For millennia, humans have invented legends and myths to tell heroic and cautionary tales. We use them to better understand our world, share morals, and demonstrate acceptable models of behavior. However, some myths don’t serve us anymore and need to be busted.
One modern-day myth we’re here to bust is that remote work environments aren't as collaborative as in-person offices. In fact, a recent World of Work survey* found higher rates of camaraderie and stronger feelings of inclusivity and diversity among remote teams than office-based teams.
In the age of remote and hybrid work, you now have the chance to rewrite the rules on remote team collaboration. With strong shared values, best practices, and the right tools, you can make remote work even more collaborative than working in an office.
In this article, we’ll dive into how remote work is an incredible opportunity to write new—and better—rules on teamwork. We’ll also show you how Switchboard can be your champion for remote and hybrid teams with permanent meeting rooms built for collaboration.
Want your remote team to love working together?
Switchboard is your key to meaningful and collaborative teamwork.
The backstory on remote team collaboration
According to Henry Ford, “If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got.”
When it comes to remote work, that means you need to find new ways of working that fit how people work together online.
In fact, Microsoft found that, after switching to remote work, employees don’t replace typical office interactions with video conferencing or synchronous communication. Instead, they rely on old async communication software like email and instant messaging. The result was “more static and siloed” collaboration, which makes it harder for employees to access and share information.
Let’s look at how you can make real collaboration happen through new values, best practices, and tools instead of trying to work how you used to, only remotely.
Values that encourage team collaboration
According to a Harvard study, a team’s success at collaborating reflects the philosophy of top leadership in the company. So to build a culture of collaboration, you need to create, communicate, and live values focusing on teamwork, trust, and connection.
Here are some examples of values that support and encourage team collaboration:
1. Psychological safety
When team members feel they can voice their opinions without risk of humiliation or punishment, it makes for healthier group dynamics, better decision-making, and more innovation.
Psychological safety is important because it lets people take risks without fear. Leaders need to create a safe space for their employees to provide feedback and voice their opinions and concerns, and where they can set boundaries to protect their work-life balance.
In an environment where remote teams have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, they’re more likely to feel comfortable in their position and confident about their ideas.
By including ownership as a value, you’re saying that employees should take pride in their work and be open to feedback themselves. This arms your team with the confidence they need to speak up and take up virtual space—and know the role they play when they work with other people.
3. Promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion
People turn to remote work for a number of reasons and circumstances. For example, one employee might want to spend less time commuting, while others find remote work allows them to have their dream job without living in a big city.
Research from McKinsey shows that underrepresented groups are more likely to prefer and stay at jobs that offer the chance for remote or hybrid work schedules. And since remote working brings together people from different backgrounds and cultures, it’s important to emphasize empathy and understanding when teams interact.
However, equity and inclusion doesn’t just happen naturally. Companies need to actively engage with employees and find ways of supporting them to ensure that they truly feel included.
4. Culture of learning
To promote remote teamwork, you need to be willing to learn and adapt. When you create a culture of learning, you enable employees to continuously search for, share, and apply new information and skills—and learn from collective past mistakes so they can improve.
By emphasizing that teams should learn from each other and proactively share knowledge, you get stronger ideas and free-flowing communication.
6 best practices for excellent remote team collaboration
Now that you know which values lead to effective team collaboration, let’s take a look at the best practices you can use to get your people working closely together.
1. Hire people who love remote work
When writing any story, you need to know your audience. The same applies to remote work: you need to hire employees who thrive in a remote or hybrid environment.
Post active job listings on job boards tailored to remote jobs to draw in candidates who are specifically looking for remote work. In the hiring process, talk with candidates about what your company’s remote culture is like and expectations around travel to see people in person. Be up front and honest with each candidate to make sure they know what they’re signing up for, ensuring the best fit.
2. Choose the right tools
In a digital environment, the right tools can turn a siloed workspace into a connected one. Importantly, these aren’t always the tools you’d pick for an in-person environment. Instead, you need ones designed for remote and async communication.
For example, while tools like Google Meet and Slack are great for quick catch-ups and check-ins, they don’t let people work together in the same app or doc. Instead, you’re left jumping between tabs, tools, and screen shares to find what you need.
Rather than trying to make your existing tech work, look for tools that are designed specifically for remote teams. You’re also more likely to avoid technical difficulties—like a lagging screen-share—breaking the flow of crucial client presentations or company meetings.
One solution is to use internal communication tools that let you share, edit, and save your work in a unified online workspace.
Pro tip: Use Switchboard to brainstorm with team members in virtual meeting rooms during video calls. Skip screen-sharing altogether and engage in a multi-player experience where everyone can contribute and share ideas.
3. Value and encourage risk-taking and new ideas
Collaboration doesn’t happen on its own: to thrive, you and your team need to share new ideas, perspectives, and insights. With psychological safety as one of your core values, you can encourage employees to take more risks and find creative solutions to unprecedented problems.
- Lead by example: Employees are more likely to take risks when their managers or leadership teams do.
- Model smart risks: Give employees examples of well-calculated or smart risks so they know what these look like.
- Start small: You don’t need to put everything on the line just to prove a point. Make employees comfortable with the idea of calculated risk-taking and assess its impact on team collaboration before moving further.
