Many creatives are most comfortable working on their own during projects. This is one of the reasons a lot of people have found the shift to remote work a productivity boost. However, there tends to come a time in every project that collaborating with other professionals is essential. This is the point at which things can become a little tricky. The ease of just gathering everybody in the same space in an office doesn’t apply when everyone’s working from home. If you’re new to collaborative working from different locations it can be a challenge.
This doesn’t mean you should be rushing back to in-person operations. There are a lot of advantages to remote working and it’s worth developing the skills and techniques you need to work collaboratively with people from around the world. Let’s take a look at a few effective approaches.
Part of the challenge with creative collaborations from home is they can feel a bit disorganised. Different people’s activities can seem out of sync and you may become frustrated with the situation. To overcome this, you need to put some effective collaborative structures in place.
This should include a set of routines and behaviours the entire team implements. Establishing these internal best practices for remote working can help to improve efficiency while also allowing team members the freedom to exercise their individual talents. This should include setting schedules to keep everyone on target while also being flexible enough to work around people’s personal and family routines. It’s also important that this structure includes clear support mechanisms to help team members feel less isolated and safeguard their mental wellbeing.
If you’re leading this creative collaboration, you must keep reviewing the efficacy of these structures. Speak to individual team members to make sure the system is working for them and meeting their needs. If you’re a team member, be vocal when you feel something is missing and make suggestions for improving the working structure.
As a beginner, remote collaborations can feel overwhelming. The good news is there have been significant developments in tools to help make working with others from a distance more practical and positive. You need to focus on finding those that best suit the needs of you and your team.
One of the clear priorities in any remote collaboration is adopting tools and protocols to make sure every member can contribute. It may be the case that some of your team are operating in different time zones, in which case you need a system that supports this. Project management platforms are vital for keeping all tasks visible to every member of the team and allowing them to share active documents. Online whiteboards can also be vital at the planning stages of a project for workers to immediately contribute wherever they are in the world and create a “paper trail” to ensure progress is up-to-date and trackable.
From a more individual perspective, it’s worth ensuring your team not just adopts software but knows how to use it to be most effective. Make sure everyone has training on how to use Microsoft Teams or Zoom or Google Workspace in ways that keep each member of the team connected and communicating. Make sure there is not just initial training on collaborative tools but clear documentation taking members through processes and troubleshooting aspects they might be unsure of.
You will already know that good communication is a core component of any successful collaboration. This is, of course, easier in an office environment where you can simply walk across a room and talk to someone. The disparate nature of remote circumstances means that some discussions don’t happen because they’re not convenient or it’s tricky to set up. When people are working remotely, some forms of contact can easily be missed or get lost in translation.
It’s useful to create a culture of over-communication. Communicate with team members more than you would do in a traditional setting. Encourage your team to do the same. Particularly when you’re all new to the process, there can be some uncertainty around whether they’re reaching out too much or too little. Make it clear to everyone that — at least in the beginning — there is no such thing as too much communication. You can always refine as you all start to get used to the new environment.
Alongside a higher frequency of communication, you should also increase the diversity of methods. Some ideas are difficult to get across only in text format and can benefit from video calls or messages. So don’t be afraid to have discussions across email, video conferencing, and even tagged comments on shared documents.
Trust is one of the most important components of creative collaboration. This can be tough to achieve in a purely remote environment where everyone is not able to see whether their teammates are working as hard and as effectively as they are. Yet, pushing past these concerns and finding ways to demonstrate trust is key to boosting morale and productivity in the group.
If you’re leading the project, you should avoid the tendency to micromanage. You should already be confident in the fact that the rest of your team are talented professionals, just like you. Give them the space to complete their tasks in the manner they feel works best for them within the structures of the project timeline. You’ll tend to get better results. You should also be proactive about task delegation too. Even extend this to traditional leadership aspects like making presentations in meetings. This shows the team you respect the abilities of your colleagues, which you’ll generally find is rewarded with commitment and loyalty.
If you’re new to digital collaboration it can be a daunting situation. But you can regain a degree of control by implementing structures that support everyone involved. It’s also vital to establish tools to fit the circumstances and be proactive in your communication protocols. Remember, by favouring trust over micromanagement, you’ll tend to get better results from a team. Remote collaboration can be a positive experience, you just need to adjust the way you work and take a few additional steps to make sure your team feels valued and knows exactly what is required of them.
by Frankie Wallace | 30 Nov 21
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