Time Management and Online Communication as Means of Collaboration Between Remote Team Members

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Recently remote work saw a spike in popularity it had never seen before. For some businesses, perhaps, switching to a remote mode was the only way to stay afloat since the COVID-19 pandemic hit most industries quite hard. But if the past two months’ observations have taught us anything, it’s that the so-called “home-office” or WFH (work from home) has proven efficient, achievable and has its benefits for both the employers and employees. 

Working remotely was a climbing trend even before the global quarantine – especially for IT professionals such as web developers – but now it is likely to stick around as best practice for a lot of companies. This is why, giant corporations like Twitter and Square have announced that their workers have now the option of working from home for as long as they want while Amazon and Google told their employees they can do home office till the end of 2020.

There are studies like this one from Stanford, showing that working remotely increases overall employee productivity. It often gives them the freedom to align their work with their schedule, sync it with their most productive hours and do it in the comfort of their own homes. It cuts a whole lot of office costs for the employer and lets them into a larger talent pool through outsourcing. 

Having the option of working remotely gives the employee a better work/life balance, takes the commute time out of the equation and allows for better time management on both sides. Let’s not forget that fewer people having to commute means less carbon emissions and is therefore good for the environment. So, win-win-win.

For WFH to be a best practice, however, there needs to be a well-established collaboration routine between all the teams and stakeholders of the company. Some businesses have been working on this for a long time while some companies were forced to jumpstart their remote collaboration systems by the pandemic. One thing is certain: a huge number of businesses have now understood the importance of and adapted some of the numerous communication and time-management tools for their teams.

Outsourcing software development projects and programming outsourcing have been a norm and even preferred go-to method for a while, and a whole cluster of Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania have capitalized on this majorly and keep improving it. 

If yours is a business that is just now looking to hire a remote team of IT professionals for a project of continuous work, there are offshore software development centers like Qubit Labs that help companies all over the world build offshore developer teams and create cost-efficient outsourcing models for businesses of any kind, while navigating them through the entirety of the project from the side lines. You can focus on the main objective while the professionals at Qubit Labs will take care of recruitment and scaling, administrative or legal questions and even accounting for you. 

This Ukraine-based soft-dev center offers teams of top-tier and specially selected Ukrainian developers to join your team remotely and build up your business digitally. Qubit Labs will also help you establish a stable and efficient system of communication and collaboration with all of your teams.

Here are some tips from the Qubit Labs specialists on how to improve the levels of communication within your own organization and how to achieve better team results using simple but efficient tools:

How to Improve Online Communication and Time Management

  • Try to eliminate spam from your communication. Collect your message into a single informative email on the topic rather than spamming colleagues with emails and follow-ups. Everyone hates email, it’s a universal truth, so the fewer emails you confine your messages to, the bigger chance you have to receive a fast and coherent response back. If everyone on the team resorts to thorough yet to-the-point emails strictly on the matter, you’ll save yourself and each other a whole lot of time and potentially unlock new levels of productivity. 

Often, regardless of their priority, emails can get lost in spam, so it’s a good idea to adapt a professional messenger system like Slack as a mean of team communication. You’ll be able to separate the communication into channels. (ex.: development channel, marketing channel, general channel, project x channel, etc) and thus quickly discuss any matter with a specific stakeholder group in real time, without composing long emails.

Alternatively, secure your email with email security protocols – DMARC, DKIM and SPF to avoid the spam folder and make your email stand out.

  • Express your message in one coherent thought, be clear and concise. Do not use abbreviations or slang unless they are professionalisms. Use the simplest appropriate language – the goal is to relay information, not to parade your extensive vocabulary and poetic nature. 

Choose a polite and approachable tone for your correspondence, but distinguish between email language and instant messaging language. Save all the casual for Slack. Though even in casual conversation, keep it to the point and save your inner poet and philosopher for the team buildings and other get-togethers. In a work environment everyone appreciates the gist and will likely pay you back with the same conciseness if you put effort in structuring your thoughts, requests and tasks.

  • Introduce a habit of writing down daily updates – things that were done, plans for the next day, what you weren’t able to do and why. Create a digital agenda (it can even be a simple Word file, but there are plenty of user-friendly digital and analog day planners) and after completing a task, no matter how large, take a small note in your agenda describing any note-worthy details about it. This could do wonders for your productivity and satisfaction levels. 

Seeing all the work done is a natural motivator while putting it down in words will make it clearer in your own mind, allowing you to better relay this information later. Together with the team, pick a time to share these updates every day. This will help everyone stay up to date on the grand scheme of the project and reduce unnecessary yet often inevitable questions like “Who is responsible for this?” and “Who do I ask about that?”. You can use tools like Trello.