4. Foster social connection
In the case of Microsoft, research shows that remote and hybrid employees with close ties are more likely to collaborate. This collaboration is also likely to have more impact and involve more opportunities to share knowledge.
That means it’s crucial to foster social connections between teams and cross-functional departments. Here’s how:
- Celebrate organizational and team wins: Use a Slack channel or your all-hands meeting to get everyone involved and excited about your company, team, or individual success—and boost productivity and engagement.
- Make everyone a leader: Use a virtual workspace that lets everyone contribute without a single person or presenter sharing their screen.
- Have virtual coffee sessions across your organization: Use a list randomizer or the #virtualcoffee Slack channel to randomly select people from your organization for casual coffee meetings to get to know each other better. In remote settings, you can get creative in the ways you interact with your team. Don’t forget to also get different departments together from time to time.
- Set up a virtual project room: Use Switchboard to access virtual project rooms that let you easily connect and brainstorm with your team. Permanently populate them with all the apps, browsers, files, and documents you need for effective collaboration.
5. Connect values to best practices
The best way to boost collaboration is to connect company values to best practices. In other words, be the change you want to see in the workplace.
So if psychological safety is your core value, encouraging risk can be a best practice. One creates a space where you can have the other. Taken together, you get creative problem-solving and collaboration that helps create a cohesive company culture.
Here’s how to connect company values to best practices:
- Spotlight team members whose actions align with company values. Ask them what they did to achieve their results and which practices they used. Then share the win with your team in a newsletter, on Slack, or during team meetings.
- Highlight a core value each month and explain what it means to your company. Then ask for employee feedback on how they aim to implement and act on this value, or what support they need.
- Use tools that boost trust and collaboration. For example, Donut connects team members so they can interact in the same spontaneous way as they would in the office.
6. Develop a mentoring program
No need to reinvent the wheel to foster collaborative learning. Just use the resources you already have at your disposal, adapted to a remote setting. Developing a company-wide mentorship program can inspire employees to advance their skills, grow as professionals, and improve workplace relationships.
To develop a mentorship program:
- Set mentorship guidelines: Decide how long the mentorship will last and how participants will sign up. Then outline any mentor/mentee expectations and goals, and which KPIs you want to achieve. It’s also important to determine who will manage the program, policies, and procedures you need to have in place.
- Promote the program and outline any benefits. For example, company-wide recognition, cross-department networking, and opportunities for promotion or bonuses.
- Design onboarding. Decide the type of training and resources you need to provide and how to pair your participants. Then, decide how much flexibility you can give people to choose their own onboarding path.
- Track and measure success: Make sure you keep track of your KPIs and if you’re meeting your goals. For example, has employee satisfaction increased? Are you improving employee engagement? Is it beneficial for participants and your organization as a whole?
How Switchboard inspires your team to collaborate
Like building out your best practices, building a close-knit team takes work. Next, we’ll look at the benefits of internal collaboration tools like Switchboard and how they can help you rewrite the narrative on effective remote teamwork and collaboration.
Gives everyone a permanent place to go
In Switchboard, you can create a shared workspace with permanent meeting rooms so everyone can access them, no matter where they are. No more sharing links before each meeting or checking to make sure everyone has access.
Instead, employees always have a place to interact, brainstorm ideas, work together on tasks and projects, and see when their coworkers are active or contributing to a project.
Lets teams work together side-by-side
Switchboard rooms make it easy for colleagues to work on multiple documents during a meeting. You don’t need to rely on one presenter, switch between multiple screen shares, or email documents to your team during the meeting.
Switchboard enables a multiplayer experience, so everyone can scroll through key meeting material and read and collaborate on documents—all without changing the view for anyone else.
Brings back the hallway chats
In Switchboard, you feel like you’re all in the same room. So naturally, you’d want to replicate those team-building hallway or water cooler chats.
Use Switchboard for a quick one-on-one with your coworker, add any type of content to your room on the fly, and see when your colleagues are active or online. This helps recreate the ease and fun of unscheduled chats with your coworkers. You can even set up a dedicated games room for unstructured hang-out time.
Lets you pick up where you left off
Switchboard rooms let you upload any type of file, document, browser, and web app and categorize them into sections that make sense for your team. And with meeting memory, everything you upload stays put so you can pick up right where you left off.
You can also record your meeting and store the recording in your permanent room. That way, everyone can catch up on what they’ve missed, know what’s been discussed, and ensure they’re not duplicating team efforts.
Keeps everything safe
Whether you’re using Switchboard for document collaboration or client management, everything is encrypted and stored using modern, hosted, cloud infrastructure. Meanwhile, member management lets you regulate access to your workspace as well as individual meeting rooms.
Team collaboration best practices: rewrite the rules of team collaboration
It might sound like the stuff of legends, but remote teams can feel more connected to each other than office-based teams—and get more done. To achieve this, leaders need to create camaraderie and a positive culture of inclusivity and diversity.
But this doesn’t happen by itself. You need shared values, like psychological safety and ownership, to build a culture of learning and collaboration—and best practices that focus on developing teamwork and mutual trust.
And, by choosing the right tools, you can rewrite the rules of remote collaboration. With Switchboard’s “always available” rooms as your team collaboration platform, remote work becomes inclusive, spontaneous, and fun—and even better than in person.
Want your remote team to love working together?
Switchboard is your key to meaningful and collaborative teamwork.