For workers, remote collaboration is the new norm, but many organizations are struggling to reach pre-remote levels of productivity.

Every company benefits from good collaboration and higher productivity. Some companies had already integrated home office as an integral part of their work model. For others, however, it’s still very much uncharted territory, marked by major upheaval. The Corona pandemic, in particular, has driven many companies to send their employees to the home office. This has led many employers to worry that the quality of communication and collaboration will suffer and that employees will feel lonely.

A study by Standford University found that employees who worked 100% from home were actually more productive, but often felt lonely and isolated. In contrast, those who worked 100% in the office often felt distracted. But the former doesn’t have to be the case, because there are many ways to promote and ensure successful communication, collaboration and productivity in teams.

Here are some tips on how to improve remote collaboration and increase productivity.


Reduce affinity distance

For anyone, distance can be isolating, but that’s especially true for remote team members. More than just physical distance, there are two other types that teams have to overcome to work efficiently. A studie shows that remote teams are most impacted by affinity distance. Without consistent face-to-face interaction and teamwork to build trust, remote employees can feel less like part of a team, and more like a people interacting with e-mail avatars. Lack of body language, ambiguous text, and the shrinking boundary between work and home all present threats to remote collaboration.

The more you work to combat the inherent isolation of remote work, the less affinity distance will negatively impact your team productivity.

Set boundaries and adhere to them

For remote teams, work hardly ever begins at 9 a.m. or ends at 5 p.m., even if it once did in the office. When your living space is the same as your workspace, boundaries aren’t evident, but they’re crucial to set.

Build in time for glitches

We’ve all experienced technical difficulties with remote collaboration tools, so by now, we should be prepared for them. Still, some remote teams are not. And resolving them often involves fumbling around the platform, switching to another, pushing back other scheduled events, or even suspending them until a later date. So how do you plan for themAccording to experts you should expect virtual presentations to last 25% longer than in-person presentations if the content is similar. In other words, for every hour you expect the meeting to last, add 15 minutes to the run time. If it’s scheduled to be a half-hour, expect around 40 minutes. You’re less likely to find yourself disorganized or panicking to correct issues on the fly.

Don’t skimp on project management

Managing remote work is not the same as managing in-person work. While you might be able to operate without a project management tool when your team is in the office, it will become evident very quickly that you can’t remotely.

For the same reason, remote businesses need to organize data accessibly; you should not skimp on project management software. Tools like Trello and Asana help teams meet deadlines by holding members accountable and enabling managers to organize a project into smaller individual tasks. These tasks are written in detail and assigned to a specific team member to ensure their productivity.

Investing in remote collaboration tools

Since they started working from home, almost two-thirds of knowledge workers have increased their use of collaboration tools. But finding the right collaboration software for the job to monitor productivity isn’t always easy.

Re-evaluate your standard of productivity

The current remote working environment is the result of a particular phenomenon that no one was prepared for. Teams were not trained for remote work, systems were not put in place. And for this reason, it’s unrealistic to think that a remote team’s productivity will reach the levels it did before the transition. At least in the short-term.

Making up for this gap in productivity by overworking teams will have the opposite intended effect. What’s more likely to happen is you’ll burn them out or create a hostile working environment. Current levels of productivity aren’t always easy to improve. A manager would be better off re-evaluating their current measure of productivity, and working to support remote employees with what they need to do the job.

Ask your employees what they need from you

The expectations of a manager of remote employees are much different than the average office manager. As a people-oriented position, a manager may have trouble transitioning to an isolated environment where communication is not easy and rarely face-to-face.  If you find yourself directing a new remote team and you’re not sure how to support them, the worst thing you can do is pretend you know what you’re doing, or assume you know what your employees want. Every business is different. Where one might benefit from new software, another may need more strict boundaries to recharge once they’re done with the workday. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing exactly what your team needs. Asking them is better than wasting resources on a solution that won’t move the needle toward better remote collaboration.