Why real-time collaboration is more necessary than ever

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We don’t need to tell you that how we work has totally changed over the last year. More than ever, teams have had to adapt to a new normal and learn how to achieve real-time collaboration without actually being together. 

With companies going (and staying) remote, it’s more important than ever to implement real-time collaboration tools and create spaces to help your team communicate effectively.

That’s because when your team is dispersed or doesn't have the right tools, getting stuff done can be an uphill battle. Companies that collaborate effectively are more likely to be successful, so it's essential to know how to empower your team to work together. 

In this piece, we're going to look at:

  • The challenges of real-time collaboration

  • How to master collaboration

  • 4 tools to boost team collaboration 

Let's get productive

The challenges of real-time collaboration

Even before COVID-19 hit, offices were disappearing or dispersing and companies were figuring out how to work remotely. 

At the start of 2019, over half of the world’s employees worked remotely at least once a week; relishing a shorter commute and enjoying a more proportionate work/life balance.

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Since then, the number of people working remotely has only increased. 

With this comes a challenge for companies: how do you keep your team collaborating effectively when they're not physically together? 

The challenges are real:  

Employees need a solid structure. People love working remotely, but they miss the structure working in an office environment brings. Something as simple as a daily, regular check-in call can help avoid siloed workflows and encourage your team to communicate with each other.

They want better tools. Without the right toolkit, real-time collaboration is nearly impossible. 35% of people say they need better tools to collaborate effectively. Document handling is a particular gripe: 93% of employees say they need a better way to organize and collaborate on documents with their changing working environments.

They still want to feel like part of a team. No amount of software or virtual coffee catch-ups can replace the human interaction an office provides, so it's only natural that your team will miss working together in person. Real-time collaboration tools are the best way to fill this void by taking advantage of features like activity feeds, instant messaging, and @mentions.

Luckily, the challenges of real-time collaboration in our new working environment can be overcome. 

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How to master real-time collaboration

Leveling up your collaboration efforts isn't quite an "on-off" switch of a solution. But there are ways to get team members involved without seeming too over the top or forceful.

The following three points should help you get your collaboration game started off on the right foot:

1. Get your team on the same page

When improving your real-time collaboration, the most crucial step is to make sure you manage your team's expectations. 

If your team is transitioning to a remote or dispersed workplace, be crystal clear about when and how you expect them to talk with the rest of the team. 

Without everyone on the same page, miscommunication and confusion will take over and productivity will likely be impacted. 

Pro Tip: Encourage your team to ask questions. Keep your door (physical or virtual) open. Mistakes and delays are inevitable, but if you remain proactive about any issues that arise, it will be much easier to come up with a solution and stay ahead of grievances.

2. Be clear about how your team should communicate

Should they reply in a chat app? Use email? Collaborate in a spreadsheet?

You need to be clear about where your team should talk to each other and make it a priority to carve out space for them to do it. 

For example, instead of holding lengthy meetings, encourage people to time block their calendars and have "meeting-free" days to boost focus and productivity.

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Other tools like visual communication, task boards, and editable documents make it easier for your team to talk to each other and pass along information. 

Mentions, due dates, and assigned tasks also help keep everything organized. The best part about communicating like this is that it keeps your team on track without spending hours (or days) in meetings.

The only real way to do this is to get out of your inbox and move your communications into a real-time collaboration tool. This brings us to our next point.

3. Invest in the right toolkit

Your team’s real-time collaboration will only succeed with the right tech stack. 

The reality is that email just isn’t going to cut it. Your team needs tools that help organize attachments, alert them when tasks are due, and give them an easy way to chat with each other. 

It's also essential to make sure the real-time collaboration tool you pick fits your team's needs. If you work with a lot of images, you'll want software that can add suggestions and comments to assets.

And for teams that produce content, having a tool that enables them to collaborate in documents should be at the top of your list. 

