Cross-Office Collaboration – Amid the outbreak of coronavirus, which has taken the lives of thousands, efficient remote collaboration is more important than ever. We all need to adapt and figure out our own unique ways to communicate with colleagues on shared tasks. And work apart from each other, isolated at home, we crave human contact to keep our interaction humane.
It can be difficult to establish a relationship of trust with someone in the same room as you. The problem becomes even more difficult when teams collaborate from different locations. Throw in a few time zones, some cultural differences, and languages barriers and improving collaboration between departments becomes quite challenging. But there’s no reason to despair. Most people want to work well together. Sometimes it’s just hard due to the distance.
How to improve remote communication between teams & departments
Remote teams face challenges when it comes to holding productive meetings, organizing workloads, collaborating effectively on a project, etc. Here are 10 tips that should help you deal with those issues and improve your remote team’s workplace.
1. Video conferencing is best for cross-collaboration:
Sometimes it’s simpler and more productive to have a short video or phone call with a colleague than it is to go back and forth in an email for 10 minutes (especially if there’s an argument about something). Communicating through video allows you to see the subtle emotions and facial expressions that you might otherwise miss. Text-based communication lacks the full context of a face-to-face conversation.
Setting up the right tools for meetings can significantly increase productivity. In a large team meeting, Lifesize is the perfect choice, combining hardware and software. But for smaller teams, software like GoToMeeting is often more effective.
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2. Mind the time zone:
When working with remote teams, it’s important to be aware of time zones. It may seem basic but making sure your team knows which time zone they’re in at a given moment is one way to drive efficiency and success. Whenever you ask for feedback or set up meetings with your colleagues, think about their location and the time zone they’re in. Include that information if it will make a difference in your request or the response from your colleague.
The best way to get ahead of procrastination is to start earlier in the day. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll have a full day of work to complete.
Some other things to keep in mind:
1. You can’t track your meetings and appointments without a helpful digital aid. An online calendar that notifies you of important events when they happen will eliminate any scheduling mishaps. It also makes it easy to see each other’s availability, so if you work with a team, everyone will be in the loop.
2. It’s important to be mindful about what time it is when you contact colleagues. If you’re not in the office, we recommend that you be polite about any non-urgent communications and that you communicate with them outside of business hours only if necessary. A clear, automatic system for letting others know when you’re available helps with this as well.
3. Broaden your discussions
It’s important to maintain a positive work environment. Maintaining friendships is one way of doing this and provides plenty of mental stimulation. At the office, people often bounce ideas back and forth with their co-workers. This gives you opportunities to have different perspectives than your own and reduces the boredom that can come from repetitive tasks. It’s impossible to replicate an office environment entirely, but there are ways to get close by having friendly chats about new movies, music, current events, or even populating a meeting with cute pets. Did your company get a new puppy? Bring it into your next video chat for everyone else to enjoy!
Cultural differences can be a challenge for any team. It’s important to understand that sense of humour can vary hugely from culture to culture. However, it’s also worth remembering that people are more alike than they are different. By recognizing and celebrating the similarities you have with your teammates, you’ll provide everyone with the respect they deserve. It’s also fun to see social media posts from around the world from colleagues who work in other locations.
If you find yourself with nothing to discuss, you might want to remember that everyone can enjoy a funny meme or YouTube video. Encourage your colleagues to help spread these things across offices (just don’t let this practice turn into procrastination).
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4. Standardize your work storage and communication practices
In order to keep your company’s information organized, it’s a good idea to have guidelines and standards in place. Your work management solution should ideally cover this too, but it never hurts to take matters into your own hands as well. For example, you might want to use Google Drive for storage.
If you want to be organized, storage areas are essential. Take advantage of them by centralizing important meeting minutes and streamlined decision management. This can be a robust, real-time source that you trust with all your data.
Some other best practices include:
1. You should try to stick to a common language, even if you’re having a private one-on-one chat. You might have to copy text over to a public channel, after all. If you’re talking on the phone in a language different than your co-workers are used to, try to do it in private so they can focus on their work.
2. It can be frustrating to spend your time creating a specific document, only to discover the document is out of date and the newest version is in a different folder. Keep unwanted versions of documents to a minimum by using labels carefully and deleting obsolete items as needed.
