Remote work is here to stay, but its challenges shouldn’t be

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This is a guest post by Qatalog: Qatalog is a Work Hub that gives people a radically simpler way to coordinate work across teams and get context on what’s happening. Thousands of businesses around the world use it as the central place to manage knowledge and collaborate together. By bringing structure, visibility, and efficiency to teamwork, Qatalog makes it easier for businesses to scale their operations.

 

Coming up to two years after the first lockdown measures threw teams around the world into a change of working space, we now know that remote work is here to stay. 

In fact, the shift is so big that incorporating remote work collaboration tools and running them across teams smoothly is not a nice-to-have anymore – it’s key to business survival.

Effective remote team collaboration will play a pivotal role in determining which businesses are leading the market in the future and which ones end up closing their doors. And we know making that switch isn’t as easy as letting people stay home, fire up their laptops on the couch and never change out of their pajamas.

How has remote work changed team collaboration?

1. No physical proximity

Without a shared physical office, you can’t just ask your colleagues about what they’re working on as you sit around the lunch table.

Getting visibility into what other teams and departments are working on has been a challenge even at the office, and there’s often an asymmetry of information. Working remotely has only heightened this. Teams need to have the right processes and structure in place to ensure this doesn’t happen from the get-go.

2. Documentation is critical

Proximity means people are used to speaking to one another throughout the day. If they need to see someone, it’s easy to organize a meeting— albeit sometimes too easy.

In the new normal, remote teams have to get used to asynchronous communication. That means documenting everything: by writing things down (and writing them down well), or even even recording simple videos with a tool like loom or a screen recorder for your PC, and then distributing them among teams. This is especially critical when your team operates across several geographies  and time zones.

3. Less bonding time

The social aspect of the office is real. It’s easy to create a “team” feeling when people interact with each other for hours and hours every week. With remote work, it becomes more challenging

Then there are the issues when onboarding someone new. How do you empower new team members and set them up for success when no one in the company meets them in person, not even once?

4. More scattered knowledge

The shift to remote work has caused the number of apps we use to explode. Information needs to flow, and there’s an abundance of tools that create, store, and retrieve that information.

We’ve got docs, sheets, slides, wikis, calendars, and kanban boards to manage projects and track tasks and to-dos…And let’s not forget multiple team chats, threads, emails, video calls, intranets, HR tools, and more. Each app has its own purpose, and they’re truly great at that one thing, but one thing only. And the more apps you have, the less you get done. 

The complexities that arise in dealing with these problems are a big reason why today’s teams are riddled with stories where remote work became a headache.

The ongoing challenges of remote work

1. Lack of onboarding process can set the wrong tone with new joiners

Having a deliberate process is critical in setting the tone, and it makes an impact on team momentum and employee retention in the medium and long run. Remote working relationships need to be intentionally designed and delivered with empathy.

2. Too many meetings take a toll on teams’ productivity

You can’t have effective remote team collaboration if people have to continually hang out on Zoom all day. The lack of physical proximity and bias towards asynchronous communication means a new normal for meeting etiquette and team communication — the old way of holding meetings throughout the day has to be left behind.

3. Information flow across the org will create silos

Effectively writing things down and providing regular updates takes real effort. You need to say the right things in the right way, to the relevant people, and on the relevant channels.

If information has trouble flowing, more and more silos will flare up throughout the company. When data, projects, or organizational information is restricted to small groups, people miss opportunities to understand the bigger picture. Over the long term, that lack of a bigger picture reflects missed goals and growth opportunities.

Whether you’re a team manager, HR, CEO, or an employee in any team, making sure that your workplace doesn’t fall into these traps should be at the top of your list. Not doing so can make or break your team, and in some cases, your company.

Here at Qatalog, we partnered with researchers at Cornell University’s Ellis Idea Lab to research how software affects how we manage, access, share and create knowledge at work.

  1. Technology traps knowledge: employees are digging through cloud storage systems, scouring message channels, and cycling through tabs, wasting around 59 minutes per day.

  2. Apps restrict access to knowledge: 54% of people say that applications can sometimes make it harder to find information and 58% of people report that they’re not certain all departments use the same online apps.

  3. Software impairs knowledge sharing: 49% of people report concerns that important information will get lost and one in two are uncertain the information will reach the intended audience.

  4. Tools complicate the creation of knowledge: 43% of people report spending too much time switching between different online tools and applications, and 48% report making mistakes because they can’t keep track of information stored across online tools and apps.

Does your team have a central source of truth to face these problem

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