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Virtual Collaboration: Benefits, Best Practices and Tools

May 27, 2024

virtual collab

Virtual collaboration isn’t a trend – it’s here to stay.

Let’s take remote work, for instance. Remote work has seen a 44% growth in the last five years alone – and for good reason. More and more, companies have come to realize that employees don’t need to physically be in the office to make an impact. Employees are taking notice too, finding that it’s easier to have a good work-life balance without commuting to and from a physical office.

That said, remote work is only able to go mainstream thanks to the virtual event software available today that allow people from all around the world to connect effortlessly and instantaneously.

In a virtual collaboration arrangement, employers get to reap the benefits of cost savings and the increased productivity of remote workers. Given these pros of virtual collaboration, let’s take a deeper dive into the topic to both define it and to identify actionable ways your company can reap the benefits of such an arrangement.

Virtual collaboration enables teams to communicate, share information, and work on projects in real-time or asynchronously through the digital space.

This approach to collaboration is increasingly prevalent with the rise of remote work and global teams. Virtual collaboration tools often provide features such as screen sharing, virtual whiteboards, document sharing, and real-time editing, to facilitate a dynamic and interactive work environment.

With virtual collaboration, participants can overcome traditional barriers of distance and time, allowing flexible and diverse team structures.

What are the benefits of virtual collaboration?

Collaborating remotely costs less, as companies can use these arrangements to reduce or erase overhead costs such as rent, utilities, and internet costs. Mastering virtual collaboration also means streamlining operations.

Rolling out appropriate collaboration tools and systems can minimize manual admin tasks, giving team members the bandwidth to focus on more meaningful work that creates deliverables, wows customers, and drives greater revenue.

  • Increased flexibility: Employees can work from anywhere, anytime. This allows for flexible work schedules and can improve work-life balance. 
  • Cost savings: Organizations can save on overhead costs such as rent, utilities, and office supplies. Additionally, employees can save money on commuting, food, and wardrobe expenses.
  • Global talent pool: A virtual work environment can also be a great catalyst for attracting top talent. Since your company isn’t confined to your local pool of potential applicants, you can cast a wider net and fill roles with ideal candidates, improve cross-cultural communication, instead of settling for those in close proximity.
  • Reduced travel time: Virtual meetings eliminate the need for travel, saving time and resources that would otherwise be spent on transportation.
  • Increased productivity: Virtual collaboration tools can help streamline workflows and minimize time wasted on unnecessary meetings and communications. Some people also find they can focus better without the distractions of a traditional office.
  • Scalability: As a business grows, virtual collaboration solutions can typically scale more easily to accommodate more team members and projects than physical office spaces.
  • Document sharing: Virtual collaboration often includes cloud-based file sharing, which can improve document control, version management, instant messaging, and real-time collaboration on documents.
  • Team diversity: Remote collaboration allows for diverse teams in terms of geography, culture, and perspectives, which can lead to more innovative ideas and team collaboration. 
  • Better tracking of tasks and projects: Many virtual collaboration tools offer sophisticated project management features that allow for tracking progress, deadlines, and responsibilities more effectively.

Virtual collaboration best practices 

Successful virtual collaboration grows out of effective habits. Team members demand guidance and structure, so having a clear onboarding plan, a regular cadence of meeting times, and the right tools in place can make all the difference in the outcomes associated with your digital collaboration efforts.

Have regular check-ins with teammates and direct reports

Weekly one-on-ones are essential to keeping your workforce happy and productive. For direct reports, consider one-on-one time “their time” to talk about whatever they want. If they want to dive into the nitty-gritty details of a project or vent about a client’s unrealistic expectations, it’s best to sit back and lend an empathetic ear.

With virtual teams, it’s especially important to defend this time and avoid canceling or rescheduling. Remember, remote team members don’t have the luxury of seeing you around the office for sidebar conversations.

Since one-on-one time is your team’s time, it’s imperative you have regularly scheduled meetings to broadcast announcements outside of these sessions. For projects, it’s best to give a set time and date for meetings and a clear meeting agenda so that people can prepare in advance. For one-off messages that are time-sensitive, you can create “virtual stand-ups” which give you a platform and five to 15 minutes to brief your team together.

Maximizing the effectiveness of your virtual meetings comes down to taking detailed notes, which can help you remember to circle back on essential conversations or refresh your memory before future virtual collaboration sessions.

