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Could Remote Working Improve Collaboration

Remote

Let’s put the cards on the table about technology. At least once in our lives, we have heard someone say: Robots are going to take over the world someday. Partly because of movies like Ex-Machina or Terminator but also because it’s a fact that technology improves every second. New software, new tools of communication, new applications for every kind of person around the globe.

Employees working together remotely

That being said, we can distinguish two kinds of people: The first kind is afraid of technology. When they hear that Amazon has drones (instead of people) that deliver products in front of customer’s houses, they are even more terrified. And there is the second kind of people, the ones who are ready to take over technology and take advantage of everything it has to offer. In this category, you will find remote workers.

When it comes to remote working, there is a lot of fear of the unknown from those who have only worked in or managed physical offices. Communication is one of the aspects that generate more myths, false assumptions, and discussions between remote workers and non-remote workers. 

Questions like: How could you compare face to face communication with face to screen communication? Or:  How can companies be efficient when employers don’t even bond or get to know each other? 

These can be answered with the examples of successful remote companies – but also with science! 

Remote employees communicate better with their employers

The Smith Business School in Queen’s University made a study led by Professor Sandy Staples, about the difference between remote workers and non-remote workers. In the study, one of the essential variables taken into consideration was the employee’s trust for their employer. What were some of the conclusions? Remote managers and employees had better communication skills and, therefore, higher trust levels than non-remote workers.

There are two kinds of trust that managers and employers develop with their employees. On the one hand, is the affective-based trust, established mainly on emotions, and in the overall process of building a relationship. The manager builds confidence by the level of care he/she has with their employers. On the other hand, it is the cognitive-based trust that is developed based on rationality and – in simpler words – a belief in the level of knowledge and professionalism that the manager has. This type of trust is task-oriented.

In this particular study, it was found that cognition-based trust was outstanding in the remote work environment, much more so than in the non-remote working environment.

Technology brings you closer to others

Worker using computer

The previous study is nearly two decades old. It was made in 2001, and the results were highly optimistic for remote workers. This is surprising considering that at that time, there were not even half the tools that are available today. Every new day, there is a new application for your virtual office, new software for your website, a new social network. And every new tool (well, most of them) have pretty much the same purpose: to connect people. 

In the last decade, with the creation of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, it’s self – evident that technology has expanded our connection to others, making it much easier to reach out to people. Technology has and is developing in such a way that we can feel closer to other people even if we don’t know them face to face.

Communication and Virtual teams are inseparable  

In the development of a company, communication is one of the most critical aspects of business success. A company with excellent communication channels has a high probability of being efficient. There are several fundamental reasons why communication in collaborative working is crucial for progress.

For instance, for geographically distributed companies, a key aspect of teamwork is communication. Without strong collaboration skills, projects are left unfinished, problems do not get solved, and in general, the company fails. That’s why successful remote companies emphasize the importance of clear communication, precise objectives, and highlight the importance of teamwork. 

Let’s look at the case of Automattic, a fully remote company with almost 930 employees. They have created a creed with the most important aspects they want to set as the foundation of the company. Among this creed stands the following commandment: “I will communicate as much as possible because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company.” They have different tools and strategies that allow them to achieve a culture where everyone has a voice. And have instilled in their employers the idea that communication is everything in terms of the company’s growth. 

But, how exactly do remote companies manage to create excellent communication and cooperation environments? Culture is the main reason. Virtual employers are aware that for their company to succeed, they need to make sure their employees understand the spirit, identity, and the goals of the company. The culture of a comteapany allows workers – as individuals – to be aware of why their work is valuable, but most importantly, of how it contributes to the company’s growth. Remote workers tend to be more trusting toward their employers because the remote working culture creates employee engagement. Mainly because of having constant communication but also because of the culture employees have created, allowing workers from home to have a sense of belonging even if they are thousands of kilometers away. The employee believes in the company and has a high commitment to make his job as best as possible.

Taking advantage of technology

Technology is the machine that allows a remote company to work adequately. The main reason for that is that it allows co-workers to have strong and collaborative relationships. There are different ways to improve communication in your business with high tech:

  • Screen sharing: Nowadays, it is possible to share your screen or watch your colleagues screen with the help of many applications. It allows whoever is watching, the opportunity to learn and understand better what the other person is trying to say or present in real-time. It’s a powerful tool when it comes to audiovisual content.
  • Messaging: For short messages or reminders, there are many tools for colleagues to always keep in touch or to be aware of what the other team members are up to.
  • Video conferencing:  This is important, especially when it comes to distributed working teams. Messaging helps, but when it comes to building a relationship with the other person, video conferences allow you to create a deeper bond. Being able to see their faces and gestures creates more intimate connections and effective and direct communication.
  • Collaboration platforms: For managers and remote companies in general, collaboration platforms are great for managing and seeing the actions that happen toward the established objectives. Many of these platforms allow you to chat, schedule meetings, create projects, and watch how these projects move forward. Employees are aware of what their tasks are and what their coworkers are doing as well. Such platforms act as a virtual office, their features ensuring that, communication and collaboration become much simpler as the team takes on their shared or co-dependent tasks. 

The final word

Technology is essential when it comes to building close relationships among co-workers. It allows creating a culture that promotes communication and makes workers want to help each other. Therefore, technology is our best ally when it comes to strengthening the bonds and the values of a company. With technology as the means and culture as the base of the company, remote working can deliver outstanding results. Distributed teams are aware that their job isn’t just about accomplishing their tasks; it is collaborating with others for the company to be successful. 

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