Last month we shared the results from our Work From Home Surveythat we sent to engineers and managers/directors. You told us what your challenges are, what surprised you, and how we can help. Both management and engineers agreed that one of the biggest challenges they face is building and maintaining collaboration with their remote teams.
You said collaboration and communication have diminished with WFH teams. Understandably, managers are concerned that their employees are working in silos, which causes communication breakdowns, productivity delays, and a loss of cohesive goal-setting, thus leading to fewer solutions and narrow-minded attitudes. And the remote teams grapple with the same concerns — how to best collaborate in a remote environment.
Working from home — even if you’re part of a large department — makes it easy to disappear into your own little cocoon. You think of a great idea and write it down, often reminding yourself you’ll share it with your teammates the next time you Zoom together. Whenever that might be.
As a manager, you see your team becoming more isolated, losing that great ‘think-tank’ cooperative spirit. So you plan more meetings. But what about the in-between times? And how do you capture and encourage your employees’ creativity, energy and communication?
Managers: A Clear Path and the Right Tools While communication technologies like Microsoft Teams or Zoom can increase engagement, often what’s below the surface is what makes a more profound impact. Project management software tools help employees and managers interact, plan and organize in real-time with accuracy, and often allow teammates and managers to extend notes of encouragement and kudos of thanks. Additionally, while teams update their goals, accomplishments and to-do lists, they each see what others in the group are doing – and it goes a long way to bridge the silo mentality.
A number of you mentioned how helpful our Vlabs have been for your remote team to test your ideas and find the support you need for acquiring your certifications. Want to try it for yourself? The VLabs virtual playground is free and easy to use - just schedule a time that works for you.
PivIT has had to...er...pivot to a largely remote hybrid workforce, as well. So, we get this. If you want to hear what software tools we leveraged to help us scale the last 18 months, hit us up.
A Clear Roadmap: Another way to encourage collaboration is for management to provide a clear focus among the team. If your team doesn’t know what the company’s “north star” is, they’ll likely flounder, or worse yet, they may withdraw and become unmotivated. Having a clear roadmap of company priorities fosters a greater sense of unity and inspires teams to support one another. Print out your top two or three team priorities and hang them on office walls, have employees load them as their screen savers, repeat them on weekly syncs. The key to keeping team priorities clear is to repeat, repeat and repeat them again.
Engineers: Ideas For Staying Connected to Your Team While managers and team directors work to clarify their employees’ path forward and key priorities, team members should similarly confirm their priorities and tasks with their supervisor and colleagues before setting off to complete them. Nothing can be more frustrating than finishing a task or project plan to discover that another remote team member is working on the same one. Verify assignments, ask questions, and confirm your understanding before a meeting ends. And while you're at it, keep your camera on during those video calls when possible.
Error on the Side of Over-Communicating Let your manager and teammates know, on a regular basis, what you’re up to, so your accomplishments are never hidden. Ask for one-on-one time with your manager when you need it. Also, a quick recap at the end of each day (or every few days – whatever your team prefers) helps everyone feel clear about their tasks – and how they can help or contribute to them. One employee tells of a time when she discovered that her colleague was working on a project that required specific background information. She had the data he needed, they jumped on a virtual call, and together they completed the project days in advance!
Tips we can all use
Ensure that you’re not too brief. Others may not always understand your cues and shorthand, so take the time to communicate with the intention of being ultra clear.
Manage your energy as well as your time. Your momentum grows and decreases during the day, so tackle your tasks accordingly.
As important as working together and collaborating are, it’s equally important to find your own focus time—and respect the same about your colleagues/co-workers.
Try not to inundate your team with duplicate messages, unclear task notices, repetitive messages, and repeated memos like we did in this sentence. Get the point? No need to send the same message via instant message and email, voicemail, etc. Select the medium you all agree on and use it with clarity, but simplicity. As the saying goes, “choose your digital volume wisely.”
Use clear, succinct directives on deadlines such as:“Four Hour Response” (4HR) or “No Action Required” (NAR) and “No Need to Respond” (NNTR).
How PivIT Helps One manager responded that getting his remote team on the same page with PivIT’s SmartHands helped keep them connected and focused. Faced with a sudden shortage of available feet on the ground, PivIT’s engineers collaborated with their team to provide a quick resolution. And when it wasn't possible for IT teams to be on-site, our remote configuration service was able to step in and offer project management support.
We can help you, too! No matter how unique or how simple your needs are, it’s easy to hire a SmartHands Engineer.