Boosting Remote Collaboration: Tips, Strategies, and Tools
Need help onboarding international talent?
- The rise of remote work has offered countless benefits to growing global organizations but also introduces the risk of isolated team members
- Encouraging remote collaboration through technology and tools helps foster meaningful connections and boost productivity and employee morale
- Discover practical ways to leverage digital tools to overcome challenges and empower social relationships in the remote work environment
98% of workers want to work remotely (at least part-time). However, 53% of remote teams admit connecting with their coworkers when working from home is challenging. Disconnected teams are typically less engaged, motivated, creative, and productive as the workflow becomes disjointed.
In an era of remote work and globalization, maintaining strong social connections among team members has become increasingly essential for both personal well-being and professional success. Remote collaboration tools and strategies can be the key to unlocking healthy and effective social interactions within virtual teams. In this blog, we dive deeper into these innovative tools and strategies.
Harnessing remote collaboration tools for social interactions
One of the most effective ways to encourage remote team collaboration and connection is through digital tools and apps. While these tools work very well even as standalone additions to your processes, their power can often be boosted by integrating them, creating a genuinely remote-first approach to work.
1. Embrace video conferencing for face-to-face connections
Face-to-face communication plays a significant role in creating a feeling of belonging within a team. Remote teams can use video conferencing to foster virtual face-to-face interactions and help workers feel less isolated, providing a personal touch and enhancing familiarity and rapport. Moreover, visual cues such as body language and facial expressions promote better understanding and engagement.
Popular tools to consider include:
To make the most of these tools, carve out a little time for non-work related matters. For example, team leaders should allocate time during video calls for small talk and facilitate ways for the team to familiarize themselves with one another. Another option is to kick off each meeting with a five-minute icebreaker or check-in question.
2. Leverage structured communication channels
Structured communication channels play a critical role in streamlining work-related communications. Still, they can also foster healthy interactions by encouraging non-work-related conversations. With these tools, workers can join conversations they are interested in, create new groups and chats, and find the right blend of involvement that fits their needs. By making these channels optional and managing notifications, disruption and distractions during work hours are reduced while offering opportunities for meaningful connection.
Popular remote communication tools to consider include:
Creating dedicated channels for both work-related and non-work conversations is crucial, as non-work channels offer space for informal bonding and sharing personal interests. Consider kickstarting the process by encouraging a channel for shared hobbies, such as video games or movie suggestions, or introducing a weekly photo challenge to offer a visual glimpse into one another’s worlds.
3. Transfer all your work to collaborative tools
With advancements in technology and shared tools, most tasks and processes associated with office work can be approached from a shared and collaborative perspective. Leveraging these collaborative tools enables teams to have virtual workplaces to interact in real-time or via asynchronous communication.
Popular collaborative tools to consider include:
With collaborative tools, remote employees can add comments, feedback, and suggestions on documents and offer acknowledgment for completed tasks. Motivate healthy relationships between team members by encouraging them to leave feedback and offering kudos on a well-done job. Acknowledging progress and offering constructive feedback helps to nurture positive relationships and improve work quality.
4. Leverage virtual water cooler tools
While informal and friendly communication can be incorporated into video-conferencing, communication, and collaborative tools, having a dedicated social tool is also helpful. For example, Deel’s virtual water cooler plugin is a powerful non-work-related communication channel that actively encourages employee interaction. These tools can be a fun way to take a break from work tools and processes, providing a great way to nudge workers and teams to better interactions.
While some water cooler topics and activities will happen organically, it helps to have a few ideas tucked up your sleeve for an injection of fun and friendly banter. For example, hosting online trivia games and quizzes, organizing virtual lunch and coffee breaks, or even a virtual happy hour to unwind after a busy week.
Effective strategies for remote social bonding
To maximize their impact, there are various ways to incorporate these tools into the virtual work scene. HR professionals and team leaders can follow these practical suggestions for remote social bonding, incorporating them into a talent management strategy or adapting the ideas to the company’s needs.
1. Have regular check-ins to boost connections
Allocating dedicated time for personal interactions helps align goals, address concerns, and nurture a sense of belonging despite physical separation. Depending on the work environment, regular check-ins can be organized in several ways.
- Schedule routine one-on-one and team check-ins to touch base
- Discuss both work-related updates and personal well-being to make sure that you have a balanced understanding of your team’s needs
- Build a company culture of accountability and support through open communication and active listening
2. Utilize project management and collaboration tools
Project management and collaboration tools facilitate effective communication, shared task visibility, and efficient coordination, fostering unity and accountability among team members. Consider the following ways to leverage these tools:
- Implement platforms like Asana, Trello, or Monday.com that provide visual and organized task management to help teams plan, track progress, and collaborate effectively on projects
- Centralized hubs for task tracking, file sharing, and collaboration prevent feelings of being overwhelmed
- Encourage updates, achievements, and collaboration through these tools to build morale among team members
3. Make use of virtual team-building activities
Virtual team-building activities promote camaraderie, boost morale, and create opportunities for team members to bond and engage in a fun and relaxed environment.
The following activities are popular choices:
- Organize online games, virtual escape rooms, or themed events
- Promote teamwork, problem-solving, and camaraderie through puzzles and challenges
- Create shared memories outside of work tasks by prompting conversation topics
4. Foster inclusive communication
In a remote setting, it’s easy for introverted team members to feel ignored, but fostering inclusive communication ensures that all team members feel valued, heard, and understood. This creates an environment of trust and respect that enhances collaboration.
Consider the following tactics to promote inclusive communication.
- Cultivate an environment of open communication by establishing regular feedback loops for team members to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns openly
- Encourage diverse perspectives and active participation by creating structured brainstorming sessions to encourage team members to share ideas and insights
- Make everyone feel valued and heard by practicing active listening and demonstrating genuine interest in everyone’s contributions
5. Celebrate milestones and achievements
Recognizing individual and collective accomplishments boosts team morale, contributes to a sense of shared success, and reinforces a positive and collaborative team culture.
There are several ways to celebrate milestones and achievements, such as the following:
- Share successes via collaboration tools
- Recognize both professional and personal achievements in a public forum
- Boost team morale and strengthen team identity by offering incentives for achievements, from increased flexibility to gift cards
Navigating challenges in a global environment
While the discussed tools and strategies help to boost interactions, there are a few challenges to consider when implementing these approaches. Being aware of these common challenges makes it easier to overcome them.
- Time zone limitations: Stagger team meetings to accommodate different time zones, ensuring important discussions and activities are accessible to all team members at reasonable hours.
- Striking a balance in formal/informal communication: Establish designated communication channels for casual interactions while maintaining centralized platforms for essential updates and formal discussions.
- Creating bonds in high-turnover environments: Prioritize the onboarding process, emphasizing team values, providing mentorship opportunities, and encouraging cross-functional collaboration to promote engagement.
- Over-focusing on tools rather than the content of interactions: Guide the team toward meaningful discussions and ensure that technology supports and enhances the exchanges rather than becoming the primary focus.
- Maintaining a sense of team identity: Implement regular virtual team-building activities that reflect the team’s values and cultures, fostering a shared sense of identity and camaraderie.
Empower virtual interactions with the right tools and strategy
In the virtual realm of remote work, nurturing meaningful social interactions is a powerful tool for building cohesive and productive teams.
At Deel, we offer a versatile set of tools that boost engagement and encourage meaningful relationships among remote team members.
Browse Deel Engage’s Slack plugins — including Kudos and One-on-Ones — and discover how they can work for you.