Why These Virtual Collaborative Tools Help Improve Productivity

A company like Viome, a wellness startup with offices in New York, New Mexico, Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, and even India would have been impossible to manage decades ago. 

What’s more impressive?! The company is still relatively a startup, even if it has been around for quite a number of years. How do they do it? 

One might be tempted to say that many online tools these days make for easy virtual collaborations, but without proponents of those tools like product managers, it’s doubtful these online tools would stand a chance. People still need to buy into the use of these tools to make people work or collaborate effectively online.

For a start, a strict policy when it comes to sprint or standup meetings needs to be enforced. Various departments need to coordinate in this way. 

Among developers, there’s Jira for planning, tracking and managing agile and software development projects. For general day-to-day, real-time collaboration, text messaging app Slack literally picks up the slack for everyone. 

Many underestimate all these beehives of online activity when it can drive productivity, engagement, and innovation. How so?

According to one study, 96 percent of surveyed individuals reported that workplace failures are due to lack of efficient collaboration. Below are some tips to help you increase collaboration among your global mobility peers.

In a company with many offices, the only way to have employees working together effectively is if they know each other. It’s not that complicated. Even just a brief slack intro — the employee’s name and position — goes a long way in encouraging camaraderie. Since this type of introduction is broadcast to everybody, a response is usually polite and welcoming, not tinged with malice, or you’re bias is — horror of horrors — broadcast to everyone as well.

Ever experienced the time you sneaked a peek at somebody’s desk wondering if they’re available for a meeting? Using a Google Calendar invite to schedule work interviews helps everyone see who’s available or not. 

This is ideal for global mobility managers who need to juggle many of their clients who don’t have Outlook or internal schedulers. It’s all about making it easy to communicate with co-workers and prospects out there. By now, everyone should know how Slack provides more user-friendly response times than emails and helps everyone keep track of work, even send files.

Online collaboration tools make it possible for those in and out of the offices to stay productive and — get this — accountable. Many small businesses are resistant to using them, because they think it’s easier to just talk directly to someone. Unfortunately, in the gig economy, not many employees even report for work, so using instant messaging tools serve their purpose. Yes, emails work but when email threads pile up, things get harder to track.

Video conferencing tools, like Google Hangouts, Zoom or Skype, are a must. Yes, calling someone on their mobile phones still works but nowadays, it helps to have video tools to share a presentation deck or visual to help everyone make informed decisions faster. Not everyone likes to be on camera but a quick minute video greeting should be sufficient. 

Not many companies embrace the use of these tools. Even some employees may ignore them completely. It’s crucial then to have a product manager to be on top of these things. If there’s anyone at the office who’s going to make sure everyone is on board with virtual collaborative tools, it’s the product manager. He or she coordinates with everyone, from the CEO to the developer, designer, and content strategist. They provide structure and organization, making them one’s strongest ally at work, because they mean well for the team and the organization. 

For companies with no product managers, TMA, a worldwide learning company, offers these 5 amazing tips that offer more revealing tips to help teams improve work productivity:

1) Increase cross-cultural awareness

The first thing that everyone on an international team should do is to understand the challenges that various global team members face. A frank discussion of the difficulty of processing information in a second language (on one side) and the feelings of exclusion (on the other) can bring increased understanding and empathy for all concerned.

2) Co-create team rules and norms

It is important for all collaborative teams, but absolutely essential for cross-cultural and virtual teams, to understand and agree upon standards and expectations for communication, decision-making, conflict resolution, and meeting protocol. Equally important is the clarification of team goals and priorities as well as each individual’s role, responsibility, and accountability.

3) Build virtual trust

Trust is the foundation for any successful collaboration. It is the glue that bonds team members and builds commitment and engagement. With teams, trust grows out of mutual work experiences and personal interactions – usually extended over time. Strategies that help remote teams bond include the use of virtual settings (room maps and seating charts), pictures of participants with short descriptions of their professional backgrounds and interesting aspects of their social lives, and artifacts that unite the team (team logo, slogan, etc. on mouse pads and coffee cups) distributed to all sites. 

4) Mix communication mediums

The more complicated, emotional, or nuanced your message is, the richer your channel should be. A communication channel becomes richer as you add human elements. Telephone calls and teleconferences give listeners access to vocal clues. 

Videoconferencing allows participants to view facial expressions and hand gestures. Online virtual worlds — 3D environments in which members interact with each other through avatars — employ the “norms” of real world nonverbal behavior and are a richer medium than a teleconference, but not as rich as a videoconference. 

5) Make the first meeting face to face

Virtual teams may be productive without them, but nothing strengthens relationships like face-to-face encounters. In such meetings, our brains process the continual cascade of nonverbal cues that we use as a good basis for trust and professional intimacy. 

Face-to-face interaction is an information-rich communication channel in which voice, body language, proximity, eye contact, and touch are all present to give deeper meaning to our messages – and to allow us to gauge the instantaneous responses of others. For California Corporate Housing, it helps them learn what a client wants for their home.