It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and, despite the sun shining in through your office window, you swear you hear crickets chirping as you search your brain for ideas. Suddenly, the imaginary crickets go silent, and the words of a late-20th century philosopher bubble to the forefront of your mind:
“All right, stop. Collaborate and listen.”
‘Genius idea, Vanilla Ice,’ you think as you stand to walk down the hall only to remember that you work from home and the only things down the hall are distractions. Your dreams for a collaborative workplace are shattered by working remotely. . . or are they? With 69% of the U.S. workforce working remotely during the height of the pandemic and around 75% of the workforce ranking collaboration as “very important,” leadership can’t let their dreams be shattered.
Luckily, leaders don’t have to let their dreams be dreams with the right tips and tools.
Treat “Leader” like a Description, Not a Title
If you’ve ever attempted to leave a crowded area, you know that following the wrong person results in becoming frustrated and stuck. Impatience builds, and all you want to do is escape. Sadly, deadlines are inescapable, and crunching to meet them after getting stuck can mean unmet commitments and an overall degradation in quality. As a leader, this means lost time and revenue.
The first place a leader starts building a collaborative workplace is with themselves so let collaboration start with you. take time to speak with your team and listen to them. Effective communication is key in determining what tools your team needs, such as software or hardware. Providing these tools, along with direction and leadership, will help your team overcome whatever pitfalls present themselves.
A Shared Space is a Collaborative Workplace
Spontaneous collaboration is simply teamwork outside traditional workplace circumstances such as meetings. Like brainstorming in the breakroom, a hypothetical question to someone in another department or a joke to a coworker can generate ideas that don’t happen when employees are isolated. This is hard when your office is next to your bedroom. Employees often hesitate to reach out to coworkers out of fear of bothering or interrupting them. Leaders worry that ideas will dry up without a water cooler to gather around.
Don’t let your departments be islands. If you’re in an office, encourage employees to get up from their desks now and then to walk around the building. If you’re working digitally, use apps like WebEx and Slack to build a collaborative workplace in the digital world for all departments to use. WebEx’s whiteboard feature gives you a way to simulate in office meetings while Slack’s channels gives you a platform to create unique channels dedicated to different topics. This increased access to communication will help increase the likelihood of spontaneous collaboration between various groups and help creativity flourish.
It also helps to make using the shared space fun. Encourage the use of memes, gifs, or jokes to keep the creative juices flowing. Creating a Slack channel dedicated to fun stuff gives employees a virtual playspace to let off steam.
Reward the Behavior You Want to See
Employees, while valuing teamwork, are sometimes worried it can hurt them in the future. The idea is that work done alone is more admirable than work done with a team. Whether it’s fearing that their contributions will be overlooked or that needing assistance will be looked down upon, employees sometimes feel collaboration isn’t in their best interest.
Your job as a leader is to prove them wrong. The first step is to build trust between yourself and your team. Show them you recognize and acknowledge their efforts by making sure to thank each employee individually as well as a team. This gives a clear indication of the behavior you want to see.
Mix it Up Now and Then
In his book, Change by Design, IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown said, “Design is now too important to be left to designers.” This sentiment extends past design to marketing, developers, and beyond. When departments are siloed, communication stops, and manageable issues can quickly become costly time sinks.
Don’t let tradition keep you from trying new approaches to structure your teams. As we’ve seen, businesses have to adapt to significant changes. Working remotely gives you more flexibility in setting up your teams. Crafting agile teams from people with different expertise will encourage communication throughout all levels of the creative process.
Team building exercises are also a fantastic way to build a sense of connection amongst groups. Don’t be afraid to play games. Having fun together at work makes it a lot more fun.
Your Toolbox is Infinite. Use It.
Imagine trying to give a presentation in an unfamiliar conference room. You walk to the front and try to connect your computer but find that you don’t have a suitable cable and it’s too late to find one. So you struggle through the meeting using your laptop as a display and apologizing for the technical difficulties. Now imagine that daily. That’s how your team can feel if they all want to work together but don’t have the tools needed.
In the tech-wealthy world we live in, the number of tools available to create a collaborative workplace is infinite. The increased popularity of remote work has made these tools invaluable to businesses that want to maintain a high level of teamwork inside and outside the office. Software designed for collaboration is a great resource to turn to for help in boosting collaboration and productivity.
Get Everyone On Board with Ashore
Effective collaboration throughout your business gives your team access to valuable feedback from various points of view. Thankfully, apps like Ashore are built to make achieving a collaborative workplace simpler whether your office is downtown or downstairs.
Sharing a proof in Ashore is as simple as uploading your files — including images, video, audio or even live websites — and creating a review link. Reviewers can leave feedback directly on a proof, and with threaded commenting, everyone can talk through their ideas in a single place. Features such as side-by-side comparison, version stacking and a comprehensive proof timeline allow the proofing process to run smoothly.
If you’d like collaboration to follow a more sequential pattern, Ashore’s workflow management tools give you the power to create custom workflows and automate each stage of the proofing process. Notifications ensure you always know what your reviewers are up to, and reminders ensure no one is dropping the ball on this collaboration thing.
Want to keep the team working together regardless of distance? Let Ashore help you make it as simple as possible. Sign up for free today!