Is Your Team’s Virtual Collaboration Working?

4 questions managers should be asking themselves

By now, you’ve likely been working remotely for several months. If you began working from home with the mindset that it was just temporary, you might not have taken the time to put processes and policies in place that can hold up for the long-haul.

It’s time for a check-in to see if how you are collaborating with your team is the right way to get the creative output you need. Your bottom line depends on it—with ad budgets teetering, your ideas, projects and executions arguably need to be stronger than ever to show your clients you’re an investment worth making.

What does a happy, confident and productive remote team really look like? You’ll need to make sure you understand your team, have developed the right processes, created an organized approach and employed the right technologies to keep things chugging along smoothly. Here are four questions to ask yourself.

1. How can I better understand my team’s personalities and priorities?

Video calls are now your main form of communication with your team, so it’s critical to make sure you are getting the most out of them. Part of this is understanding who you have in the virtual room.

More likely than not, you have a mix of introverts and extroverts. Introverts draw their energy from their own thoughts and ideas and tend to be more analytical and cautious while extroverts thrive in group settings and are more verbal and spontaneous. To help both succeed in a virtual setting, be conscientious of how you are structuring your meetings.

Circulating the agenda or a list of discussion questions before every meeting helps both types feel empowered to share ideas. If you would like an update from a team member, give them a courtesy heads up of what you anticipate instead of putting them on the spot. Apply this to both internal team discussions and meetings with external partners and clients.

And if you haven’t done so already, it’s critical that you get a sense of how your team members like to work at home. For example, since you can’t drop by their desk to give feedback, would they prefer an email, scheduled stand-up call or just a simple chat message to check in? Do they prefer multiple instant messages throughout the day or one long email at the end of the day? Don’t limit this to your internal teams as your clients might also have communications preferences.

2. Am I helping or hurting their time management?

You know by now that developing a routine for yourself personally and for your team is critical to your individual and collective success. It’s time to evaluate that routine. Are there any ways you can streamline your day or set aside more time for uninterrupted work?

This same idea applies to your team. Check in with individual members to see what is and isn’t working for them and how you can help them work more productively. Everyone has likely gotten into different rhythms at home so be open to people working flexible hours. Also, be on the lookout for overscheduling and micromanaging – which can happen even when working remotely. Not every conversation requires a full meeting, and back-to-back-to-back video calls can be stressful and maybe even counterproductive.

Overall, remember to let your teams work and help them set aside the time they need to actually get things done. If necessary, encourage them to block out hours on their calendars so that they have uninterrupted chunks of time to make meaningful progress on their projects.

3. Is there anything else I can do to make remote work easier?

If you weren’t already used to working remotely, you might not have the right tools to ensure business-as-usual can continue virtually. This applies both to how your teams work and to how you work with clients. Conduct two assessments—one for internal communications and collaboration and one for external.

Reflect on how your internal team is doing thus far. Are there certain areas where things are starting to break down? Are deadlines being missed or are problems being created by a lack of communication?

Once you’ve identified what isn’t working, do some research on tools that can help. For example, if your team is struggling to meet creative deadlines, look into tools that can keep you apprised of who is doing what and outstanding tasks, as well as tools offering the ability to help you monitor approaching deadlines.

For external communications and collaboration, especially when it comes to creative reviews, it’s crucial that you don’t let a lack of technology interrupt your workflow. Use a tool like Hightail to allow clients to not only see your work in the best light, but also give them a way to provide feedback and approvals that isn’t an endless email chain.

4. How can I continue to motivate my team?

It’s a simple fact—your team will produce its best and most creative work when all members feel happy, safe and trusted. Check in frequently with your team members individually and as a group to see how they are faring.

Also, be sure to reiterate and to let them know you are open to suggestions and feedback, ask and ask again if they have all the tools they need to get work done or if there are any parts of remote work that aren’t going well for them.

And don’t forget to look for small, easy ways to keep team members motivated like sharing positive client feedback or calling out stellar work when it happens. It only takes you a moment, but the effect can be long-lasting.

Remember, happy creatives are productive creatives, so taking the time to boost morale and trust in your team is in everyone’s best interest.

Liana Tallarico leads marketing for OpenText Hightail, a cloud-based collaboration and file sharing software designed for creative content reviews and approvals. Liana has been managing a remote team for over two years and worked for a number of advertising agencies before joining the Hightail team.