Working from home benefits us, our teams, and employers in so many ways. But did you know that effective collaboration is a piece of the puzzle that enhances productivity, health, and satisfaction benefits to us individually, and the team as a whole?
Roughly a quarter of the workforce in the US frequently teleworks, and the number of people working from home has increased 103% in the last decade.
With greater numbers of us working remotely, it becomes even more critical that we be effective while working from home.
Although working from home in itself increases productivity and employee satisfaction, among many other benefits, it also creates new challenges too.
There are lots of things we can do to be more productive working from home, but the importance of excellent collaboration is often overlooked.
Yet, as we’ll find out, collaboration plays an enormous role in our effectiveness as teleworkers:
- Productivity goes through the roof when we collaborate
- There are huge benefits to be had in collaborating with customers as well as coworkers
- The best collaboration software should make it easy for us
- User experience plays a major role in the effectiveness of the tool we choose
- The bedrock of great remote collaboration is online meetings and video calls
- The tools we use should enable interactive elements
- Workflows with existing software and processes should incorporate collaboration
- Collaboration shouldn’t start and stop with offices and telework, it must be mobile too
Let’s dig into the details of it.
A key ingredient to working from home success
While most working from home tips help you to cook a great meal (metaphorically) on your own, the best restaurants in the world don’t rely on one chef to produce all the food.
Instead a whole kitchen full of cooks, pot-washers, and chefs work in harmony to serve the finest food.
In much the same way teleworkers must continue to be a part of the team to produce the best food.
Collaboration proven to benefit our work
Studies show that when collaboration is done well it positively affects planning, decision making, and innovation within teams.
When working from home, success in our roles will therefore be defined by how well we coordinate, communicate, and collaborate with our remote teams.
This is further proven by an Aberdeen Group Next-Generation Communications (NGC) study which uncovered a strong correlation between communications, collaboration, and improved performance.
In fact, the study showed that companies which proactively support team collaboration demonstrated a significant increase in key business indicators year after year.
Dive deeper into the findings, and specifically those key indicators are:
- A large improvement in customer retention
- A huge increase in employee productivity
- Massive improvements in operational efficiency
Collaborate with customers as well as coworkers
Whilst it is clear that there are numerous benefits to be had from collaborating within teams, there is also much to be said for collaborating directly with customers and clients.
Customer relationships, and their levels of satisfaction with your company, are immensely important to success. Especially so when working from home.
Collaborating with customers helps strengthen loyalty, trust and commitment over time. Not to mention a surprising way to reduce stress.
And getting to know customers’ needs, wants, and desires gives us an edge over the competition.
With the ability to clearly define what does and doesn’t matter to our customers, we can refine our product, service, or offering more specifically to their needs.
Collaboration with customers to improve your results
Collaboration in this circumstance involves collection, dissemination, and action on customer feedback.
As an example, let’s imagine that you’re working from home for an internet-based fashion retailer.
The company may have noticed that t-shirt sales have been somewhat slow. To turn this dip around, they give you the task of finding a way to increase sales.
Through collaboration with your customers, by means of customer feedback, you go directly to your customers for input, and cut out any ambiguity over where the problem lays.
Your collaboration with customers may reveal that the problem harming sales is simply a case of stocking a color missing from your existing collection.
Or perhaps that the sizing options aren’t optimal.
Or that spots or stripes are in vogue at the moment. Or whether red, blue, or purple would go down with customers best.
Armed with this knowledge you collaborate with your team of designers to create a new range of t-shirts you’re confident will boost sales.
Of course, this specific example isn’t applicable to all the situations we find ourselves in when working from home.
But when faced with an issue to overcome, guessing is never a sure-fire way of overcoming it.
Successful teleworkers will be those who embrace the relationship with customers, and find a way to facilitate collaboration.
Challenges to collaboration and working from home
Teleworking means that collaboration with coworkers isn’t as simple as pulling everyone into a meeting room, or walking over to the next cubicle for a spontaneous chat.
Along with all the benefits, it brings certain challenges. But these challenges must be overcome if you’re to gain the most benefits of working from home.
In point of fact, an MIT research report found that dispersed teams often outperform localized teams. Which might seem surprising.
Interestingly, the research highlighted a critical component of dispersed teams’ success as the processes of communication utilized by the team. Especially with regards to whether or not it is optimized to ensure equal contribution.
