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Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Advancing Collaboration for a Dispersed Workforce

photodune-11837395-brainstorming-meeting-communication-teamwork-concept-xsFlexibility and the ability to work from anywhere are increasingly becoming the driving forces behind many career goals. FlexJobs (a leading job search site) has reported a 26% increase in remote jobs advertised from 2013-14. Workers are looking for companies that allow them to set their own schedules, work from home or while travelling, and not stay tied to one company.

Contractors and remote workers also provide many benefits to companies. Here are just a few:

  • Having less staff in the office cuts down on resources you need to provide, such as desks, computers and stationery.
  • Less people on the roads and in the office parking lot means a happier commute for everyone.
  • You can use contractors to fill skill gaps during times when you have an increased workload, without needing to hire someone full time.
  • Remote employees are often more motivated, more productive, and happier than in-office staff.

Because they are not right there in the office, workplace collaboration among dispersed workers can be challenging. It can be difficult to amend your current practices to work for those who aren’t on-site. But mobile devices and cloud resources can keep people connected no matter where they’re working - as you can see in this awesome Infographic.

In this second article in our workplace collaboration series, we look at three tips for improving collaboration with your remote workers - consistency, feedback and project management.

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I. Consistency Saves Time

Processes are important for any workplace endeavor, but especially so when you employ remote workers. Without workflow management and consistent template/schedule to follow, remote workers can quickly fall into a pattern of not being sure what they’re supposed to do … and that means it’s safer to just do nothing.

Don’t make remote workers waste time hunting for company policies, HR paperwork or guidelines - have a process to get them all the information they need up front.

Discuss from the onset your expectations around communication - every client’s needs are different, and you can’t expect your contractors to read your mind: you may be wanting them to be available on Skype chat all day, whereas they usually just send a roundup email at the end of the week. Get your communication systems sorted from day one, or you will constantly struggling to catch-up.

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II. Feedback Prevents Misunderstandings

When you hire a contractor for a particular project, an important first step is to provide as much detail as possible about both the project parameters and your expectations from the onset. Contractors often work with different clients in different ways and they need to know what you would like them to do.

Throughout the whole process, be quick to give feedback to the contractor about their work and communication. This helps them to refine what you expect and produce tighter and more focused work. Doing this regularly helps establish expectations on both sides, and ensures that your remote worker is striving for the same goals you are.

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III. Project Management Clarifies Responsibilities

For every project you do, you should appoint a project manager. It’s their job to ensure the project moves ahead and that all the milestones are met. The project manager is the one who should liaise with all your off-site staff and freelancers, and relays information on who is doing what, what tasks are due and when the needs of a project change.

Project management software can help you keep projects on track, especially when . Using software like WorkflowMax, the project manager can create a job, assign tasks to different members of the team, and track the progress of each task. Because the software is in the cloud, remote workers can access it too, see updates and milestones, and track their own progress.

Managing remote workers and contractors can be a challenge if you’re not used to communicating with people over the computer. But luckily, there are techniques and tools - such as project management software - that make this process easy.

This post is the second in a three-part series discussing how a company’s staff communicate and collaborate. We’ve already talked about how to improve communication within your team. Have you had a chance to take a look at our new infographic titled "4-Data Backed Way to Improve Collaboration with Staff & Clients at your company".

Next week, we’re going to tackle collaboration techniques to improve relations with your clients.