Team working remotely? Try this unusual yet effective meeting style for real-time collaboration

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Posted Apr 14, 2021

While most of us are ready for life to go back to normal, one aspect of the pandemic that is here to stay is remote work. A lot of companies have seen the benefits of allowing their workforce to work from home, and they’re choosing to remain fully or at least partly remote. 

A survey from 451 Research found that more than two-thirds of companies plan to make remote work permanent after the pandemic has ended,  while a recent study of 500 employees showed that 43.8 percent of respondents want to continue working from home. 

Even those who continue to maintain an office space now have the experience and knowledge to support remote work in the future.  

aytm has always been fully remote, with team members across the globe. As such, we are very familiar with working from home—and the challenges that come with it. However, we’ve recently uncovered an incredible idea to help remote teams function more efficiently and effectively.

The Challenges of Remote Teamwork

We’ve all seen the dozens—if not hundreds—of articles with tips for staying sane while working from home. Usually, these tips focus on increased communication, more face-to-face time, and creating connections.

For example, SHRM’s ‘10 Tips for Successfully Managing Remote Workers’ include tips such as:

  • Build connections and be available to the team
  • Emphasize communication
  • Acknowledge the “delicate balance between constantly pinging employees… and radio silence”

Another article from Forbes recommends that team leaders do the following:

  • Schedule daily check-ins
  • Over-communicate
  • Take advantage of technology

aytm COO, Shanon Adams, even threw her hat in the ring, recently offering some great tips to help remote leaders create connections with fun, hobby-related Slack channels and establish boundaries on communication, like understanding when video is and isn’t necessary in meetings.

While all of these tips are helpful, they often overlook another issue. 

The Problem with Meetings

aytm’s Product Strategy team recognized a need that few have addressed: we wanted to collaborate and connect more without the hassle of setting up individual meetings.

Every remote worker knows how hard it can be to set up a meeting with team members. Working from home means everyone has their own schedule, and you have to find a time and day that works for everyone involved. 

On the flip side, it’s possible to have too many meetings. If you’ve ever started a meeting with “What are we talking about today?” and no one had an answer, you probably didn’t need to meet.

Like the SHRM article mentioned, you have to find a balance between over and under communicating. Your team needs to know what’s happening, but you don’t want to waste their time with pointless meetings.

Working Together While Apart

Our team found a great solution that balances over and under communicating. We call it ‘Working Together.’

Twice a week, we have an hour and a half meeting on our calendars. It’s an optional meeting where team members can drop in, join with their camera, and just work.

Sometimes, we sit and work in silence, and sometimes, a couple of us chat and collaborate about a challenge we’re facing while others work. Other times, we engage in friendly banter while we work individually.

Why This Works

Our Working Together meetings simulate working next to each other in an office space. We have the opportunity to collaborate organically rather than trying to force it in a scheduled meeting. 

It strikes the right balance between not meeting enough and meeting too much. We can communicate with each other as needed, just like we would in an office setting, but we aren’t wasting time. We can still get our work done while we’re in the meeting.

It helps us stay aware of each other and what we’re working on. When someone gets stuck, it’s easy for another team member to chime in with a possible solution. 

In standard remote meetings, those spontaneous collaborations wouldn’t happen. You can’t plan when you’re going to have an idea, right?

Much like in a physical office, we have the opportunity to build better personal connections with each other. Seeing your team members once or twice a week and having the option to chat lets you get to know the people you work with better.

Our Working Together meetings are a great way to encourage organic collaboration and communication. We can all get our work done while letting conversation and ideas flow naturally. It’s helped us build a stronger team, and it makes it easier for team members to think up innovative solutions to collaborative challenges.

Try Working Together

Instead of forcing collaboration with scheduled meetings, try letting your team Work Together. Mimic that office environment and allow collaboration to appear naturally. 

This problem, and our solution, has shown us that most of us are stuck in the box of what we think remote work should look like. We have to step outside of that box and find new solutions that truly meet the needs of our teams. 

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