Here’s what real-time collaboration looks like within the content production hub here at Teamwork:

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Each task (and its details) are kept inside a card. Then, the content manager assigns the task to a writer and attaches a due date. When the writer (me!) is finished, it's added as a Google Doc into the card, and the strategist is alerted using a @mention:

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 At that point, the editor and manager collaborate inside the task card until the piece of content is ready to publish. Everything is kept in one place, all of the documents and images are attached to the card, and the due dates and expectations are clear, so there isn't any confusion. 

4 tools to boost your team's real-time collaboration 

We’ve already explored how real-time collaboration, especially in a remote team, can be challengings. 

If you don't have a clear plan for how your team should communicate and collaborate, you risk forming silos and people feeling disconnected from their tasks. 

This is a big problem for project managers as well. If your team isn't constantly checking in and telling you what they're working on, it's almost impossible to track their productivity and resource utilization levels. 

The good news is that with the right tech stack, successful real-time collaboration is within reach.

Here are a few of our favorite tools you can use to make it happen

1. Teamwork

It’s no surprise that Teamwork is at the top of our list. 

We use it for everything. If it's not in Teamwork, it's not getting done. Communication is centralized inside the platform (we try to avoid email and stick to channels connected inside the tool). Everything from tasks to calendars and status updates happens in a single dashboard. 

Using Teamwork, you can build boards and inside them, assign tasks to team members, set due dates, and keep projects on track:

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 If your company juggles several projects at a time or wants to build separate areas for each team to collaborate, Teamwork Spaces has got you covered. Using Spaces, you can create, collaborate and edit documents, share content internally, and even seek feedback from clients. 

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2. Slack

The biggest struggle with real-time collaboration is that your team just misses talking to one another, brainstorming ideas, and building relationships. 

Slack has your back. It’s a communication tool that helps teams boost their internal communication without getting caught up in unnecessary email trails. 

It's customizable, so you can set it up to suit your company's needs. You can create separate channels so your team can talk about everything from marketing to company announcements, financials, and even social events. 

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You can also ditch meetings for good and keep track of what everyone is up to with Slack's morning stand-up feature. Each morning, a message will be sent out automatically, asking everyone to give a quick update on what they're working on and if they have any issues.

Project managers can then track productivity and fix any issues without gathering everyone on a morning call. And the best part, Slack integrates with Teamwork to give you the best of both worlds for your different software.

3. Hubspot

Real-time collaboration is the best way to turn a lead into a paying customer for sales and marketing teams. 

HubSpot is the perfect tool to coordinate all of your sales and marketing team's efforts so they can build relationships with leads and close deals. As a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, it has features like deal nurturing, email, and a directory to store information about prospects. 

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Sales and marketing teams can also create tasks and send alerts for each other, so it's easier to join forces and close a deal, even when you aren't in the same office together. 

4. Google Workspace

Google's suite of tools, including Docs, Sheets, and Slides, allows teams to work collaboratively on just about any content project. The company says businesses spend 76% of their time in Google Docs working collaboratively, and it’s easy to see why. 

Inside Google Docs, you can add comments, chat, and edit content in real-time. You’ll be able to see who else is looking at the document when you are working on it, and changes are tracked so you can see what has been amended (and when) thanks to timestamps.

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It's perfect if your team is on the move as well, as you can set it to offline mode. Once the offline mode is enabled, your team can work on documents without an internet connection, and next time they are online, any changes will be uploaded automatically. 

Be ready to collaborate – anywhere

Time will tell how long we will be working in dispersed or remote teams, but if the trends are anything to go by—this is our new normal.

Teams spread across different time zones or that don't have an office need to prioritize their real-time collaboration efforts. Without a clear working structure, a sense of team bonding, and most importantly, the right tools, this can be an uphill battle. 

The good news? There are so many tools out there right now to help teams collaborate on tasks, nurture leads, and keep projects on track. As soon as you choose the right tool for your team, you're ready to get started.

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