Tips for better online collaboration
If you're like most employees, you didn't have much use for Skype in the office and hadn’t touched Zoom until 2020. Abruptly, work and family gatherings moved online. Now video conferencing is downright meme-able, with even Supreme Court justices committing virtual work faux pas.
But this sudden acceleration is just the latest part of the bigger trend toward remote work. Even before the pandemic closed offices worldwide, the number of people working from home nationwide has increased 140% since 2005. And, of course, in 2020 we've seen a massive shift from home to the office.
The most common barrier to online collaboration is its newness. Face-to-face work meetings probably feel intuitive for many employees, while online collaboration decidedly doesn't.
A vision of what could be
Effective collaboration is crucial in virtually any work environment. According to Salesforce, 86% of workers, executives, and educators cited "a lack of collaboration" for workplace failures. So, what does effective collaboration look like?
First of all, each employee should contribute to the project or meeting in a substantial and role-appropriate way. This is especially important if your company is split between local or in-person employees and remote team members. Everyone needs to have equal say and airtime.
Effective collaboration should also leave behind a "paper trail." Email chains had that going for them, but email is hard to wade through. A 2014 study showed that 58% of employees spend an hour or more a day looking for needed information. A shared folder like Dropbox or Google Docs, or an easily navigable tool like Lucidspark, means all your meeting notes and brainstorming sessions end up in one searchable place. That way, employees don't struggle to remember that good idea you had in that one meeting last week. It's right there at their fingertips.
Finally, breaking down projects into tangible deliverables with specific deadlines helps get any collaborative project across the finish line. Schedule short meetings to review progress, rework what's not working, and brainstorm solutions to unexpected problems. Regular meetings keep employees from floundering when an issue comes up—and keeping them short and to-the-point combats meeting fatigue. A meeting timer, like the one Lucidspark provides, is a good idea.
Effective online collaboration
Email has its place, but it will never be as effective as an online meeting. It’s simple: as much as 93% of communication is non-verbal. Text-based communication can sometimes lead to frustrating miscommunications and misunderstandings. The back-and-forth nature of e-mail also slows communication to dripping-faucet speed compared to the immediacy of a real-time, online meeting.
Any virtual meeting can be a collaborative experience, but you can avoid common meeting pitfalls by leveraging the advantages of online communication. Here’s how.
While coordinating schedules might seem like a no-brainer, it can get complicated when you’re dealing with remote teams. Nothing's worse than showing up to a meeting an hour late because of time zone differences. And employees might be juggling parental and work responsibilities or setting their own hours.
Ask for time zones, but don't just stop there. Think about asking for preferred work times, too. You might discover that no one on the team is a morning person, but they feel energized in the afternoon or early evening. It's good to delineate boundaries. Employees shouldn't feel like they have to be on call all hours of the day—that's a sure-fire recipe for burnout.
Know everyone in the room
Do you know the names of everyone in the meeting? Do you recognize their faces? If not, introductions are in order. According to a study by Wharton Business School, putting names to faces makes a huge difference. Employees feel valued when you make meaningful connections. This can be trickier online, but it's doable.
When meeting online, get a video feed going whenever possible, or at least audio. You pick up on nonverbal communication and meeting participants feel connected to you and to each other. A virtual ice-breaker might feel silly, but you can all laugh about it together afterward.
Set an agenda and follow through
The key to a good meeting is a sense of direction from the get-go. Know who the participants are, what you'll cover, and what you hope to achieve. If you share your agenda ahead of time, everyone will be ready to get to business once the meeting starts.
Other topics or issues might come up during the meeting, but those can be handled in a follow-up meeting or in a breakout group. If it does need to be addressed right away, make sure to steer back to the original agenda before closing the meeting. Set goals and designate tasks so everyone leaves feeling actively engaged and purposeful instead of wondering why they were invited to attend.
Unlimited virtual space
Another major advantage of online meetings? All the unlimited virtual space you have at your disposal. You're not limited to the four walls of your office. You can start the workday with a big meeting involving people all over the country, break out into smaller brainstorming sessions so more individual voices can have a say, or spend a few hours doing individual work. Then, you can come together for a recap meeting at the end of the workday.
You're also not limited by geography. Most video-streaming platforms allow for up to 30 participants at one time. You can invite anyone in the world to attend. And virtual whiteboards, like Lucidspark, provide endless opportunities for input and collaboration.
Leverage online tools
Get familiar with the online tools out there and get trained in the ones you have on hand. They're not just for video conferencing and document sharing. Concept boards that marry video conferencing with a virtual whiteboard are a godsend.
You can also find workflow software to visualize a project from inception to delivery. Lucidspark can take your notes, scribbles, and video one-liners and organize them into a collage of inspiration and direction. That's worlds better than looking at a blurry screenshot or a video reference missing a timestamp.
Instead of endless email chains, there are tools like Google Docs and Lucidspark that allow you to leave comments, feedback, and suggestions on shared documents in real time anytime day or night. Do you want informal polling? Drag-and-drop templates? Schedule management with timezone translation? There are tools to do all of that.
Ready to collaborate? Start a Lucidspark account to jumpstart your online collaboration.Sign up for Lucidspark
Ready to collaborate? Start a Lucidspark account to jump-start your online collaboration.Sign up for Lucidspark
Lucidspark is a virtual whiteboard that helps you and your team collaborate to bring the best ideas to light. It comes packed with all of the sticky notes, freehand drawing tools, and infinite canvas space you need to capture that next big idea. And it’s built for collaboration. Think of it like a sandbox where your team can bounce ideas around and innovate together in real time.
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