  • Keep team communication personal through weekly video calls ( with Zoom or Google Meet) to help the team feel bonded and be able to discuss any problems or questions and solve them faster together. 

Your team members might be scattered all over the world, but thanks to modern technology that’s no longer a problem as long as you allow and align time. Being on different continents doesn’t mean you can’t get to know each other and talk to them in real time. 

On the contrary, it’s essential that you and your hired offshore team get together regularly and discuss the project, share concerns, brainstorm ideas and simply chat and establish a human connection. Don’t forget to include team building activities! Since the pandemic hit and forced us all into our bedroom/living room/attic offices, there have been numerous articles written on virtual team buildings, like this one. Meanwhile, tools like Calendly will help with scheduling.

How to Improve the Final Results of Online Team Collaboration

  • Give clear tasks with deadlines (task managers like Trello can help here, too). School and college instilled a certain terror of deadlines in many of us, but once on our first jobs, just as many of us realize how helpful and motivating deadlines are. Clearly structuring the work process is immensely helpful. 

Nothing demotivates more than an unclear task given in a rush and lacking a deadline. Show your team that you have put thought into every task and understand why this or that needs to be done. When you don’t understand something however, engage in discussion, ask questions and show interest in what each member of your team is working on. They’re working on your idea after all! 

For tracking the working process, create some labels such as – “Backlog”, “In progress”, “Done” – name the person responsible and always give feedback on the final result. You do pay your team for the work, but some extra effort in structuring and motivation goes a long way.

  • Manage the time spent on the work process (using Clockify or Toggl). Why try and invent the wheel coming up with your own (potentially complicated and flawed) tracking system when there are clean and user-friendly apps created for this already? You can escape complicated tracking, reporting and billing operations by combining them in one software. These are usually free and don’t have a limit on the number of users, so you’re covered no matter how big your offshore team is. If needed, it can help you keep track of your team’s timesheets and billable hours if there’s an hourly rate in place, project completion, reports, schedules and more. It will also generate weekly, monthly & annual reports for your team. 

Structure is everything these days. Time audit will help the team adhere better to a daily schedule and show you how much time was spent on a certain task in order to adjust deadlines and increase flexibility. This way everyone will be able to plan their work better, which all comes back to the increase in general productivity.

  • Do not multitask. Contrary to what we might learn in college or from some of our first employers, multitasking is not the ultimate skill everyone should passionately pursue. It’s not a bad skill to have but it’s not the skill making you qualified or not to do most things. Some scientists even argue the concept of multitasking is not exactly real. 

When we’re listening to a podcast or watching a movie and receive a text message, while reading it we don’t pay attention to what we’re hearing – our brains are focusing on reading and answering the text and we’ll have to rewind the movie or podcast if we miss something crucial. Our brain can switch tasks very fast, still focusing on one thing at a time, it just happens so quickly sometimes that we take it for simultaneous actions, while we really aren’t capable of focusing on multiple things at once. And the fact is, constantly switching tasks negatively affects our productivity. 

There are multiple studies showing the array of negative effects of “multitasking” Having clear tasks for yourself and your team and having everyone approach them in a certain order can do wonders for the general productivity levels. Do not ask your team members to tackle several tasks at once. It’s important that you let them prioritize tasks or, if necessary, do it for them.

Working with remote teams has undeniable advantages and can hike up the productivity of the whole enterprise. It is just important to remember that once the element of physical proximity and face-to-face interaction is taken away, there should be extra attention paid to establishing a functional communication and collaboration system. 

Always keep in mind that you’re a team, just like you would have been in an office and most rules apply just the same. Nobody cancelled common courtesy, everyone is still a unique individual with a background and a life outside of work. Establishing a trustworthy and pleasant environment virtually is just as important as doing it within the walls of an office. 

Online Water Cooler Chat

Sometimes you just have to get creative – make a digital “water cooler chat” area and time for your team, exchange bits of trivia about places you all are physically located in, share photos of a weekend hike or a fun graffiti in your town. There are many ways to keep things professional while having a well-bonded team behind you, and communication is key to this balance.

One small bit of help in navigating the balance might be a book by Craig Weber called “Conversational Capacity”.  You can also learn about more tools to help you team collaboration improve in our recent article on “How to Effectively Communicate with the Offshore Development Team for Best Results”

About the author

Iva Kozlovskaya is a Managing Partner of Qubit Labs, a software development company that focuses on building dedicated teams and mini R&D centers in Ukraine. Mrs. Kozlovska has been working in human resources and management from the beginning of her career path. Nowadays Iva runs her company that helps clients from the USA, Europe, and the Middle East to establish their development teams in Ukraine.

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