Tools to help keep your teams on track even when they’re apart
If your organization has employees working from home now, as many do, you need to be sure they have the right tools to keep productivity high.
Modern calling and collaboration tools, used correctly, are perfect for this moment. Not only can they bridge geographical distance, but by combining all the elements of a project—group chats, meeting recordings, shared files and more—into searchable channels, they can help teams be more productive and collaborate more effectively.
You may already be using a collaboration platform like Cisco Webex®, Zoom® or BlueJeans®, but you may not be getting the full benefit. If you haven’t yet adopted calling and collaboration tools, now is the time to do so. In this article, we’ll talk about their capabilities and some best practices for getting the most out of collaboration tools.
The benefits of “persistent collaboration”
Calling and collaboration tools like Cisco Webex, Zoom and BlueJeans provide multi-use platforms where you can do everything from chat to video conference to group editing in real time. Organizations can set up multiple groups or teams—for instance, by project, discipline, subject, client and so forth.
The “persistence” of that communication is where you see real benefits. All the actions you perform in a team—the files shared, the threaded chats, the meetings recorded—can be documented for a project.
Team members can look back and see what has been accomplished, why decisions were made and what needs to happen next. A scan through the channel can help new team members get up to speed. The search function helps everyone find project information they need. Using these tools can help teams spend more time accomplishing tasks and less time looking for files, asking questions, or searching through email to find the latest version or status.
Presence indicators—which show whether you’re at your computer, in a meeting or offline—also boost efficiency by letting team members know who is available.
If you set up and use your communication and collaboration system properly to take advantage of all these capabilities, you can help your employees collaborate more efficiently whether your employees are in the office or working remotely.
If you’re just getting started with collaboration tools
If you are new to remote collaboration and communication, you will pleased to learn that most of these platforms are user friendly, and affordable options are available. Even if your organization is small, deploying remote collaboration tools is not out of reach. You could launch your platform quickly and fine-tune as you go.
Most of the major collaboration platforms can be integrated with dozens of other tools as well. Depending on the platform you choose, you could integrate with Dropbox®, Google Drive™, Microsoft Office® programs, Basecamp, Trello®, Asana, Marketo®, Lucidchart®, Zendesk® and many other apps. That makes it even easier to keep all the moving parts of a project together and on track.
If you’re already using communication and collaboration tools
While you might already have a communication and collaboration platform, sharing best practices with your team will help them quickly adjust to their remote work environment. One key to remember is that you’re not only using the tools in real time, you’re also creating a searchable project master file. Set up your channels and use them in a way that includes as much relevant information as possible.
Here are a few more tips for using your collaboration tools effectively.
Send less email. One of the key advantages of unified collaboration tools is keeping all your project communication in one place. If you send emails instead of keeping conversations in the project channels, that correspondence won’t surface when a team member searches for it. Stick to your project channels as much as possible. In general, email is best reserved for formal company-wide communication and formal external communication.
Use the video capability. Actually seeing your coworkers on screen and hearing them talk can help build the connections that make strong teams. Don’t hesitate to share your video to better engage, even if you aren’t looking at your business finest, especially since everyone is balancing multiple roles at home. If you’re too busy to tidy up your home office, some applications allow users to blur the background.
Manage your notifications. If you are in so many teams and channels that your computer or phone is pinging constantly, adjust your notifications so you’re hearing about only the most critical issues and can focus on actual work. You can go back later and see what you missed. If someone has an urgent need to reach you, they can tag you personally or send a direct message.
Mute or leave irrelevant channels. If you’re no longer part of a team, don’t let their discussions distract you from your current work. You can shut down those channels or archive channels when they’re no longer needed.