Working in a distributed team can be quite challenging. Why? Because you can’t suddenly reach out to someone who is sitting next to you. You may not get an immediate response to your question after you send it in writing. It can also happen that you aren’t able to find the right information which can be frustrating. Such cases can be common if we haven’t done our “remote” homework properly. To avoid the above mentioned scenario, it’s crucial to design your own virtual collaboration rules and toolkit. In other words, something that’s literally going to be your best friend when you work remotely.

How to start designing a virtual toolkit?

There are many remote tools out there. Most of them are really cool and it seems tempting to try them out. However, you must always think twice because too much is unhealthy. If you’re on the journey to building a remote toolkit, there’s one golden rule – less is more. You should always keep in mind that every tool should play a different role in our infrastructure. This way, you’ll be able to draft up expectations, cooperation rules or best practices within your team.

Right now, you may think that “you got it all” as your company probably offers so many tools that you literally have no time to keep up. You may be assuming that this article isn’t even for you. Come on!

Let’s dig deeper into your current toolkit and check if you have properly designed your framework.

Categories of a remote collaboration toolkit

Take a look at all the tools that you’re currently using and try to categorise them. Have you ever thought about such an exercise? Once you do it, you’ll start thinking about it as a map that will guide you through your daily operations. We can normally distinguish the following categories:

  • Documentation

Where do you store your documents? What is your team’s knowledge-base? How do you find the right information? All this should happen based on a documentation-first culture. If you don’t document everything properly, you’ll eventually get lost. What’s not on “virtual paper”, doesn’t exist. Documenting both company and team-wide knowledge is also one of the golden rules within remote-first teams. It’s called “over-documentation” and it aims for increased collaboration efficiency and effectiveness within distributed teams.

  • Meetings

Which tools do you use for meetings? What determines you choice? Do you use cameras or not? Do you have multiple tools for this purpose? How do you know which one is best for your meeting? Also, think about possible integrations. Can you connect your meetings tools with others to make sure that you have one point of access? Think about it.

  • Workflows & Project management

How do you document progress? Can you track performance and iterate without the necessity to meet all the time? Do you determine deadlines within a project? Do you know who is accountable for what? Which tool is ideal for your team and why? Work should be traceable. That’s why using communication tools and video calls to manage projects is totally inefficient and it basically disables async collaboration.

  • Communication

Which tools do you use to communicate verbally and non-verbally? You certainly don’t want to make random choices but use all capabilities of your apps. The goal is to over-communicate wisely – making communication easy to find, targeted to the right people and approached in a mutually agreed time frame. It’s not about just sending a message that nobody will read or sharing it on multiple channels to be “on the safe side”. Such behaviour may just create chaos rather than a smooth virtual collaboration setup.

Tips to use your toolkit wisely

Following these tips will positively contribute to your team’s collaboration:

  1. Always acknowledge that you’ve received a message. Even a thumbs up 👍 will do. This way, the sender can be sure that you’ve seen their message. If you don’t react at all, it will be very hard for everyone to make sure that you’re all on the same page.
  2. Always accept or decline meeting invites. Don’t leave them without a response even if you’re not planning to attend. Additionally, imagine that the organizer feels that you’re a crucial attendee but you surprisingly don’t show up… Or, they keep wondering if you’ll be there or not. This can cause unnecessary frustration and… it’s just a waste of time.
  3. Determine a time frame for responses. Async work is cool…only if you mutually agree on the communication flow. Consequently, there’s nothing worse than sending an important message and getting a response in 2 weeks. Think about introducing for example a 24h response policy within your team.

Ensure accountability within a project. In other words, to your questions “Who’s working on this?”, you’ll receive a response “Everyone”. No. We don’t do it this way. Let’s make sure that project steps are assigned to a particular person who is going to be accountable. This way, we’ll be able to easily track progress and truly master virtual collaboration.



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