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Build Team Culture Remotely With These 7 Tools

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How do you bring your team together when remote work is keeping them apart? 

The COVID-19 crisis has forced many businesses to ask themselves this question, and answers aren’t easy to come by. Teams that may have started working remotely just a few months ago are now facing the reality that they will continue working remotely for some time, perhaps permanently. 

Thankfully, there are many tools perfectly suited to keeping everyone on your team connected and on track. Some of them have long been favorites of remote workers, while others have evolved to be used in new and exciting ways. Whether they improve access to information or streamline digital communication, tools like these are a crucial component of any team working out of the office. If you’re looking to maximize cohesion among your remote team, be sure to check out the following:

1. Guru

A corporate wiki like Guru is a great place to centralize and preserve knowledge about your company. Because of their collaborative nature, corporate wikis can be updated and edited directly by the employees who know the most about those subjects. This can give your team a sense of ownership over their role, boosting trust and morale along the way.

Moreover, a team separated by distance may not have access to the same knowledge management resources they did when everyone was in the office. Having a central hub of information can eliminate time-wasting searches, long email threads and confusion — boosting productivity in the process.

2. Slack

If your team is not already using Slack, now is a good time to start. Slack is a channel-based messaging platform, meaning that you can use it in a variety of ways for your business. Create a thread for your entire team to share ideas. Put together project-based spaces to encourage better group communication. You can even chat privately with team members, making it easier to provide individual feedback. 

A standout feature of Slack is the ability to set active hours. Work with your team to set realistic working hours, then encourage them to mark those on their Slack profiles. Doing this ensures that everyone is working at roughly the same time, creating the much-needed sense of “office hours� in the digital office.

3. Shared Calendar

When it comes to work time, everyone needs to be on the same page. Using a shared calendar will keep your team on schedule with deadlines, mandatory meetings, and tasks. Though it may sound intricate, a shared calendar doesn’t have to be complex — it can be streamlined to suit your business’s needs. A basic Google Calendar can be shared by team members, or you can use something more elaborate like Calendar.

Whatever you choose, make sure everyone who needs access has it; it’s important to ensure that no employee feels left out of the loop on important company timetables. Be wary of giving too many people the power to edit the calendar — you don’t want it to become too complicated for most employees to effectively use. Ideally, you’re looking for something that has the exact amount of bells and whistles your team needs.

4. Zoom Professional

Commit to a Zoom Professional account for your team. Face-to-face interaction is more effective than interaction via a chat or phone call, and if you can’t meet in person, video meetings are the way to go. With something like Zoom Professional in place, you will be able to hold meetings with as much human contact as possible for remote workers. 

While a basic account certainly provides you the ability to meet and see each other, a Professional account has added benefits. Meetings can be longer than 40 minutes if needed, and meetings can be recorded for later reference to catch up those who couldn’t attend the original meeting.

5. Project Management Software

Ensure that everyone is focused on the right tasks at the right time with project management software. There are plenty of options available, so carefully eye the market to see what works best for you and your team. Ultimately, you want something that most closely mimics your in-office project management process while still maximizing remote capabilities.

A shared workspace will help your team from feeling alone in their work, which in turn will keep them motivated. Providing clear deadlines, expectations and access to project updates creates a better remote work environment for your team — the closest thing to an office that remote teams can come by. 

6. Google Drive

Simple but effective, Google Drive has long been a staple of teams needing to share content digitally. A major loss in remote work can be the ability to work collaboratively in real time. 

Utilizing Google Drive can restore your team’s ability to work on the same document, spreadsheet, or slide show simultaneously. Multiple people can have the file open at once, and each person’s edits and comments are assigned an individual color so you know who is providing what feedback. 

Additionally, Google Drive integrates easily into several of the other tools you can use to keep your team together while you work remotely. It also serves as Cloud backup for your important files, guaranteeing that everything is accessible no matter where your team is working.

7. WooBoard

Just because your team is working remotely doesn’t mean that play can’t go remote, too. Tools that keep your work efficient and collaborative are important, but so are the ones that help you boost morale and recognize achievement. Utilizing something like WooBoard allows you to encourage team members, even when you can’t give them a shout-out in person.

Positive reinforcement improves employee productivity. When your team knows you think they are doing a good job, they’re going to work better. Being able to share in each other’s achievements makes working together a more positive experience for all. 

New tools are popping up every day that are designed to help your team. What it means to work together is changing, and utilizing some or all of these tools will help you remain a cohesive, effective team — no matter where you are.

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Tailoring Your 2020 Strategy to Win in the Remote Workplace

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In a survey last year, three out of four workers worldwide said they considered flexible working to be “the new normal,� according to the 2019 Global Workspace Survey. Since then, remote work has spiked. Tailoring your strategy in 2020 will be a key factor in ensuring business success and achieving, or at least continuing to progress towards, your business goals in 2020. Fix your strategy to win in the remote workplace.