So, technology plays a huge role in our success. But what exactly is needed from collaboration technology to ensure that the tools you choose to use are effective?
What should our collaboration tools be able to do?
To answer this question, let’s look again at what the data can tell us.
In Google’s survey, 34% of respondents described their company as ‘Believers’.
Believer companies, in this instance, are companies that are moving in the right direction, but don’t have all the right tools in place to realize their goals.
In other words, these are companies which have the right frame of mind, but currently lack the resources to get to where they want to go.
This suggests that perhaps it’s not clear, or easily distinguishable, what is required from tools to help us reach our goals.
And yet having the right tools at your disposal can facilitate easier team collaboration. And it’s especially important when working from home with dispersed coworkers and customers.
Certain feature sets are required to maximize benefits. Which we will dig into here.
Easy to overlook when choosing collaboration software, but user experience has a huge impact on productivity when working from a remote environment.
Cornerstones of the ideal user experience setup for remote team collaboration are online meeting and video conferencing software.
In many ways this is the secure foundations from which to build from.
When considering collaboration software, pay attention to how easy the software is to initiate or join an online meeting or video conference call.
One click is all that it should take, whether creating or joining online meetings and conference calls.
User experience is enhanced when there is a very low barrier to entry. It also increases adoption rate, and creates the feeling of an easy online extension of your virtual office.
Integrate into existing tools
There’s no greater barrier to team collaboration than when a new tool feels like it requires a steep learning curve, with a lot of time needed to get used to it.
Or when it feels simply like adding yet another process into the day.
Because of this, joining a meeting or call should be as simple as clicking an email.
Even better if the online meeting software integrates with other programs used by the team, such as Outlook, so that calendars can be used to keep appointments and join meetings directly from an interface which the team is used to.
Importance of interaction
Video calls with coworkers and customers can only provide a certain level of collaboration.
To go further, online meeting software should also include features to enhance collaboration via interactive elements, such as video calls, instant message functionality (chat), and teleconferencing.
Chat functionality can come in especially handy when you want to communicate with the whole team or certain individuals without interrupting the flow of the meeting’s presenter.
In this way participants can feel engaged throughout an online meeting, rather than being required to reserve all questions until the meeting’s conclusion.
Working on documents together
This is because the whole team, or participants of the online meeting, can work together simultaneously on the same document, no matter the location they are working from.
This removes the inefficiency when working from home of misunderstandings, crossed-wires, and wasted effort spent working on a defunct version of a document.
Collaboration in this way hugely improves teleworker’s output.
Enhancing the benefits of online meeting and document collaboration software is a robust file-sharing tool.
According to the Google survey, file-sharing tools ranked as the most effective communication and technology innovation in relation to how much it affects personal productivity and performance.
The best option is to choose software that does what’s needed securely, without getting in the way.
Drag and drop, copy and paste, and cloud storage of files as well as folders are vital features. And should all enable the ability to transfer files to any location quickly, reducing downtime.
Email attachments have their place in remote collaboration. However, they also produce obstacles to file size and security issues.
File transfer software with a collaboration focus for remote workers should help us get around those challenges effortlessly.
Mobile collaboration is important too
Collaboration shouldn’t stop when you leave your front door, nor start again only when you reach the office.
We’re increasingly mobile in our working lives, and we need to ensure collaboration can join us on the road.
Whether you’re flying to meeting with customers, or taking a train to another office to meet with the team there, we need collaboration software with the flexibility to adapt to our situation. Not one that forces us to adapt.
Mobile collaboration apps should give us the ability to work together anytime, from anywhere.
The synergy of this diverse range of features provides us with the most powerful way to ensure we’re successful in collaborating when working from home.
Collaboration plays a huge role in our ability to succeed personally and as a team. This is intensified when we work from remote locations.
- Collaboration is proven to increase our productivity
- Collaborate with customers as well as coworkers
- We need to pick the right tools to enable us to effortlessly collaborate
- The software tools we pick must be geared towards user experience
- Online meetings and video calls form the foundations of the tools we need
- Interaction must be possible to improve engagement
- The tools must feel like an extension of our existing tools
- Collaboration must be optimized for mobile too
Are there any other ways you think collaboration enables greater success when working from home? Let us know in the comments section below!