When it comes to camaraderie and collaboration, ConnectSolution’s Remote Collaborative Worker Study found that 42% of remote workers believe they are just as connected with colleagues as if they were working onsite—and 10% feel even more connected.
“Successful remote work requires collaboration, and collaboration depends on relationships and frictionless communication,” explains Michael Fitzpatrick, CEO of ConnectSolutions. And this notion extends to employee training—where instructors and students teach and learn remotely.
In fact, today’s virtual training tools satisfy a workforce that is obsessed with connecting, collaborating and communicating. Virtual training tools such as Screen Sharing, Breakout Groups, Public/Private Chat and Whiteboard, allow students to stay engaged. These tools also enable smoother instructor-to-student communication, therefore improving student learning experiences.
Additionally, virtual training labs emulate the way humans are meant to learn—by doing. These labs not only provide hands-on, practical experience for remote employees and virtual trainees, but allow instructors to help students become high performers in a short period of time.
The study also found that of the digital communication and collaboration tools available, email is the most used at 88%, with instant messaging (47%), video conferencing (36%), VoIP/Skype (32%), and presence functionality (30%) also commonly relied upon by remote workers. And with the widespread availability of virtual training software, remote employees and virtual trainees can learn on-the-job tasks faster and more efficiently.
Active collaboration and communication
While remote work isn’t for everyone, it can be very beneficial for many employees and organizations.
Remote employees tend to be more productive, take less breaks, maintain a healthy work-life balance, feel less stressed, eat healthier, use less sick time, and create a comfortable and enjoyable work environment. Organizations also benefit because telecommuting limits employee absences, increases productivity, saves money and attracts strong talent without any geographical restrictions.
About 3.7 million people in the U.S. (not including the self-employed) are considered teleworkers, calling home their primary place of work. In fact, the number of people who regularly work at home increased by 103% from 2005 to 2015.
To be successful, telecommuters must work together and communicate with colleagues who are not in their line of sight each and every day. And they must be proactive in collaborating.
If your team is working or training remotely, here are 3 tips to improve collaboration and communication within your team:
Don’t forget to focus on the big picture
Remote workers feel more connected when their purpose and role within the organization is understood. "It’s important to help all employees understand the eventual outcomes," explains Rob Bellmar, executive vice president at collaboration solutions company InterCall.
"What are we trying to accomplish? Where are we going as a company? How do I fit into that goal and that direction? If you're working from home, you don't have the water cooler talk, the chatty, stop-by-and-talk opportunities. So managers, especially, have to be much more focused on this type of communication and holistic updates," he says.
Bellmar suggests involving employees in the organization’s decision making and driving outcomes for the business. "You need to be able to engage your employees in all of these discussions so that—regardless of where they're working from—they still feel part of the team and part of the organization.”
Don’t underestimate the need for personal interaction
A lack of personal interaction is a major obstacle to a successful remote situation. “That’s when the human element has to take center stage, with an emphasis on constant, open communication and an understanding of the need to build trust and personal connections between workers,” says Sean O'Brien, executive vice president of strategy and communications at Premiere Global Services, Inc.
O’Brien suggests taking the first few minutes of every meeting to engage in small talk, which is the biggest contributor to building trust and developing strong personal relationships.
"Talking about your kids, or the game last night, or TV shows creates a context for you as a person. The other people in the meeting are then able to connect to you as a parent and a human being, rather than an acquaintance or a stranger," he says.
Don’t overlook the need to communicate via frequent meetings
Hold consistent meetings to bring scattered teams together. "All of our departments have either a daily meeting or a thrice-weekly meeting. That's where we focus on fostering connections and collaboration with every single team," explains Taso Du Val, CEO of TopTal, which provides outsourcing, staffing and contract work for software developers—and has a fully distributed core team.
"When you have constant communication and you hear every single day that your peers are working hard and making progress, that inspires you and prompts you to do better yourself. It starts to positively impact how you operate and how you perceive your job and your purpose within the organization as a whole.”
If organizations focus on effective communication, personal interaction and business outcomes, there is no question they can achieve a productive and successful scenario for today’s remote workers, teachers and learners.