Take a cue from Bill Clinton, who was known for being good at taking detailed notes. After meeting someone new, Clinton would often handwrite conversation details on note cards and file them for later. Then, he reviewed his cards regularly in order to make connections, reach out with personal follow-ups, or just let people know he was thinking about them.

Some attribute Clinton’s political success in part to this type of meticulous note-taking. On a smaller scale, you can leverage the strategy with your virtual team to build tighter bonds and make meetings more productive.

Keep a notebook handy, and write down interesting details about your meetings, attendees’ lives, their work habits, what’s bothering them, what they’re excited about, and their goals. Fill out notes during the call and give those notes a quick glance before your next encounter to ensure important details aren’t missed.

Share important documents and give each person access

Leverage project management software or storage management tools to keep everyone on the same page – literally. From day one, all new hires should have access to your chosen software and have the correct permission set so that they don’t hit roadblocks when they’re mid-project.

For maximum collaboration, create an onboarding program that lays out exactly how the document sharing tool works and, more importantly, how your company specifically uses it. This one step alone can save a lot of headaches and cut down on back-and-forth tremendously. If you’re leveraging templates, you should also ensure they’re locked so that no one can overwrite them by mistake.

Keep finite start and end work times as you would in the office

Working virtually can lead to slacking or a tendency to work overtime, as team members who work from home have a tendency to blur the lines between their work and personal lives. To aid your team, push hard on maintaining a work-life balance. Set specific working hours in stone from the beginning and enforce them.

With remote teams, it can be challenging to navigate time zone differences, so finding a happy medium of core hours during which people are expected to be online and available can be a great compromise.

That said, depending on your company’s structure or deliverables, you may not need to define strict “working” hours. Employees may prefer to be judged on performance and may work better on what Paul Graham refers to as a Maker’s Schedule where the day is blocked in increments of 3-4 uninterrupted hours for maximum productivity.

schedule back-to-back

Source

Yet, even in this case, core hours can still be set to make sure people are available via messaging tools in order to keep active projects flowing. It’s also wise to set parameters for average response times, such as “All emails should be responded to within 24 hours and all messages within four hours.”

Host virtual get-togethers for brainstorming and communication

The overall effectiveness of your virtual collaboration initiatives stems from your team’s ability to mesh with each other. Every video chat doesn’t have to be purpose-driven or follow a formal meeting structure. You can also use your sessions to brainstorm project hang-ups, troubleshoot inefficient processes, or simply get to know each other.

Virtual “happy hours” are all the rage, now that video conferencing software is within reach of companies of all sizes. Carve out time every week or two to sync up as a team and discuss non-work items. Bring a beverage of choice and make it fun with icebreaker games.

As a leader, you’ll want to join in on the fun with these virtual get-togethers but encourage your team to host their own without a management presence as well. Doing so will take some pressure off the sessions, allowing team members to let loose and talk about topics they may avoid when leadership is in earshot.

5 types of virtual collaboration tools 

Although a tremendous number of virtual collaboration tools exist, they aren’t all appropriate for every company. Look not just for those that offer cutting-edge technology, but those that are also intuitive enough that your team will want to use them. Here are five specific tool types you’ll want to have in your arsenal for effective virtual collaboration.

1. Project management tools

Project management software is designed to assist individuals and teams in organizing, managing, and navigating the complexities of project work. They provide a framework for planning, executing, and monitoring projects from start to finish. These tools can range from simple task management systems to complex integrated solutions that manage resources, scheduling, budgeting, communication, documentation, and more. 

Some features of project management software are: 

  • Task management 
  • Scheduling
  • Resource allocation 
  • Collaboration
  • Document sharing and control
  • Reporting
  • Integration 

Top 5 project management software providers: 


  1. Smartsheet
  2. monday.com
  3. Asana 
  4. ClickUp
  5. Notion

*These are the five leading project management software providers from G2’s Spring 2024 Grid® Report.

Each tool has its strengths and is suited to different kinds of projects and team workflows. The choice of a project management tool will depend on factors like the size of the team, the complexity of the project, the budget available, and personal preference for certain user interfaces or feature sets.

2. Scheduling tools

Scheduling meetings can be a real pain point for organizations, due to conflicting calendars and time zone differences.

Thankfully, several SaaS companies have filled the gap with scheduling tools that take the guesswork out of the equation, virtually eliminating back-and-forth. With these tools, scheduling meetings becomes as simple as sharing your personal calendar link and allowing contacts to see your availability and grab a slot for themselves. 

