How to improve collaboration with a distributed team

Remote work is now a way of life for many teams. Whether your team had already embraced a distributed model, or it was a new shift for your company, more teams than ever are coming together virtually from their home offices—from startups through to enterprise players like Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft. According to a 2018 study by IWG, at least half of professionals work remotely at least once a week, and it’s quite likely that number will continue to rise.

Developers really value the ability to work remotely: In our 2019 developer survey, nearly 32% of engineers said that remote work was one of their top three priorities in evaluating a job offer, and over 45% said that flex time or flexible schedules were key criteria to consider. And building a fully distributed team means that there are no geographic barriers for your recruiting team—you can hire the best engineering team regardless of their physical location.

Even so, it’s not always easy to work collaboratively as a distributed team compared to the ease of communication in an open office environment. Here are a couple of tips to get your team on the same page:

Build a communication tool tech stack

Your team will need the ability to communicate seamlessly through group chats, private messaging, VoIP, and video conferencing. Identify the right tech stack for remote communication, and draw up a chart to showcase which technologies should be used for which purposes (i.e., quick questions in Slack, and longer conversations that require step-by-step instructions in your project management tool). Try to get your team off email entirely and keep communication transparent among team members in centralized tools where everyone has the ability to access information.

Centralize important information in a knowledge-sharing tool

Even if you’re using transparent collaboration tools, they’re not always great for finding the most reliable information. Developers run the risk of searching for technical documentation about a feature and finding answers that are no longer current. In order to make sure your team is always able to access the most relevant information, use a knowledge-sharing tool where your team members can ask and respond to FAQ-style questions. Employees should be able to add multiple responses, and vote on the most popular messages in a thread so that the most current and helpful information shows up first. You’ll also need good search functionality and tagging features to make it as easy as possible to get to the right content.

The transition to remote work isn’t always easy—and even if you’ve done it for a while, it can be tough to find the right rhythm. But by adopting collaboration tools that facilitate clear and transparent communication, you’ll be able to build a cohesive and productive team, no matter how far apart they are.

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