3. In each situation, you should know what medium of communication is best for your current objective. For example, if you want a quick answer from a colleague to go back and forth on a yes or no question, send them a message in your internal chat. If you need to get feedback from everyone in the company about how last week’s meeting went or if you need feedback on the new product launch plan, then an email is better.
5. Borrow team members for meetings and projects
Managing different teams in different locations can be difficult. If your North American offices are remote, and your European office is both remote and local, consider bringing in a developer from both locations for a meeting. The cross-pollination will help improve communication between the two teams.
When you’re developing a new marketing campaign, there are many different insights and perspectives to consider. For a more holistic view of what is happening, bring in someone from QA to offer feedback. Worst case scenario: they share their knowledge with the QA team, and they gain a better understanding of what the marketing team does all day.
6. Leverage social media
Marketing is a crucial aspect of publicizing your product and building your brand. Nobody wants to be on a social media platform that’s just filled with marketers and bots trying to sell each other. The purpose of social media is to connect and build relationships with others. If your team feels comfortable connecting with our company on social media, then it will make it easier for them to have conversations with customers on the same platforms about what we offer.
By allowing employees to work remotely, you can encourage them to collaborate more. They won’t feel so alone and will immediately get a sense of camaraderie in the workplace. Your remote teams will also feel encouraged to post on social media about your company’s progress. Social media is a great way for your clients and customers can get to know your company better and see the great things you’re doing.
Having a company Instagram is a great way for your teams to get to know each other better. Pictures of people eating lunch, team outings, and pets are all great examples of things you can post. Creating an Instagram that brings your team closer together can be one way to boost your brand, but it could also increase the sense of community within your company.
Your marketing team doesn’t have to handle all your social media tasks. Encourage them to establish personal board, highlighting their interest and hobbies. It’s generally better for these boards to be work-related, but it’s also necessary to step outside the box on occasion.
7. Everyone should feel like part of the team
When you’re hosting a meeting, try to imagine what team members who are not in the room are thinking and feeling. They might be feeling left out, or they might have already checked out because it’s near the end of their workday. Or maybe they just don’t have the time to attend meetings during a certain day or at a particular time. Whatever the reason, make sure that your meetings happen at reasonable times for everyone. For example, if your Australian office is small but meetings always take place during their early morning hours, that’s not fair.
When you’re in a remote meeting, it’s important that everyone can watch and hear each other. And this is usually accomplished using video conferencing software. So, when it comes to setting up video conferences, be sure to setup the angle of the camera to make sure everyone is visible on screen. This helps reduce feelings of isolation that come with attending remote meetings.
8. Meet in person (once it’s safe again to do so)
Face-to-face meeting with your colleagues can have a great effect on improving cross-office collaboration when working remotely. Talking with someone face to face can give you the chance to get to know them, which can build stronger relationships. You might discover common topics and interests that you share. If you’re able to schedule these trips, there are significant benefits.
9. Organize team presentations
Create a system where your employees can present to the organization on a regular basis. Have your teams write up their own personal bios every month and detail their strengths, skills they want to develop, and any personal interests. This could be a jumping-off point for publishing those employee bios on your blog so customers can get to know the awesome people behind your company.
10. Do you know how everyone feels about cross team collaboration between offices?
If you’re having difficulty communicating with your teams, it can help to ask them what they think. Creating an optional survey to “take your team’s temperature” and figure out the problem is one way to find any issues. Holding a focus group where team leaders from each office or department brainstorm some new ways to simplify, improve, or even automate communication across offices and departments is another option.
Also, consider looking at the efficacy of your internal company chat. You may decide that you need to archive some excess channels, or maybe add some new ones to reflect your current strategy.
Improving cross-office collaboration is all about experimentation
It’s so important for companies to work in a collaborative way. However, it can be challenging to ensure that everyone is on the same page with their work. But if you have the right tools in place and team building initiatives, there’s no reason to fear cross-office collaboration.
How about mid-size and large businesses implementing SAFe? PI Planning events remotely
“Running a PI Planning remotely” is one of the most pressing issues for many companies these days because of their SAFe-based processes. PI Planning is a massive team-up with many stakeholders and participants involved, which means it can be really hard to have productive discussions. That’s why it’s critical to have no communication barriers for shared discussions in a virtual setting – make sure you have real-time digital program boards and online tools for successful PI Planning.