How To Maintain a Collaborative Remote Culture

Running a team of employees isn’t easy—they all have their own working styles and individual quirks. As a manager, that can take a bit of getting used to. But what happens when your office is suddenly remote? How do you keep your team inspired, productive and united when they’re no longer in the same building? It may seem like a bit of an impossible task, but there are ways for you to keep your team feeling connected and collaborative despite the distance. And that’s so important in a time where we’re all feeling isolated and slightly disjointed.

Not sure where to start? There are a variety of things your charity can do to help employees collaborate on projects and stay in touch throughout the workweek. It’s all about creating a routine and making sure everyone gets involved.

1. Ask everyone to work the same hours

One of the benefits of working remotely is that everyone can set their own schedule. But if there isn’t much overlap within a team, it can be hard to collaborate. Consider a fundraising team that has two people. One is an early bird, so that person gets up at the break of day and does most of their work before lunch. But the other is more of a night owl, so they don’t wake up until the middle of the morning. Suddenly, it becomes more difficult for that team to sync up.

If you previously offered flexible working hours, it might be worth asking your new remote team to work set hours instead. That way, there’s no gap in communication—everyone is online and available at the same time. Of course, if there are outside factors that make this difficult (caring responsibilities, for example), then by all means, continue to be flexible.

working the same hours - collaborative remote culture

2. Use a messaging app

A team messaging app like Slack or Microsoft Teams is a great way to communicate in real-time. Your employees can send messages, hold video calls and get responses in minutes. And the added touch of being able to see someone’s face during a call means your team can feel a bit less isolated—you’re in less of a bubble when you still have some ‘face-to-face’ interaction!

It’s easy to set up accounts for everyone, and you can ask that they keep the messaging app open while working. If anyone needs to get some feedback or a second set of eyes on a project, you can easily share your screen and get the help/insights you’re after.

3. Host virtual meetings and socials

Worried you won’t be able to run brainstorms or have weekly team catch-ups? Well, that’s simply not the case. With apps like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype, you can plan and host virtual meetings and even social events to keep your team involved. Essentially, virtual video calls mean you can still meet with your team as if you were in the same room. These calls are great for discussing upcoming projects, organising volunteer activities, hashing out budgets, planning fundraising campaigns or even just having a team coffee to unwind.

Why not use Zoom for a little happy hour at the end of the week? Collaboration isn’t just about connectivity, it’s about morale. And having these virtual catch-ups is a great way for your team to see and interact with each other. You can even get your volunteers involved—host a virtual meeting to thank them for all their hard work and allow your team to see, first hand, everything they’ve accomplished remotely.

Virtual meeting - collaborative remote culture

3. Share files with the cloud

Tools like Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft SharePoint have made remote collaboration extremely easy. You can create a document or folder in Google Drive and share it with your team in an instant—no strings attached. As long as you grant access to the link, your employees can access files, which means you can skip the hassle of emailing files back and forth.

And if you want someone to provide feedback or proofread something, just grant them editing permissions and they’re good to go. You don’t need to download any complicated software or connect to a particular server—it’s all cloud-based. That means your team can connect anywhere, at any time.

4. Consider using a project management tool

Before going remote, you probably had weekly catch-ups to go through team projects. Well now, you can do that virtually. If you want to make sure everyone knows what to prioritise and what’s in the backlog, it might be worth investing in a project management tool.

Programs like Trello and Asana have desktop versions and mobile apps, so your whole team can use them. Trello even has a free option if you don’t have a budget for a new tool. You can create different sections for various teams or projects. Employees then can comment on tasks or move them to the appropriate place to track their status. That way, you can see how well various projects are moving along. If something isn’t progressing, you will know to step in.

5. Digitise your accounting

When it comes to your finance department, you don’t need to rely on paper files any longer. Instead, you can use a digital non-profit accounting software to track your revenue and expenses. While keeping paper records can help when technology fails, it’s hard to do when you work remotely.

Using software means that multiple people can access the information and make changes. If one finance officer has to call out of work, the rest of the team can step in and fill that role. And you don’t have to worry about employees scanning or emailing paper files.

Change is necessary, but consistency is key

Running a remote team isn’t easy, and collaboration can seem impossible. But it can work well if you use the right tools. It’s all about finding the right fit for you and your charity. So test things out and see what works. If you find that you need more video meetings, you should include more in the schedule. On the other hand, if your chosen project management tool isn’t easy to use, you can switch to another one.

A collaborative culture can be what makes employees stay at a job and going remote doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice that. Keep these things in mind when running a remote team and you’ll be on the right track in no time.

Tags: charity office, collaborative culture, remote working, supporting your team

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About the author

Kevin Gardner

Kevin Gardner graduated with a BS in Computer Science and an MBA from UCLA. He works as a business consultant for InnovateBTS, where he helps companies and non-profits integrate technology to improve performance. When he isn’t at work or with his family, he spends time mentoring other business students, helping them to network and build strong resumes and CVs.