If great collaboration was ‘challenging’ before there was a global pandemic, then it must be nearly impossible now, right? Well, actually… it turns out that we’re an adaptable bunch. And, those of us now working from home are fortunate that we’re doing so in an age of incredible communication technologies.
Captain Obvious Explains Why It Matters
Before we dive into how you can use that tech to drive productivity while remote from the office, let’s take a step back and consider why working together is so important. In a recent survey of global workers, Slack found that the core characteristics of positive teamwork are:
- Clear responsibilities (who is accountable for what)
- Agreeing and getting along
Slack screenshot sent separately
Image source: Good collaboration, bad collaboration: A new report by Slack
Maybe those findings aren’t earth-shattering in the abstract — but take a moment to ponder whether your own team is hitting the mark consistently in every category. After all, according to a 2019 Gensler Research Institute survey, a whopping 43% of employees said the most important aspect of a great workplace is one that promotes team building. It then shouldn’t be surprising that 86% of employees blame workplace failures on the lack of effective communication.
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Image source: Gensler US Workplace Survey 2019
Back In The Olden Times (February!)
Even before the current stay-at-home situation, many of us worked in a hybrid physical/digital model, sometimes commuting to the office, and sometimes to the living room. We’d mix software tools — such as project management programs, chat apps and email — with in-person meetings, shoulder surfs, discussions via open workplaces and ‘water cooler’ chats.
While that was a versatile, interactive way of building relationships and hashing out ideas, that hybrid model also had a few challenges:
- Potential for mistakes: those ad-hoc, in-person meetings have the potential to result in small memory lapses that later create big problems, such as the wrong thing being changed or misunderstanding about what was approved
- Lack of understanding and accountability: without a ‘central hub’ of documentation and history, there’s no way to go back and see how and why certain decisions were made
- Disconnected communication: using multiple communication channels to collaborate on one project leads to fragmented conversations and wasted time tracking down answers
Today’s Remote Landscape
We all know that having an in-person conversation is highly beneficial to effective workflow, as we have the advantage of seeing body language and facial expressions to get a sense of agreement or push back. However, since the global pandemic, communication has changed with employees at both big and small companies now fully working remote, or at the very least having the opportunity to work from home.
Software to the rescue!
Even before this massive change in the way we work hit the global workforce, 97% of businesses reported having the right software tool allowed them to serve more clients more efficiently. Using the right software clearly matters to the success of your business. From project management to team communication to document tracking, software resources offer many necessary features to help us collaborate effectively.
Project Example: Creating a Coordinated Email Marketing Campaign
To help you understand the power of using the right software tools, let’s run through a project lifecycle. Imagine that your team is collaborating on creating an email marketing campaign for the first time. Assuming you’re all working remote, you’ll have to carefully choose and use your team tools to ensure that the project gets done on deadline and is successful. Below we’ll outline a few ways for you to approach the project and highlight useful software tools and features along the way.
Kick Off Your Project With Brainstorming Video Calls
The first thing you’ll want to do is get agreement on the basics of your email campaign — audience, tone, design, goals, analytics, and so on. Use a video-conferencing tool such as Zoom, WebEx, or GoToMeeting to meet with stakeholders and get buy-in on the project framework. For those tasked with executing the plan, have a ‘kick off’ video conference to meet, share screens, discuss ideas, and identify timelines and strategies. Have follow-up and milestone meetings at a cadence that makes sense for the project scope.
You might be wondering why you should bother using video conferencing instead of just audio. It’s because while video isn’t a perfect substitute for in-person meetings, video allows attendees to detect subtle but important clues from body language and microexpressions. In a remote world, context is king.
Create, Assign, and Track Project Tasks
Now that you’ve got your project framework and approach for the email campaign sorted out, coordinate your efforts efficiently by assigning and tracking tasks via a project management platform such as Trello or Jira. For relatively simple projects, Trello is great for creating calendars and boards where you can quickly move tasks according to their status. If your project is complex, spans teams and perhaps even other projects, Jira offers powerful ticket tracking, assignment, and workflow features (BTW, it’s probably not an accident that Jira bought Trello in 2017!).
Sweat (and Debate) the Details Daily
This is where much of the work, aha! moments and a lot of the fun tend to occur. Chat apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams are often the best way to communicate via direct messages. These chat apps are great for setting up specific project channels where stakeholders and project members can discuss ideas, challenges, and wins surrounding the email campaign. The killer feature is that you’ll automatically have a record of your debates and decisions in one easily-accessible archive. Just be aware that sometimes a good ol’ fashioned email can be a better call, depending on what kind of content you want to send.
Use a Central Hub to Collaborate on Email Copy, Design and Approvals
When you’re ready to start iterating on copy, design, and other elements of your email campaign, having a central hub for workflow is vital for efficient and accurate collaboration. Email production platform, Dyspatch, offers a drag and drop email builder, version control, and the ability to create and reply to feedback via annotated comments. Dyspatch makes it easy to capture email campaign input from marketing, copywriters, managers and other stakeholders on a single platform. The app also helps streamline the approval workflow so nothing gets through production without the right people signing off — a feature that’s essential for teams regardless of whether they’re working remote.
Keep Calm and Collaborate On
Can we work together just as well remotely as in person? In today’s digital landscape, absolutely, and maybe even better than before if we choose our tools carefully. That’s good news for employee satisfaction, team productivity, company growth, and, ultimately, profitability. Challenge accepted!