Working from home has become common as more businesses offer flexible working arrangements. So it is important to learn how to collaborate and communicate without your team being in the same place.

There will be many options for your team to work together, so you’ll need to decide what is most productive.

Collaborate using technology

Technology may be able to help you operate areas of your business in new ways. For instance, with collaborate tools you can:

  • work with team members across offices, venues or sites
  • maintain strong record-keeping practices
  • have oversight and visibility across key projects

You’ll need to be clear of the expectations you have of the new technology. Adding online collaboration technology can’t solve all business problems. For example, a plumber can’t fix a leaking tap remotely. But it is still important for business owners to plan for remote working where possible.

Consider security guidance

Operating online means your team will be interacting with each other over the internet. So you’ll need to consider how to keep your business safe.

Actions to reduce your risk include:

  • Installing a good antivirus solution on company devices. This will help protect against viruses infecting the device.
  • Installing updates to programs and operating systems as soon as possible. They may contain fixes for security issues found since the last update.
  • Ensure that your wi-fi connection encrypted and not open for anyone to connect to. Open connections make it easier for malicious activities to occur.
  • Change your router login and password. Keeping the default settings makes it easier for someone to access your router.
  • Use a company virtual private network (VPN) ⁠when you conduct work activities from outside your office network. VPNs encrypt your traffic and prevents outsiders from reading your data.
  • Make sure you and your team always lock your devices before you leave them alone. This is a simple way to stop others from accessing information on your computer when you’re not there.
  • Stay vigilant for suspicious email messages. They may look very convincing but could contain malicious file attachments or links. If anyone is ever unsure, they should contact the sender before opening.

You should consider providing security guidance to your employees if they are remote working. As it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep your workplace secure and safe.

Learn the tools

Before you add any new tools or processes to your business, you should consider how to introduce them and how to use them consistently. Not all your team will have the skills to adopt a new technology. Consistency of use will help your team to understand that this is the new way of working sooner.

Some of the ways you can introduce new technology to your team are:

  • Run an experimentation ⁠period. Choose a week or a month and then ask your team to use the tool. After the experiment is complete, review the advantages and disadvantages as a group.
  • Provide introduction training sessions. These may help staff who are reluctant to use new technology, understand the benefits. Many training sessions are available for free on digital suppliers’ websites.
  • Lead by example. As the business owner you’re responsible for the culture of your business. If you use new technologies first, your employees may follow you and also use the technology.

Maintain good communication

Using digital tools to collaborate may mean communicating with your team online more often.

When working in an office, your employees can interact with you in different ways about different topics. You may:

  • have a chat in the kitchen about your weekend, family or pets
  • watch your body language when listening to an important message
  • send an email and then immediately come over to discuss the content

These interactions give your team the opportunity to build rapport and trust with you. But when using digital tools to communicate, it’s easy to:

  • forget to check in with team members
  • conduct all communication through text mediums, such as email
  • misinterpret the meaning of text-based communication

If you’re adding collaborative technology, consider how you’ll interact with your team. Strategies may include you:

  • scheduling recurring activities, such as team meetings or regular individual check-ins
  • embracing the awkwardness of online meetings and being as natural as possible
  • communicating using different mediums such as emails, instant messaging or video conferencing
  • trying to engage with topics that aren’t related to work.

It’s important to remember that some employees use the office environment to socialise with each other. Working together online may see some staff thrive, while others struggle.

You can help your team through this by ensuring you have strategies and resources available.

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Define goals

For your business to achieve its goals when remote working, you and your team must trust one another. You may need to change from a time-based way of working, to one based on outcomes.

Remote working may provide your business with productivity gains. As collaboration tools can help you find and communicate the goals the team needs to achieve. As a business owner, you can use collaboration tools to give you greater oversight of your projects and goals.