Start collaborating better with these 5 steps

Keeping remote teams upbeat, collaborating and productive can be an ongoing challenge for managers. Here are five simple steps to improve collaboration and connectivity among your software developers, and help them become more autonomous.

1. Implement regular video calls

When you’re managing a fully remote team, have a video conference at least once per day. Remote employees can sometimes feel isolated, so helping them feel that they’re part of the team and not just a voice on the phone is important. Doing so can foster better human connection than other communication methods, including text, chat and even phone calls.

At the same time, keep things flexible. If some employees are uncomfortable being on camera, invite them to turn on their camera occasionally. It helps to see facial expression and body language to better understand what the other members of the team are saying. 

Additionally, use custom video backgrounds—or even moving backgrounds using video files and broadcasting software—to help make internal meetings more informal and fun

2. Create a virtual water cooler

Create a place where employees can discuss non-work related topics and connect on a personal level throughout the workday. Use your existing collaboration tool to set up different channels and topics for employees to check in on, whether it’s for sharing pet photos (a personal favorite), following Serena Williams’ grand slam bid or discussing NASA’s latest flight tests on Mars, for example. This gives employees the opportunity to connect on a personal level, which will foster better working relationships overall.

3. Practice active listening

Make sure everyone is on the same page. This is pretty easy to do: after someone speaks, simply paraphrase the information you have taken in and relay it back to your co-workers. As a manager, you should really never assume that everyone is on the same page. By relaying information back to the team, you’ll ensure that nothing was missed and that you fully understand the message.

Active listening can be especially useful at the end of a meeting to reiterate what was talked about and to set action items for yourself and your team. Plus, by using active listening regularly, you’ll probably spend less time fixing issues that happened because of missed communication. 

4. Schedule virtual happy hours

Find ways to connect casually outside of work. This can help teams connect on a personal level and understand one another better, making it easier to overcome conflict when it arises.

If you have a large team, use your collaboration tool’s breakout room features to split employees into smaller teams. Group employees who don’t interact regularly and give them opportunity to get to know one another. 

Come to the virtual happy hour with a list of talking points and activities to help keep the conversation flowing, keep employees engaged and keep them coming back for future get togethers.

5. Communicate regularly throughout the work week

Communicating regularly with your team will foster an environment of collaboration. When you lead by example, you provide employees with something to aspire to. Encourage employees to have constant discussion among themselves and to speak up if they don’t understand something.

If an employee comes to you with a problem or question it’s your job to remove the blocker that’s preventing them from being productive and completing work. If you don’t know the answer to their question, connect them with the person who can help them. That way, if they have a similar question in the future, they’ll know who to ask.

Remember, your ultimate goal is to have a self-managing team and you can achieve that by providing an environment that helps employees work together effectively and teaching them where they can turn to get the resources they need to be productive.

The shift to remote teams has quickly become the norm for tech organizations, and key to distributed teams is staying connected and collaborative. If you want to dive deeper on these collaboration tips, check out this on-demand webinar by Pluralsight author and IT expert Shelley Benhoff.