Improve Collaboration for Remote Teams

Interaction can be complicated for when team members aren't physically together. Here’s how to strengthen connections among people with an office that’s optimized for digital collaboration.

A photo of a digitally optimized office including a conference table with speakerpone and video chat set up.

Distance Impedes Understanding

Misalignments between people, their technology, and their offices inhibit factors that are critical to successful collaboration for a remote team: trust, engagement, and unimpeded workflow. You can improve these behaviors by fine-tuning the surroundings (walls, acoustics, lighting), furniture, and technology in the office for digital collaboration.

Build Trust

It can be tough to trust someone you rarely see or haven’t met in person, but it’s critical to a remote team’s success. If you want to help people feel like valued team members, consider these trust-building tactics.

Photograph of 3 people sitting facing a video conference TV

Trust Building Tactics

Ensure information is easy to share and see. Set up your video conferencing equipment to allow people to share content, and make sure that it provides clear sightlines to content and among all participants. Utilize the proper size audio devices for your space. For rooms where people are more likely to sit and chat, specify a front-of-room, all-in-one video and audio design that allows people to look at, speak to, and hear their collaborators on screen. Larger rooms may even require multi-zone audio so remote callers can always hear, no matter the location of the speaker. Keep everyone in the frame. For large meeting rooms, consider adding a camera that helps frame all the people in the room, making it easier to read their expressions.

Enhance Engagement

At no time is “out of sight, out of mind” more true than during conference calls where in-person attendees often forget about remote participants. Follow these guidelines to ensure an engaging meeting experience for remote teams.

A photograph of two group-based technology set ups, one at seated-height and one standing.

Engagement Building Tactics

Encourage eye contact. Start meetings by quickly establishing eye contact with everyone attending the meeting - especially remote participants. Use standing-height tables and place video cameras at eye level to make this easier. Get the right mic. Use microphones that distinguish human voices, eliminate other sounds, and prioritize the voice of whomever is speaking. Up Your Chat Game. Encourage employees to chat with each other while collaborating remotely using applications like Microsoft Teams or Slack. This helps everyone stay in the conversation, whether they are in the same room or working in a different space.

Streamline the Workflow and Stay Aligned

There are enough obstacles to effectively reviewing content, iterating ideas, and sketching out possible outcomes even when everyone is in the room. These collaborative tasks become significantly more difficult when team members are working in separate spaces. Here are a few design recommendations and tools that will empower people to get co-creative.

A photo of a woman working on a smartboard in an office.

Co-Working Tactics

Work with smartboards. Use multi-touch smartboards to create and edit content as a team. Any employees working remotely will be able to participate via the cloud. Edit with web-based tools. Keep team documents in the cloud and edit them together in real time. Programs like Google Docs and Sharepoint allow the entire team to simultaneously work on the same document. Give people control. To boost concentration and engagement for people working off-site, make sure they have control over light, noise, and privacy in the space they are working in with adjustable task lights and monitor arms.

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