfortably.
  • If possible, recommend your organization to offer internet connectivity and headsets to employees in order to minimize technical disruptions.
  • Recommend inclusion of fun topics to discuss during the meeting. A survey can be conducted for your team where everyone’s interests can be taken into account and each weekly or monthly meeting can cover topics of common interests. This team will feel more included and each member will get a chance to talk.

3. Plan Fun Virtual Events

In a traditional work setting, small internal events happen from time to time. From cutting cakes for birthday celebrations to rewards and recognition ceremonies, there are many new things to look forward to. How does one keep the team interested and collaborative in a remote setting?

For good collaboration, remote teams can organize events where team members can interact not only in a professional setting but also get to know each other better personally. Holding small virtual events about various cultures is a good idea. Remote employees come from different parts of the world and with such events they get a chance to talk about their beliefs and values. You can recommend this to your organization

Besides cultural events, there can always be something like “remote employee of the month” where an organization can incentivize the employee for helping out teammates in some tasks and being an amazing team player. This will encourage remote employees to work with their teams and help their colleagues as much as possible.

Such recommendations can change the way remote teams function. If you’re an introvert, you can always recommend small events where a video conference can be about showcasing one’s talent. Whether you’re a good painter or a guitarist, you’ll get a chance to showcase what you do outside of work and will also help your teammates to know you better.

4. Daily Standups For a Remote Team

Knowing what other team members are up to each day can help each employee manage their priorities, especially when there’s an ongoing team project. Daily standups in collaboration tools like Basecamp, Trello or Asana are great ways to get a snapshot of what everyone is doing.

As a remote employee, pitch this idea to your organization. Different teams can have their own daily standup routines according to what works best for them.

These daily standups can hold questions like:

  • What are your tasks for the day?
  • What are your meetings for the day?
  • Which task will you need to work on with a team member?

These questions can be tweaked according to your department’s needs. In a similar fashion, weekly standups will be helpful in getting an overview of the week gone by and the upcoming week. Here remote employees can talk about their challenges and also have a chance to appreciate other team members for their inputs in projects.

5. Create a Team Agreement Document

While it sounds like a legal document, it isn’t. In fact, it is a document that outlines expectations for each team member and can be written or presented in a very casual format. The whole point of a team agreement document is to ensure that all team members are on the same page when it comes to team values, work delivery and expectations.

Keep it concise and to the point. Adding humor and sarcasm is highly recommended! This can make the document a very interesting read. No remote employee wants to read something lengthy and boring. Keep it crisp so that team members are excited to even go back to the document from time to time to stay on track with their work and team spirit.

  • Define values like transparency, commitment, deadlines, etc.
  • Define core strengths of the team.
  • Define expectations from the team as a whole.
  • Define what each team member brings to the table. This can include a quirky and humorous member persona too!

Make this document relatable and real. As a remote employee, you can suggest creating this document to your manager and get a chance to work on it too.

Small Steps Lead to A Big Difference

Collaboration skills are not just addons but a necessity in a remote work environment. With more people opting for remote work now, it has become more important than ever to develop and improve your collaboration skills. No big ideas are needed to make a remote team work. It’s the small everyday steps and processes that compound to a cohesive remote work culture.

Bookmark this page and come back to it if you need collaboration ideas for your remote team or remote organization. Success is never a one man show. 

Teams that work together, thrive together.

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