Some of the key features of employee scheduling tools are: 

  • Calendar view 
  • Appointment bookings
  • Automated notifications
  • Recurring appointments 
  • Time zone management
  • Mobile access 
  • Visibility of tasks 

Top 5 scheduling software providers:


  1. TCP Humanity Scheduling
  2. HROne
  3. Deputy
  4. Agendrix
  5. 7shifts

*These are the five leading scheduling software providers from G2’s Spring 2024 Grid® Report.

3. Video conferencing tools

These days, more and more companies are turning to enterprise video communication tools to bring their distributed teams together. Effective virtual collaboration is nearly impossible without a regular check-in cadence. Colleagues and direct reports need face time via video conferencing to ask questions, clarify project details, request feedback on deliverables, and build much-needed rapport.

Many video conferencing tools, such as Teams which is included with Microsoft 365, offer not only HD video and audio but built-in collaboration tools like screen sharing, co-annotating, and integrated chat. Further, most modern video meeting tools seamlessly integrate with popular calendar systems, making syncing up across teams as easy as a click of a button.

Many companies are also turning to video interviews so they can remotely connect with candidates. Video screening of candidates with the right interview scripts can streamline the interviewing process, save resources, and likely bring you similar results as an in-person meeting would.

Top 5 video conferencing software providers:


  1. Google Meet
  2. Microsoft Teams
  3. Webex Meetings
  4. Zoom
  5. Webex App

*These are the five video conferencing software providers from G2’s Spring 2024 Grid® Report.

4. Task management tools

Task management tools are software applications designed to help individuals and teams keep track of their to-do lists, tasks, subtasks, and projects. They typically provide a visual overview of everything that needs to be done and allow users to organize, prioritize, and manage their work effectively. 

Task management software can be helpful in virtual collaboration for the following reasons: 

  • Centralized work information
  • Clarity and transparency 
  • Improved coordination
  • Real-time updates
  • Accessibility
  • Documentation
  • Automated reminders
  • Integration with other tools 

These benefits assist virtual teams in maintaining organizational efficiency, keeping project momentum, and fostering a collaborative environment even when team members are distributed across various locations.

Top 5 task management software providers:

 

  1. monday.com
  2. Smartsheet
  3. ClickUp
  4. Asana
  5. Trello

*These are the five task management software providers from G2’s Spring 2024 Grid® Report.

5. Audio conferencing tools 

Audio conferencing tools are software applications or services that allow multiple people to participate in a voice call, regardless of their physical location. These tools enable real-time communication among participants using the internet, traditional telephony systems, or both. 

Here's how audio conferencing tools facilitate virtual collaboration:

  • Efficient communication
  • Geographical flexibility
  • Scalability
  • Ability to record audio
  • Live collaboration 
  • Integration with tools 

Top 5 audio conferencing software providers:


  1. Workplace from Meta
  2. Spike
  3. PowWowNow
  4. Voximplant
  5. Infinite Connect

*These are the five audio conferencing software providers from G2’s Spring 2024 Grid® Report.

Bringing it all together

Mastering virtual collaboration comes down to building a stellar team and equipping them with efficient processes and the best tools available. But as straightforward as that equation sounds, it’s not an overnight process. It takes time and energy to attract the right talent, implement the right systems, and streamline your operations. Yet, make no mistake: the added effort is worth every penny and every drop of sweat.

The simple act of empowering your virtual team to collaborate more effectively can have an immensely impactful effect on your organization that will pay dividends in the long-run. 

Boost overall productivity and success for remote, virtual, hybrid, and distributed workforces with the help of program management.


This article was originally published in 2020. It has been updated with new information.

Virtual Event Platforms
Anytime, anywhere.

Stay connected everywhere you go and work remotely with the help of the top virtual event platforms.

Virtual Event Platforms
Anytime, anywhere.

Stay connected everywhere you go and work remotely with the help of the top virtual event platforms.

Virtual Collaboration: Benefits, Best Practices and Tools Virtual collaboration is essential for all remote organizations. Learn about their benefits, best practices, and types of virtual collaboration tools. https://learn.g2.com/hubfs/iStock-1217241206.jpg
Jamie Davidson Jamie Davidson is the Marketing Communications Manager for Vast Conference, a meeting solution providing HD-audio, video conferencing with screen sharing, and a mobile app to easily and reliably get work done. https://learn.g2.com/hubfs/Jamie%20Davidson%20X%20G2%20Virtual%20Collaboration-1.jpeg

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