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Person on a laptop working remotely on a video call

2020 has been the year of remote work without a doubt. Love it or hate it, countless people about the world have been thrown in the WFH life due to COVID-19. For those of us who were freelancing long before the pandemic, though, working remotely is an art we’ve already perfected.

If you’re new to the game and struggling to maintain teamwork over the digital airwaves, try these tips.

Establish Core Work Hours

Remote working often comes with more flexibility with your working hours, especially for freelancers who can set our own hours. When you’re working with a team, though, there are limits.

Let’s say one person works the typical 9-5 while someone else prefers 6 pm through 2 am. If that second worker has a question at 7 pm, they’re stuck waiting until the next day before their co-worker responds and they can proceed with their work.

Instead, take everyone’s time zones into account to create core work hours, maybe 12 pm through 4 pm. All team members must have those hours in their workday but otherwise, they can tweak their hours however they choose.

Agree on One Set of Tech Tools

There are countless collaboration tools out there and everyone has their preferences. For collaborative projects, though, everyone needs to be on the same page. If, for instance, varying team members use Slack, email, Google Chat, and other online chat products, one person could reach out on a platform that other team members aren’t checking.

Instead, choose a singular set of tools. That means one place for storing files, one communication method, one project management or task management tool, and so on.

Try Shared Storage Drives

Speaking of everyone using one tool, a shared digital storage drive is a must for teamwork. The entire team’s work is stored in one place that everyone can access. There’s no need to email files back and forth because it’s all there already. Plus, if someone’s computer takes a dive, they don’t lose any work because it’s all stored digitally.

Use an Online Chat System

Online chats are crucial for remote communication. For one, they put everything in writing. If someone forgets what was decided for a particular part of the project, they can go back and check.

These chats also help with team communication because they’re usable on phones as well as computers. That means each person can set up their workspace in the way that works best for them while keeping everything organized in one place.

Create Group Task Lists

Sometimes the most challenging part of remote collaboration and project management is keeping an eye on who’s doing what and when, while making sure everything gets done. To settle those struggles, try my strategy.

First, have one person in charge of combing through the project and proposing a breakdown of all tasks needed for your project. Then, have a team meeting to go over that list so everyone can weigh in or make changes.

When you’ve all agreed on the task list, assign a team member and deadline to each task to keep the project moving. Finally, use a shared task management list to track all those items (including the deadlines and assigned team members). This way, everyone can see who’s working on what when and track the project’s progress in real-time.

Use Video Calls (Sparingly)

Video chat sessions can be extremely helpful for remote teams in some circumstances. For instance, they’re perfect for that meeting to go over a proposed task list and plan a project or to brainstorm and discuss big picture ideas.

Limit them to those situations when they’re truly necessary, though. “Zoom fatigue” is real, folks, and it can zap all your creative or productive energy. Be sure you schedule those video calls in advance too, so anyone working from home can get to a quiet space.

Make Time for Chats

One thing remote workers often miss is the general chatter of an office – employees getting to know each other over water coolers and coffee breaks. It might seem unnecessary, but these simple convos make for great team building.

You get to know each other in a friendly way, developing a rapport, learning how each other communicates, and building respect for each other. That will help you collaborate effectively.

In a digital setting, try holding “water cooler sessions” dedicated to chatting with the team, or occasional digital activities like trivia or game sessions. Team members will get to know each other while also blowing off some steam, and that’s something we could all use.

Developing Your Collaboration Strategies

Learning how to collaborate remotely is a critical skill for any freelancer (and pretty much anyone in the midst of COVID-19, if we’re being honest). Using the tips above and getting to know different digital tools will go a long way toward making any project run more smoothly.

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