For more than a decade, workers have ranked the ability to telecommute as one of the most important job perks. Research indicates that the number of people considering their home as their primary place of work has grown by 80% since 2005. And with 79% of US workers reporting that they would like to work from home at least part of the time, the telecommuting trend shows no sign of stopping.
In response to the growth in remote working, the availability of tools that facilitate group communication and collaboration has also grown sharply in the last few years. From messaging tools such as Lync and Slack, to project management tools like Asana and Trello, to collaboration applications like Google Drive and Smartsheet, teleworkers today have no shortage of tools to keep them productive and connected to other remote teams.
Author Alexandra Samuel, in her excellent piece for Harvard Business Review titled “Collaborating Online is Sometimes Better than Face-to-Face”, believes that online collaboration can often be preferable to in-person collaboration. In the article, Ms. Samuel asserts that online collaboration is well-suited to solve three specific kinds of problems: time problems, distance problems, and communication problems.
For global companies with employees and partners scattered across the globe, time differences can often be a drain on productivity if not managed efficiently. One of the primary benefits of online collaboration cited by Ms. Samuel are 24/7 production cycles, which enable virtual teams to hand off work to a colleague or team in another time zone, and have the next phase of work ready to be picked up again by the time work begins the following day.
However, in order for 24/7 production cycles to be effective, it’s important that employees properly document the work they’ve done before handing it off at the end of the day to a remote team member. Without documentation, remote team members may have questions or run into roadblocks that can delay the production cycle.
Although many companies rely on text-based documentation, wading through paragraphs of steps can be tedious at best, and ignored or overlooked at worst. If documentation or communication becomes a bottleneck, video can offer a quick efficient solution. Even with nothing more than a screen recorder and webcam or smartphone camera, colleagues can easily record themselves documenting any and every aspect of their progress.
Online collaboration enables remote teams within the same company to work together. It also enables companies to employ teams and resources from other organizations or locations as well. External consulting or service firms are one example, in addition to on-demand labor services like oDesk and Fiverr, which can help businesses quickly solve problems that require specific skills or expertise currently unavailable in the company.
Ensure that the remote resources you pull in have all of the information they need to address the project successfully. Providing virtual teams with access to your company’s video knowledge base can reduce the need for time-consuming (and often expensive) in-person training and onboarding.
One of the best pieces of advice Ms. Samuel offers in her article is that online collaboration enables companies to accommodate a wider range of communication and working styles. Not all groups work best sitting around a table brainstorming. For complicated or ambiguously-defined problems, offering a mix of tools that best support the different ways that your remote workers communicate can help stimulate creativity and problem-solving. Ms.Samuel suggests virtual mind-mapping tools like Lucidchart and Mindmeister can help visual thinkers conceptualize solutions, while team members that need more definitive boundaries can use online project management tools like Basecamp to set specific goals and timelines.
Increasingly, companies are turning to video for its ability to deliver more consistent information to more people at lower cost. If you’d like to learn more about how Panopto’s video platform can help improve collaboration and communication across your entire company, contact our team for a personalized demonstration today.