Remote Collaboration is Broken – 5 Ways Next-Gen Managers Can Fix It

Remote work has taken the working world by storm. Well, by pandemic. Whatever the means, we find ourselves in the future of work — today. We’re at the end of the fast-forward button. We need to sort out how to adapt our teams for this reality and remote collaboration — yesterday.

We’re still slowly adjusting to this future of work. A future where full-remote and hybrid organizations are the norm. Where seeing your coworkers through a video call is the only time you actually see them. Where the majority of work has been navigated to asynchronous platforms. And, where certain things we took for granted are now hard. There are new challenges, hurdles, and difficulties to account for in a dispersed working environment. And remote collaboration is a must.

Remote Collaboration Is A Real-Life Challenge

One of the biggest challenges facing remote teams is collaboration. In a remote organization where teams are waking up in more than one continent, how do you get the creative juice flowing across time zones? Where does the brainstorm happen? How do you generate synergy amongst the best and brightest on a team or across the organization? 

Collaborating across time zones and over oceans is a challenge, but hey—we just went through a global pandemic, and this is the new normal, so let’s get innovative. Read on for 5 killer strategies managers can use to promote better collaboration for their remote, hybrid, or distributed teams.

1. Embrace Async Communication

And by embrace, we really mean a great big bear hug. While it may sound like a fancy new techy term, “asynchronous communication” platforms have actually existed since the Pony Express. 

If you’re not familiar with the term, it simply refers to a type of communication where a response isn’t required or expected right away. According to a blog published by Doist, “Simply put, asynchronous communication is when you send a message without expecting an immediate response. For example, you send an email. I open and respond to the email several hours later.” 

When you build a remote or hybrid workforce—stretched across various time zones with increased work hour flexibility—navigating to asynchronous workflows and communication platforms only makes sense. Not only is it logical and more flexible, we like it more. This is why companies like Slack have had such tremendous growth over the last couple of years.

A lot of the freedom and flexibility credited to “remote work” is actually due to this hidden transition to async work that’s been taking place. When most of the work gets done asynchronously, it means we get to engage and crush work when we are at our best. Embracing asynchronous work has given us back the reins on our schedule, energy levels, and in many ways—our happiness. 

2. Try Asynchronous Collaboration 

So the common “brainstorm myth” goes a little something like this: creativity, brainstorming, and collaboration only occur around a white board with colorful sticky notes. 

Think about the last few truly creative or innovative ideas that benefited your work (or even your personal life). Did they happen around a rowdy conference table? Creativity and moments of inspiration don’t come to us when a whistle blows and the boss yells “BE CREATIVE!” Creativity and innovation—the rocket fuel of collaboration—happen when you least expect them. This is the beauty of asynchronous collaboration and brainstorming. 

Here’s a scenario to imagine: 

Your manager invites you to share what you’re working on today, and what things you might need help with via a daily asynchronous standup. Everyone contributes throughout the day, regardless of the time zone. One coworker says “I’m working on a new template for how we do Instagram takeovers, any ideas would be appreciated.” Then over the next few hours, fun and interesting ideas are thrown into the mix from team members far and wide. 

This is the new way to collaborate in a remote work environment. Async is the future, making async collaboration critical to remote and hybrid team productivity

3. Pilot some new Asynchronous Tools 

In the daily asynchronous standup scenario above, you most likely pictured it taking place in a Slack channel or as some type of written communication. Now, imagine the same concept—having a “daily asynchronous standup”—but everything is communicated through 60-second videos. Short async video apps have broken onto the scene with a bang – and huge implications for asynchronous communication as well as remote collaboration. Tools like these capitalize on the ideas that 1. Async is the future of remote work, and 2. Video is a powerful tool for human connection.   

Play it out again in your mind. Your coworker shares an async video expressing real excitement and openness for suggestions in her goal of creating the new Instagram-takeover template. Other coworkers respond with 60-second videos, laying out some creative new ideas to consider. Everything is organized and archived to be referenced later by all parties. Having these types of brainstorms allows everyone to maintain better energy levels and to jump in when they find that the proverbial lightbulb is right above their head.

For introverts, it’s a dream. You don’t have to fight for mic time because nobody is going to jump in and cut you off. (We all know that awkward unmute—whoops—mute again feeling in a video call.)Your whole team gets the chance to connect across virtual space while you continue on with other projects and responsibilities. Short async video also provides a great option if you’re looking to organize an async offsite.  

4. Put Culture Leaders in Positions of Influence

Regardless of a tool’s power or how sound the logic of a new idea might be—without buy-in, collaboration and innovation will be an up-hill battle. Buy-in for a new way of doing something generally starts with a few strong, respected personalities. Those culture leaders across the organization whose opinion seems to carry weight. Whose enthusiasm seems contagious, even in a video call. Whose messages on slack seem to be in ALL-CAPS BOLD, even when they’re not. Lean on those people. Pick out a few, and make them your change agents. 

Back to our example. 

Imagine having your culture leaders start the asynchronous standup each day. They’ll likely own it as their idea, and be sure to contribute at greater rates with clear authenticity. 

According to a comprehensive report by Microsoft about the transition to hybrid work environments, Gen Z is struggling in particular in our new remote working world. So, maybe start by putting one of your younger and more engaging team members in charge of “async team-building” or “async collaboration,” give them a few ideas to get started—and let the magic happen.  

5. Iterate and Celebrate 

Nothing is perfect on the first go, and nothing takes hold overnight. Maybe you have the right person picked out to lead a charge on a new tool that you’re really excited about, (like Voodle!!). 

Even after following the steps here, you’ll want to take a moment to reflect on what’s working and what could be improved about a month into the experiment. Strong team culture, consistent collaboration, and an environment where people share willingly and disagree well—it isn’t an accident. It doesn’t happen without giving it focus and constant pruning. 

Think of your team’s culture as your virtual baby bonsai tree. Every now and then you need to look from every angle, take opinions, and adjust the strategy. 

Remote Collaboration Empowers Your Team

Even in the remote-friendly future of work — which really is right now — collaborating is still incredibly important. Now, it just takes a fresh perspective. 

Lean into the async transition. Reconsider how to brainstorm, and try some asynchronous versions. Give some innovative new async communication and collaboration tools a shot, and put the right people in position to own and impact culture. Once you do all that, don’t forget to celebrate the outcome.

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