Are you leading a remote team? Have you ever had challenges in getting your team to collaborate? I’m leading a remote Service Desk team where one person sits in another location then the other seven team members. And sometimes people are working from home. When I first started with a remote employee my first problem I wanted to tackle was the remote team collaboration and communication.
From the past most teams are located in one location which makes collaboration and communication a lot easier. But our world is changing since a couple of years, especially because of technology. We have global markets and global teams and everything has to work together. And one piece of this are of course the employees. If you nowadays search for talent you will find them not always in your location but somewhere else on earth. Through technology it seems it isn’t an issue to get remote workers act like a local team, but it is different and there are challanges.
There are multiple ways how you can improve the collaboration within a remote team. There are a lot of tools and communication methods out there and each of them has pros and cons. You always have to identify what your goal is and what your team needs. Experiment with the methods and let the team decide what helps them and what they want to use. This is exactly what I did and I would like to share my experience with you.
Remote Team Collaboration via Email
Of course this is the first idea for remote communication and collaboration. Each company has an email system in place and a lot of communication is done via email. But is this also a good choice for a remote team? My team tried it for a couple of weeks and it seemed to work for us first. But after a couple of weeks we were unhappy with this method because there was a lot of noise from other people, newsletter, fun emails, etc. This was not appropriate for us because it was hard to identify what was relevant for the rest of the team.
In addition to that if someone from the team asked a question and people replied, it was hard to read through all the replies and find the relevant information. This took a lot of time until you found the right answer. Therefore we decided after a short period of time that email was not our preferred tool, because no one used it anymore. At some point there was nearly no communication with the remote employee, except for direct on-on-one calls or within our Standup Meeting.
- Easy to use
- Can reach everyone who has an email account
- Very asynchron communication
- A lot of noise from other emails
- Not always actively used by Service Desk agents
- Long email threads makes it hard to identify relevant information
Remote Team Collaboration via Video
Another approach we did was using video on a daily basis. We connected both locations in our Daily Standup Meetings for fifteen minutes and exchanged current issues and information everyone needed to know today. This worked good in the beginning but also after a couple of weeks less things were communicated because the local team already knew and it was just for 15 minutes per day. This was too short to collaborate on daily topics or even on long term goals.
- Face to face communication is best of all
- Sometimes connection issues
- During video not able to work in Hotline
Remote Team Collaboration via Group Chat
Our next tool we wanted to use was a group chat. There are multiple tools that offer this solution, just take one, e.g. Google Hangouts. Everyone from the team has to connect in the morning when they start working. At the beginning it was very hard for everyone to get the group chat into their daily routine of work. But after a few days everyone enjoyed the easy way to communicate. It was great to see how much was communicated and also for questions of local team members there were always answers in the chat. This also helped all others to do the things the same way.
For us this was the best way how we can collaborate together and keep our remote worker included in our daily communication. And the good thing is, within a Service Desk you always need to know where your colleagues are, e.g. when they are out at lunch. If you are local you can see it of course but for the remote worker it is hard. With the group chat this was solved. Everyone is communicating when he leaves the desk or is not in the hotline. We still use this tool and are happy with it.
- Active communication
- Issues can be communicated quickly to other team members
- helpful for team which is not in same office
- No noise from others
- No history of chat
- Everyone need to join
Remote Team Collaboration via Microsoft Teams
One more thing we tried recently was Microsoft Teams. It is a little bit more than a group chat and offers for example channels that could be related to a specific topic. You can use it too as your single tool for collaboration on documents or information exchange. After 8 weeks of piloting this feature we identified that it is good, but it is not the tool that helps us in our day to day work. There is too much functionality included in Microsoft Teams that didn’t help us to collaborate more. The opposite was the case, we communicated less even that we had more options to communicate and collaborate.
- Cloud based
- A lot of functionality
- Crashed very often
- Too much notifications
- A lot of functionality
Conclusion for our Service Desk Team
After a lot of trial and error effort we found the solution which helps us most – Remote Team Collaboration through Group Chat. This is just the result of our experiments, maybe for other teams something else works better, especially when you want to have a history in your chats. For our day to day business we found out that we don’t need that.
How do you collaborate within your remote team?