A strategy that moves the needle on business objectives doesn’t need to be tied to an office space. It often checks off three important boxes that can be completed near or far: prioritizing employee experience, tracking progress in real-time to know when to revise, and finding new ways to collaborate when setting and executing strategy.

Prioritizing Employee Experience

With the workforce at home, employee experience might seem like an afterthought — out of sight, out of mind — however, neglecting to prioritize employee experience would be a major blow to strategy execution. After all, as leaders carve out a way to make sure strategy is implemented effectively, it’s important to remember that execution is performed by, well, actual people.

Business goal-setting lives in the world of paradox.

Goal setting needs to be both ambitious but realistic, visionary yet concrete. It is essential that this balance surfaces in your overall strategy along with specific and actionable plans that help to execute your strategy throughout your organization.

One way to ensure this is to slice company goals down into smaller, measurable fragments. With measurable fragments, employees, and relevant larger groups (departments and teams) are more likely to stay the course even as they’re located remotely.

Specificity and quantifiability allow easier progress tracking and improve motivation, resulting in a great employee experience across all levels and teams.

Focusing on transparent actions and cross-level communications.

Transparent communication is naturally, one of the best solutions for ensuring people in your organization feel heard. Transparency propels motivation, alignment and engagement while helping your team to better understand each other and achievement (or lack thereof) of respective goals.

Transparency helps to highlight individual progress or times when an employee might need help, particularly when it is effectively integrated with communication tools, automated dashboards, and executive reporting.

Tracking Progress In Real-Time to Know When to Revise

While breaking down goals and outlining how to achieve them in your organization is a key foundation to a successful strategy, oftentimes leaders will “set and forgetâ€� goals — a sometimes fatal mistake for a blossoming business.

Furthermore, in a distributed workforce regular checkpoints become essential for keeping projects on track, but if the goals aren’t at the forefront of day-to-day actions, execution can become unproductive or stray off course.

For some teams with established communications systems, the leader’s whereabouts are nonessential to the success of the team.

Track productivity and aligning remote workers around unifying goals and targets in real-time is an effective way to promote strong leadership and delegate clear tasks amongst team members. It is critical to identify immediately when your strategy isn’t resonating with the people responsible for executing it.

You will likely see this in a post-quarterly review, but what if you could see it on a daily basis (or even in real-time whenever you needed it)? Think of the impact that might have on redirected strategy or execution gone wrong.

There are many new tools designed to automate the work that teams are doing — after all, automation is a top priority for many businesses as they seek to improve processes and expand. Some of these are one-off tools, but there are options available that allow you to automate and integrate with many existing tools that your workers already use (ex. Slack, Jira, Microsoft Teams).

Using seamless integration ensures that everything your employees do to progress toward company goals is automatically recorded in real-time and compiled into a simple and visual dashboard.

Tracking progress automatically is the best way to ensure maximum productivity. Automation can help scale activity tracking to an enterprise-level while also providing fascinating data insights into a remote worker’s performance—and the performance of the company as a whole.

Using data to inform performance (and, conversely, performance to inform data) highlights the human issues that sometimes lie behind organizational problems. It equips an organization to change and improve and its employees to be productive team members and contributors to the company’s cause.

Finding New Ways to Collaborate When Setting and Executing Strategy

Two of the biggest challenges in collaboration that may confront remote workforces are a feeling of disconnect to the organization’s goals and priorities as well as a general lack of visibility into workloads, progress, teams, and management.

These are common challenges for teams meeting face-to-face as well, and they go hand-in-hand when inhibiting teams from being productive and collaborating properly.

Shifting to a remote workforce completely changes the context in which teams work together, and it can make tasks and projects more difficult to accomplish. One solution to this disconnect is relying on management software to increase transparency within and across teams in an organization.

Use data and communication throughout an organization via a goal management platform.

Companies can encourage and illuminate ways for all employees to be productive team members who are all making a difference to the organization’s overarching goals. Technology like this can also help organizations make sure every teammate is aware of their responsibilities, and more importantly accountable for them so that everyone in the organization is contributing – which is a big part of being collaborative.

In short, aligning employees against a shared set of objectives and then using data to provide a centralized, transparent tracker for each goal is a highly effective way to promote collaboration across functions, geographies and roles.

Pivoting your strategy to win in the remote workplace doesn’t take much effort.

Take a few simple shifts that can transform the execution of a strategic vision and lead to business wins down the road. Prioritizing employee experience and how employees carry through overarching yearly strategies.

The manner and frequency in which you monitor progress when it comes to meeting goals; and actively finding new ways to collaborate from afar when setting and executing your strategy all play a key role in determining its success and should be evaluated on a regular basis.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels

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