Before I started my internship with Agent99, I had never worked remotely, with the exception of university group assignments. Even before the days of lockdown, no one was interested in getting together to work on an assignment. You would add each other on Facebook, start a group chat, divvy the work up and then go home to work on your section individually. Collaborating remotely is, in a nutshell, a nightmare. Trying to match up schedules in order to get everyone on the same platform at the same time is tedious, and once everyone is in the same place, you’re almost always unable to actually collaborate.

The true collaboration stage is when you form your initial idea, approach, or strategy together, after which you go your separate ways to work on individual tasks. So, what do you do when you are forced to collaborate remotely, and how do you still achieve great results for your team and overall tasks at hand?

  1. Limit the touch points

Sometimes we forget that our colleagues working at home are just as busy as they are when they work in the office. When we’re trying to collaborate remotely, we’ll often be interrupted by emails, texts, calls, and family members, with the expectation that we can immediately jump onto whatever has been thrown our way. Multiply that by the number of people you’re trying to collaborate with and it’s impossible to get quality time working together or have a quick turn around on ideas and tasks. If possible, limit the touch points you have with certain members of your team, ensuring their inbox isn’t cluttered and if you need to sort out an issue or brainstorm together quickly, try picking up the phone to resolve it, as opposed to having multiple back and forths with the entire team.

2. Find ways to create authentic interaction

One of the hardest parts of collaborating remotely is the lack of authentic interaction. Emails or calls might bridge the gap a little, but reading the room and understanding social cues is an extremely important part of working collaboratively. The lack of authentic interaction over a chat or email chain, seriously hinders the collaborative process. A way to get around this would be to start having your team meetings and brainstorms on a Zoom or Google Meets discussion. Where possible, ask people to prepare their thoughts ahead of time that way no one feels pressured to come up with ideas on the spot and can instead contribute effectively to the discussion. While it’s hard to sometimes not hide behind an email, there is nothing better for your team discussions than seeing each other’s faces and bouncing ideas off one another (even if it’s done virtually).

3. Move to Shared Files

When in an office environment, it’s very easy to quickly float an idea past someone or get them to read a document over your shoulder. However, when working remotely, sharing files over email and creating multiple documents can be confusing. These documents almost always end up saved as ‘November Proposal v.4 – 2′, in the wrong folder, and are very hard to find again later. Instead, why not start exploring shared file platforms like Dropbox Team or Google Drive, where multiple people can join at one time and add commentary and make changes live. By switching to these types of documents, you can increase the pace of collaboration, receive approvals quickly and enjoy speedy feedback from colleagues.

So, overall while these are some ways we can help combat the challenges of remote collaboration, it is important to be truly present and attentive, being conscious of how different personality types may react to the digital environment and figuring out how you can best support your colleagues to avoid workload overwhelm. Hopefully as many businesses continue to embrace more remote working, we will find that our best ideas and collaborative moments can still be achieved, albeit digitally.

By Agent Emilie and Intern Agent Tamara