Apr 26

Effective communication & the best tools for online collaboration

The Future of Work

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The old saying goes, “The result is more than the sum of its parts”, and that certainly holds true for teams. Online and hybrid teams have especially proven over the past two years that good teamwork and effective communication can create outcomes that far exceed the ability of each individual.

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What are the factors for effective communication?

 

This is where we would like to introduce the three Cs of collaboration. No, they’re not Computers, Calls, and Coffee, although after two-plus years of remote work you might think they are.

According to Steve Jobs, the three rules for great communication are:

  1. Cooperation
  2. Communication
  3. Coordination

These three pillars of collaboration affect both the mindset of teams and the resources and systems they use.

1. Understanding why Cooperation is important for a team:

 

What is cooperation?

 

  • Mutual assistance between people
  • Buying into team systems
  • Driving engagement between team members, perhaps with skills shares and weekly check-ins
    Building trust among teams. People need to feel safe coming to the team leader with mistakes and challenges.

Once you’ve built an environment of teamwork, trust and engagement, your teams are much more likely to autonomously collaborate. This team-building experience and mutual assistance can also help you stay productive at work.

2. Why do we need Coordination within a team?

In our new world of flexible work hours and remote teams, you must trust your employees to manage their own deadlines and deliverables. If you are clear on what each person is responsible for, what they are in charge of, and give them the tools to achieve it, your team will not only be accountable to you but to themselves and their teammates.

Setting up deliverables based on outcomes and quality has proven time and again to be more effective than expecting people to work for certain set hours in a week or month.

Questions to answer that will help your team with coordination

  • Are you using the right tools to coordinate projects? This is especially important when it comes to remote or hybrid teams.
  • Are your teams aware of their individual and group roles, with clearly defined deliverables?

Read more: Business benefits of hiring remotely

3. Communication within a team

It’s no use trying to build collaboration if you don’t have your communication culture and systems set up. Think about the following:

  • Do your teams have communication rules like code of conduct, no-contact times (like deep work hours or after working hours)?
  • Do you have the right people connecting on the right projects, or are you wasting peoples’ time with unnecessary meetings? Are your organisation and teams transparent?
  • Do you have the right tools, like Slack, Asana and email effectively set up? If not, keep reading for some of our favourite tools to help teams collaborate.

If we now know now what factors help effective communication, let’s look at what can hinder communication:

Why micro-management hinders communication

One big part of communication is having (or being) a manager who trusts you and a company that provides you with the resources. Having a remote team can come with its own set of challenges and skills that remote team leaders needs to follow and master.

Many people have experienced The Micromanager. This could be a manager who is constantly reading emails over your shoulder, tracking timesheets by the minute and even questioning you for arriving two minutes late back from lunch (and, yes these are all based on personal experience sadly).

These managers create a culture of time watching and minute grabbing, and not that of accountability and trust. Micromanagers hinder communication skills within a team and these traits will not allow for better communication. If you feel you are being micro managed it would be best to try and speak to your manager about this or remove yourself from the situation.

Tools to help teams with online collaboration

There are so many excellent tools available to teams to help streamline workflows and communication. Email is great, but it’s not the best tool for collaboration between teams when you need a quick response or just want to hear your team’s thoughts.

Here are a few popular tools to help teams communicate and collaborate online.

Effective communication & the best tools for online collaboration 1

 

1. Google Workspace suite

 

Google Workspace offers a plethora of tools to help online teams, from Gmail, Meet, Drive, Docs, Sheets and more.

Every one of their tools can be accessed online through a Google account. Setting up one of these is so easy – you’ll just need to choose an email address and password. Most large companies will set up emails for their employees using a format like example@mycompany.com. But this costs money and not all small businesses can afford this.

Why Gmail is helpful for teamwork

 

The great thing about the Google email is that each individual can access all the tools using their personal emails at no cost to them. The online documents included in your drive like Sheets, Slides and Docs allow teams to work on the same documents from anywhere in the world in real-time.
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Why Google Meets helps teamwork

Google Meets is an online meeting tool where you can easily share screens with teammates, join into break out rooms and run fun and helpful activities like polls.

How to use Google Calendar

 

The calendar helps you schedule meetings, deep work time or Out of Office time and can be made visible to your whole organisation. This helps teams see availability and schedule meetings. We’ve found this especially useful with teams that work in different time zones, as the calendar function automatically adjusts to your timezone so you never miss a meeting.

There are many other tools for you to explore in Google Workspace

 

2. Asana

 

Asana is a project tracking tool that helps organise projects, tasks and manage capacity.
You can set up teams and groups with visibility on each other’s projects. With tagging and collaboration functions you can add different people in each team to certain projects.

Write briefs

You can even write briefs right on Asana and upload documents. This helps create a source of truth for each project you’re working on, so if someone gets sick, takes leave or needs some support anyone can access the information.

Track work progress

This tool is great for managers to be able to track progress. With the Project Status function, you can indicate whether a task is “Not yet started”, “In progress”, in an internal review or on the client’s desk.

3. Slack

 

Slack is another one of our favourite tools for helping online teams to collaborate. This is in essence, a chat tool for your workspace.

You can set up public and private channels, for example, “HR questions” or “Sandton Office Group” or “Nomad Now Content Updates”.

Teams can tag, private message or publicly message their colleagues. You can also share documents and files and integrate other tools like Google Drive, Asana or Giphy for fun Friday banter.


 

About the author 

Sarah Mason

Sarah is a freelance writer and social media content creator working on brands across industries from recruitment to lifestyle and B2B. She is also a full time Learning Designer specialising in digital skills, workforce development and jobseeker empowerment in emerging markets across Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her passion is seeing people and teams thrive, especially within the SME space.

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